Bronx, NY: Mariano Rivera is the first player in Major League Baseball history to be unanimously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
19 seasons. 1,115 career-games. 2.21 career-ERA. 1,283.2 career-innings pitched. 1,173 career-strikeouts. 652 career-saves. All-time saves leader. Five World Series championships. 13-time All Star. World Series MVP. 6-time Latino MVP Closer/Relief award recipient.
What does it take to become the first player in history to be voted unanimously into baseball’s hall of fame? If the list above isn’t convincing enough, some will say it was his ability to strike-out hitter after hitter using his signature pitch, the “cutter” or the “gift from God.” Others will mention the amount of respect he displayed on and off the field to every individual he’s encountered. Then there are those who will look back as far as his childhood, when Rivera used a milk carton as a baseball glove while living in the impoverished village of Puerto Caimito in Panama.
There was no sound Yankees fans wanted to hear in the ninth inning other than “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The roar that echoed through the walls of the Old and New Yankee Stadium would leave you in awe as Mariano Rivera trotted from the bullpen to the pitcher mound.
We’ve all witnessed or seen highlights of Rivera’s prestigious career, whether it was getting the last out of the World Series or embracing Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter as he said goodbye to baseball.
But to be voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously you would expect someone to have the perfect career. However, Rivera’s career wasn’t quite perfect. There was the rough start and demotion in 1995, the losses in the 1997 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, the notorious game seven in the 2001 World Series or the gut-wrenching losses in the 2004 ALCS against the rival Boston Red Soxs. In May 2012 Rivera tore his ACL while catching fly-balls on the warning track during batting practice, ending his season.
But you don’t have to have zero blown saves to be considered one of the greatest of all-time. It was how Rivera embraced the failure and how he put it behind him that made him close to perfect. When many speculated an ACL injury would end his career, Rivera came back in 2013, at age 43, for his final season and pitched one of the most memorable seasons of his storied career. To Rivera, 2004 was marked as his most accomplished season with 53 saves. After game seven of the 2001 World Series, Rivera kept his head up while walking off the mound and faced scrutiny with the utmost grace. In 1998, the Yankees went onto win their 23rd World Series championship.
Rivera’s greatest pride is his family, who have been by his side since his story began in Panama. From his parents, Mariano Rivera Sr. and Delia, to his wife Clara and three sons Mariano III, Jafet and Jaziel. The love he has for his family is what fueled him to be the best version of himself and to become one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a mound.
When general manager of the New York Yankees Brian Cashman was asked who is his favorite Yankees player of all-time, he simply said, “Mariano Rivera.” Why? “Because through it all, the fame and the money, he never lost sight of who he was.”
That’s what makes an unanimous Hall of Famer.
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