On Saturday, the Red Sox were losing in the final inning at Fenway Park versus the rival Yankees. But instead of the moans and groans of a loss, a roar swept through the stands. It wasn't the Sox who had done something, but the visiting Yankees.
They had called Mariano Rivera in from the pen.
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Even normally hostile environments.
The 43-year-old entered the final second half of the season of his 19-year career this week, and what a career it has been.
Rivera was discovered in Panama City, Panama, way back in 1990, and signed an amateur free agent contract with the Yankees for $3,000. Despite being considered only a "fringe prospect" at best, Mo had an impressive minor league career, going 27-18, with a 2.18 ERA in 102 games.
The Panamanian started off his major league career in 1995 in the starting rotation, but quickly shifted to the bullpen. His reputation for being a dominant closer really took off in '98, a championship year for the Bronx Bombers. After a strained groin landed him on the DL early in the season, Rivera bounced back and pitched brilliantly the remainder of the way.
The 13-time All-Star made his final All-Star Game appearance this past Tuesday, at Citi Field in New York. As soon as "Enter Sandman" began to play over the loudspeakers and Mo began to trot to the mound, the stadium erupted. Every fan came to their feet and both teams featuring the best players in baseball left their dugouts to tip their caps. Rivera would go on to win the game's Most Valuable Player Award, becoming the first reliever to ever do so.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as what Mo has accomplished. He's a 5-time World Series champion, and was awarded the World Series MVP in 1999. He has won the AL Rolaids Relief Man Award 5 times and the Delivery Man of the Year Award on 3 occasions. He led Major League Baseball in total saves in 1999, 2001 and 2004. Most impressively, he holds the MLB record for most career saves, with an astounding 638.
Even as a Red Sox fanatic, I respect everything Rivera has done both on and off the field. He has always been a classy guy through and through. It will truly be a loss for baseball when he retires at the end of this season. He is without a doubt the best closer the game has ever seen, and we should consider ourselves lucky to have been able to watch him perform all these years.