(Mo, Sandman, Mr. Automatic, or Ultraman)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 195 lb.
- Debut May 23, 1995
- Final Game September 26, 2013
- Born November 29, 1969 in Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá, Panama
Mariano Rivera is the all-time major league leader for saves. He also had a lifetime ERA of 2.21 giving him an ERA+ of 205 for his career. No pitcher with 1,000 innings pitched and 100 decisions had ever achieved an ERA+ that high. Rivera passed the 1,000 inning mark in 2008, his 14th season in the major leagues. He spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, who signed him as an amateur free agent in 1990. Mariano's amazing success was built on mastering one pitch of absolutely devastating effectiveness, a cut fastball that batters relentlessly hit for weak grounders, even though they knew it was coming.
A high school dropout, he was mainly a starter in the minor leagues and during his first major league season in 1995. On June 26, 1995, while playing for the Columbus Clippers in the International League, he threw a five-inning perfect game against the Rochester Red Wings. However, his success in the majors came as a reliever, after his conversion to the role in 1996. He served as the set-up man for John Wetteland when the Yankees won the World Series that year, then succeeded Wetteland as closer in 1997; he kept the job without interruption and tremendous success until being felled by a freak injury early in the 2012 season, then came back for one last outstanding season as an encore in 2013.
Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, with an ERA of 0.70. He had 42 postseason saves. Although he never won the Cy Young Award, he was in the top three four different times. The most similar pitchers are Trevor Hoffman (ERA+ of 141) and Lee Smith (ERA+ of 132). Both of them were also short relievers who spent a very long time as their team's closer and follow Rivera on the all-time saves list.
Rivera spent his whole career with the Yankees and was named to the All-Star team thirteen times. He won the American League Rolaids Relief Award five times. He twice won the Delivery Man of the Year Award. He struck out 130 batters in 107 2/3 innings of relief in 1996, which was the record for any Yankee reliever until Dellin Betances recorded 135 Ks in 2014, the year after Mariano retired. He yielded only one home run that year - to Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles. In 2005, he went 22 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. Fittingly, he was the last pitcher ever used in Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008, closing out a 7-3 win over the Orioles; he retired the side in order, getting Brian Roberts to ground out to first base in the last at-bat in the famed ballpark's history.
Rivera was the last player in the major leagues to wear uniform number 42 as his regular number (many others have worn it on "Jackie Robinson Day"). He wore it in tribute to Jackie Robinson and was allowed to keep on doing so when Commissioner Bud Selig retired the number across the league in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson's debut. Other players were also granted such a dispensation, such as Butch Huskey, but Rivera's career outlasted them all by many years. On September 22, 2013, the Yankees officially retired the number, adding it to Monument Park, and also taking the occasion to unveil a plaque in honor of Robinson.
In 2009, Rivera saved an Andy Pettitte win for the 58th time, setting a new MLB mark; the old high had been held by Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley. On May 25, 2011, he made his 1000th career appearance. He became only the 15th pitcher to pitch in 1,000 games, and the first to do it with only one team. On September 13th, he recorded his 600th career save one year after Trevor Hoffman had been the first pitcher to reach the mark, putting him only one behind his all-time record. He quickly caught and passed Hoffman, taking over the all-time lead on September 19th when he saved his 602nd game in a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. He had also passed Hoffman for the all-time lead in games finished earlier that year.
Rivera seemed headed for another great season, defying his age, in 2012, when he suffered a freak injury during batting practice before the Yankees' May 3rd game against the Kansas City Royals. He twisted his knee while shagging fly balls and ruptured a ligament. He had to be carted off the field, his season - and possibly his career - over at age 42. He was 1-1, 2.18 and had saved 5 games in 9 appearances when the injury occurred. However, he immediately promised that he would not end this career in this disappointing way: "I am coming back. Write it down in big letters. I'm not going out like this," he told reporters the next day. However, when doctors examined him the following week in preparation for surgery, they stated that they had found "unexpected complications", making it less likely that a recovery would be straightforward - if Rivera were to choose to undergo rehabilitation in order to attempt a comeback. The problem was revealed to be a blood clot in Rivera's right calf, for which he needed to take blood-thinning medication to allow it to dissolve, delaying surgery by a number of weeks. However, by mid-July, Rivera announced that his recovery was progressing ahead of schedule, and that he was still hoping to return before the end of the year. GM Brian Cashman was quick to throw cold water on that suggestion however, as he told the MLB network on July 24th: "He's not coming back this year and I wish he was, I wish he was, but unfortunately people get excited."
