Top 10 Moments of Mariano Rivera’s Career
Believe it or not, the New York Yankees are officially done playing baseball this season. The next time we see them take the field in a regular season game will be on April 1st, 2014 in, where else, Houston – the same place they just ended their season.
When the Yankees come back next season, there will probably be a lot of things different with the roster, but the biggest of all changes will be the loss of Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time.
Rivera spent 19-years in the big leagues, racking up 652 saves, 42 in the postseason, with an astonishing postseason ERA of 0.70. Mo’s greatness on and off the field will forever be unmatched, and he’ll me missed be every living sole associated to the great game of baseball.
Here are the Top-10 Mo-ments of Mariano Rivera remarkable career:
10. Mo’s Major League Debut — May 23, 1995:
It was the beginning of an era. In a late-May game against the then California Angels, Yankees manager Buck Showalter – now managing the Baltimore Orioles – gave Rivera the ball to start the game – yeah, that’s right, Mariano was originally a starter when he first came up.
Here’s something else that you might not have known, Rivera was actually drafted by the Yankees out of Panama as a shortstop, but when he was called on to pitch one day, he did well, and stuck with it.
Either way, Rivera started the game for the Yankees, and if you ever wondered what got him to the bullpen, this start was a part of it.
Rivera was found to be very ineffective against the Angels, giving up five earned runs, finishing with a stat line that looked like this: 3.1 IP, L, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, HR. Overall, it was a great game for the Bombers as they went on to lose the Angels, 10-0.
9. The first of many, many saves – May 17th, 1996:
The one that opened the floodgates. After proving himself to the Yankees setting up for John Wetteland in the 9th where he thrived in that role, Rivera finally got his chance to pitch the 9th in 1996, almost a year after making his major league debut.
He entered the 9th frame with an 8-5 lead, facing the California Angels once again; he shut them down in the inning to close out the Yankees’ victory, and picked up the first of what would be 652 career saves.
And as they say, the rest is history.
8. Rivera’s first postseason save – September 30th, 1997:
Part Mariano Rivera’s greatness includes what he was able to accomplish in the postseason. Pilling up 42 saves to go along with a 0.70 ERA, all beginning on a September night in 1997.
The Yankees were facing the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the American League Division Series when the Yankees entered the 9th inning with lead, and Mariano came into the game for the first time in the postseason.
Rivera retired Jim Thome, David Justice and Matt Williams in the 9th after giving up a single to Manny Ramirez. He closed out the win to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead in the series.
7. 2009 World Series vs. the Philadelphia Phillies:
To begin Rivera’s run of success, the Yankees won four World Series championships in a five year span from 1996-2000, including to devastating losses in 2001 to the Arizona Diamondbacks and 2003 to the Florida Marlins.
After a six year drought, the Yankees were finally back in the Fall Classic, just four wins from capturing a fifth ring for the “Core Four.”
The Yankees lost the first game of the series 6-1, then rallied back to win four of the next five games, with Rivera on the mound for the Yanks in all four wins, two of which were saves, to bring the championship back to the Bronx.
In the clinching game six, Rivera entered the game in the top of the 8th inning, and he retired the Philadelphia Phillies in the 8th and 9th, giving up just one hit and a walk in 1.2 innings.
6. Mariano Rivera Day – September 22, 2013:
Part of Mariano Rivera’s included going around to every road ballpark that the Yankees visited this season, with the home team giving Mo gifts in celebration of his storied career.
After unveiling plaques to commemorate him and Jackie Robinson, the Yankees unveiled a plaque in Monument Park, officially retiring Mo’s No. 42. Then after Rivera walked out to the infield from the bullpen, walking there to a live playing on “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, the Yankees, like many other teams, gave him a handful of parting gifts.
In attendance for the celebration, the Yankees had Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neil, David Cone, John Wetteland, Gene Michael and Joe Torre on hand to honor Mo.
The Yankees gave him a $100,000 check to his foundations, a rocking chair made of baseball bats, a replica of his retired number in Monument Park, a Metallica guitar amp, and a crystal replica of his glove. The San Francisco Giants, the opponent for the game to be played, gave him a signed guitar by Willie Mays.
In the game that followed, the Yankees couldn’t carry in the Mo-mentum of the day’s events, losing to the Giants 2-1 on Rivera, as well as Andy Pettitte final home start at Yankee Stadium.
5. Mo’s Bronx farewell – September 26th, 2013:
There will never be anything in sports more special than this. In the Yankees final home game of the season, the Yankees were playing host to the Tampa Bay Rays, and down 4-0 in the 8th inning, Yankees manager Joe Girardi called to the bullpen to hand the ball to Mo one more time.
