He’s the greatest relief pitcher to ever step on the mound. You can even make the argument that New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. The minute Metallica’s Enter Sandman plays over the loud speakers at Yankees Stadium as the bullpen door opened in the 9th inning, you know it’s basically “Game Over”. He had that kind of impact on the game.
And this is the swan song. Rivera is hanging up the cleats at the end of the season. A storied career for one of the most dominant, and most respected players of his generation, comes to a close. And teams across the league are making sure the farewell is memorable, including the Texas Rangers.
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Rangers honored Rivera with a video tribute before introducing him while Enter Sandman (Rivera’s entrance music) played throughout the ballpark, which was cool to see in person. Soon after, Rangers closer Joe Nathan and former Yankees and Rangers closer John Wetteland presented Rivera with a pair of cowboy boots with the Yankees logo on it, along with a black cowboy hat. Interesting note, Rivera replaced Wetteland as the Yankees closer back in 1997 when Wetteland joined the Rangers.
As for the numbers, his 641 career saves and 2.20 career ERA (as of the moment) may never be matched. The 43-year old is still cruising, with 33 saves and a 1.69 ERA this season, showing no signs of slowing down. But he will leave the game at season’s end as a 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, among other accomplishments.
But it goes beyond the numbers; it’s the respect that the players and fans have for The Sandman, which is something you don’t see much in sports anymore. And that’s what was on display during a ceremony on a Thursday afternoon in Arlington. It’s only fitting Rivera would come in and get the save in the Yankees 2-0 win.
That’s the kind of impact Rivera had, both on and off the field.
Written by C. James