Still, Mariano was serious about not wanting to see his career end with a freak injury, and in early January in 2013, he announced that his knee was "95 percent" healed and that he would be ready for the start of spring training. However, he booked a press conference for March 10th, at which he announced that 2013 would be his final major league season. He was his old dominating self during spring training, though, and on April 4th, stepped on the field for his 19th season in a Yankees uniform, breaking the tie for most he had shared with Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter, who had yet to make his season's debut because of an injury. He gave up a run but saved Pettitte's 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox, the 69th time the two had joined their efforts in this manner, but the first time since 2010. Rivera showed absolutely no sign of age or rust in the early going, as he converted his first 18 save opportunities, before blowing one against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 28th. The Mets had honored him before the game by having him throw the ceremonial first pitch, with their former closer John Franco acting as his catcher for the occasion. He then came on to protect a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th, but for the first time of his illustrious career, he blew a save without retiring a batter when Daniel Murphy led off with a double, and David Wright and Lucas Duda each followed with an RBI single for a 2-1 Mets win. Still it was a rare blip for the great closer, as he continued to rack up the saves and dominate opposing hitters. Even more, he had now added a two-seam fastball to his arsenal, a pitch with sharp movement towards righthanded batters while coming around 92-94 mph, making it a lethal complement to his signature cut fastball that breaks in the opposite direction. It was clear that he would be selected for the All-Star Game for the 13th time, after missing the 2012 edition because of his injury, and there was a movement among reporters to ask AL manager Jim Leyland to name Mariano the game's starting pitcher in recognition of his exceptional career. He threw some cold water on the proposal, however, stating: "I'd rather pitch in ninth. What I do is close the games; I don't start the games." In fact, he was called on to pitch the 8th inning, and when he came into the game to the sound of his usual entrance music, Enter Sandman by the heavy metal band Metallica, the rest of the American league squad stayed in the dugout, in tribute, leaving the entirety of Citi Field as his stage. He then proceeded to retire the side in order and was named the Game's MVP, even though Joe Nathan pitched the 9th and earned the save in the AL's 3-0 win.
He went through an uncharacteristic rough patch in early August, when he was charged with a blown save in three successive outings: on August 7th, he gave up the game-tying run to the Chicago White Sox on Adam Dunn's two-out, 9th-inning single in a game the Yankees lost, 6-5, in 12 innings; on August 9th, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-out, two-run game tying homer in the 9th, but the Yankees won the game, 4-3, in the 10th; then on August 11th, he again blew a two-run 9th-inning lead to the Tigers, when Cabrera and Victor Martinez went deep, but this time he was credited with the 5-4 win when Brett Gardner hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the frame. Among all the tributes he received during his final season, the Boston Red Sox likely had the most original one; before his final game at Fenway Park on September 15th, the team brought a string quartet on the field to play a version of his entrance music,Enter Sandman. He made his last mound appearance on September 26th, pitching an inning and a third in a 4-0 loss at home to the Rays; long-time teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte then came to remove him from the mound to a standing ovation in what was a fitting finish to his career. The Yankees had one more series left, on the road against the Houston Astros, but Rivera stated he would not pitch, although there was some question whether he did not have one last trick up his sleeve, as he also indicated half-kiddingly that he would like to play the outfield once in a major league game; in the end, that did not happen and his last appearance at home was his final one in a major league game. He finished the season with a record of 6-2, 2.11, with 44 saves in 64 appearances.
Rivera retired with the all-time record for saves at 652 and games finished to 952, and he made 1115 total appearances, 4th all-time but most in American League history. All but 10 of his appearances were in relief. His career ERA was 2.21, for an ERA+ of 205.
The Yankees paid tribute to his great career during spring training in 2014 by visiting Mariano's home country, Panama, to play a couple of games against the Miami Marlins. That year, he published his autobiography while Major League Baseball paid him tribute by naming its new award to be given to the best reliever in the American League the "Mariano Rivera Award", with Mariano one of 9 former relievers who get to choose the award's winner (the National League award was named for his contemporary, Trevor Hoffman, who is second on the all-time saves list). In 2015, he was with the Yankees as a guest spring training instructor. On August 14, 2016, the Yankees dedicated a plaque in his honor in Monument Park.
Mariano's son, generally known as Mariano Rivera III, was a 29th round selection by the Yankees in the 2014 amateur draft, but he decided to return to Iona College for his senior year and was drafted in the 4th round in 2015, this time by the Washington Nationals. He was not considered to be any kind of prospect until going to college, but increased his velocity from the upper 70's to the mid 90's to move onto teams' radar screens.
- 13-time AL All-Star (1997, 1999-2002, 2004-2006, 2008-2011 & 2013)
- 6-time AL Reliever of the Year Award Winner (1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005 & 2009)
- 5-time AL Rolaids Relief Award Winner: (1999, 2001, 2004, 2005 & 2009)
- 1999 World Series MVP
- 2003 ALCS MVP
- 2013 All-Star Game MVP
- 2013 AL Comeback Player of the Year
- 3-time AL Saves Leader (1999, 2001 & 2004)
- 30 Saves Seasons: 15 (1997-2001, 2003-2011 & 2013)
- 40 Saves Seasons: 9 (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003-2005, 2009, 2011 & 2013)
- 50 Saves Seasons: 2 (2001 & 2004)
- Won five World Series with the New York Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 & 2009)
- Saves, career, 652
- Saves, right-hander, career, 652
- Games finished, career, 952
- Games, AL, career, 1,115
- Relief appearances, AL, career, 1,105
- Jesse Florea and Mike Yorkey: Playing With Purpose: Mariano Rivera: The Closer Who Got Saved, Barbour Publishing Inc., Uhrichsville, OH, 2012. ISBN 978-1620298213
- New York Post: Mariano Rivera: Saving Grace, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2013. ISBN 1600789633
- Phil Pepe: Core Four: The Heart and Soul of the Yankees Dynasty, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2013. ISBN 978-1600788116
- Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey: The Closer: My Story, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-0316400732
- Charley Rosen: Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2011. ISBN 0062005987