First and second, two outs, Rivera retired his men in the 8th, and then got the first two batters he faced in the 9th. A few seconds later, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came strolling out of the dugout to take Mo out of the game.
“Time to go”, said Jeter as he took the ball from Rivera. Mo broke down in tears in the shoulders of Pettitte, giving him a big bear hug, moving on to Jeter to do the same.
Rivera walked off the mound one last time, doffing his cap to the sold out Yankee Stadium crowd, getting to the dugout to Girardi, who was also in tears from the moment.
No matter who you root for, it was a special moment for baseball and sports fans alike. I can’t speak for everyone in the ballpark that night, but I can say that there certainly wasn’t a dry eye in my house when I was watching this take place.
After their series against the Rays, the Yankees went to Houston to face the Astros, and Rivera decided that he would not pitch in the series making, his last pitch at Yankee Stadium, the last of his career.
4. Mo’s 500th save, and first RBI – June 28th, 2009:
Sitting on 499 career saves, Rivera came into this game against the New York Mets, needing just one more to hit the magic milestone.
He entered the game in the 8th inning, shutout the Mets in the 8th and 9th to close out the 4-2 victory for save No. 500. But while this was big deal for Rivera, it was what he did at the plate that made it even more special.
With Mets closer Frank Francisco on the mound, Rivera was due up 6th in the inning. Eventually he came up with the bases load with a chance to give himself a larger lead for the 9th inning.
[quote]“I got the bat (borrowed from infielder Cody Ransom) and I got into the box,” Rivera said. “(Rodriguez) threw me a pitch over the plate and I swung and fouled it straight back. I said ‘Oh my God.’ So now (the count is) 3-2, and my side was sore after that swing. I said anything close I’m going to try to put it in play, but if not I’ll take the walk.
“And he went up and in, and I got the walk.”
It was the first walk of his career, and it forced in the first run of his career. With laughs and joking coming from the Yankees dugout, Rivera still had to run the bases.
[quote]“I didn’t want to be there! I’m not a hitter.” Rivera said. “The last thing (I wanted to) happen, was someone hit the ball in the gap and I had to run all the way, but it didn’t happen, thank God.”[/quote]
Luckily he didn’t have to run, the inning ended without Mo having to move, and he came back out to finish off the Mets in the bottom half of the frame.
3. Mo’s All-Star Game entrance at Citi Field – July 17th, 2013:
Same place, different moment. It was Mariano’s last All-Star Game as he was preparing to retire at the end of the season. The big question surrounding the game is was about whether Mo would be able to enter the game with a lead in the 9th inning and a chance to save to save the game.
With only a one-run lead, AL manager Jim Leyland opted to bring in Mariano in the 9th inning instead of the 9th because he didn’t want to risk having the bullpen possibly blow the lead before Rivera got a chance to pitch.
As Mo trotted out of the bullpen, the sold out Citi Field stood and cheered, loud and long as Rivera take the mound all by himself, with both NL and AL benches standing outside of their dugouts, respectively showing their praise for the greatest closer of all-time.
Up until his special moment at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, it was a event that seemed to be untouchable on the honoring scale.
2. Rivera becomes the all-time saves leader – September 19th, 2011:
I remember it like it was yesterday. For most of his career, Rivera was considered to be the greatest closer, but on this day, he finally became to all-time leading closer.
Facing the Minnesota Twins, Rivera, who was enter the game tied with Trevor Hoffman for 1st on the all-time saves list at 601, got his chance to make history in the 9th inning.
First baseman Chris Parmelee took a fastball for strike three to end the game and wrap up the record-setting save.
Afterwards, Rivera stood on the mound with a tipped cap as cheers rained down from the crowd in the Bronx. From there, Mo racked up 50 more saves to bring him to where he’ll stand forever at 652.
1. Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston – October 16th, 2003:
This was game that would go down as one of the greatest in postseason history, for many reasons. When you think of this game, I’m sure the first moment you think of is Aaron Boone taking Tim Wakefield deep to left field to send the Yankees to the World Series – where they would lose to the Marlins.
Yes, that was the main reason the Yankees won the game, but it was other events that led to Boone getting his chance to bat against Wakefield in the 11th inning.
It was Mariano Rivera and all of his postseason glory that entered the game in the 9th inning for the Bombers. Rivera tossed three scoreless innings against the Red Sox, throwing 48 pitches (33 strikes) while giving up just two hits.
His dominance kept the Yankees in the game, and it also led him to scene that many Yankees fans will never forget – Rivera laying on the ground in tears after Boone’s homerun.
Bonus – Five years from now: What you don’t see on this list is something that has yet to happen. In five years, when Mariano becomes eligible to be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame, Rivera has a very realistic chance at becoming the first player in the history of the game to be selected by 100% of the voters to join the elite class of the greatest baseball players ever.
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