What did Mariano Rivera mean to you?
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Last week something happened in baseball that has never been done before. Mariano Rivera was unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame by the BBWA becoming the 1st player ever to do so. Rivera's numbers speak for themselves. An All time record 652 saves, 5 world series rings, a lifetime 2.21 era, an astronomical 0.70 in the post season(over 141 innings!) There will never be a relief pitcher better than Mo in baseball. Ever!
Rivera's numbers as a player are insane, but the real reason Mo became the 1st unanimous inductee to Cooperstown is because he is an even better person. Think about that for a second after reading those numbers. Mo didn't alienate any of the petty, ego-maniacal, know-it-all members of the media his entire career. That's hard to do with some of these gasbags out there. Rivera was always accountable in that he was willing to answer questions even after his biggest failures (97DS, 01 WS, 04 ALCS) Rivera was the consummate teammate never judging guys who didn't have the best reputations, and was always willing to help any guy in the Yankee organization from the clubhouse attendants to fellow All Stars. Heck it was Rivera's teaching of his cutter to fellow 2019 inductee Roy Halladay that probably made him HOF worthy. That tells you everything you need to know about Mo. A guy with an incredible pitch was willing to help a rival simply because Halladay asked for help. Not many people in any walk of life would do that. Let alone professional sports. Rivera didn't think twice.
Mo is still one of my heroes to this day. From my own personal experiences as a member of the media I can tell you Mariano is awesome. Most times when you meet your heroes you usually leave disappointed. Mariano made me love him even more. I remember he asked me about myself, and the station I worked at when I first met him. You could tell he was really genuine. He was a man of faith who loved his family. Rivera was completely classy in every way. I produced a weekly baseball show in Detroit. At the end of the show I did a "Diamond Notes" type segment and called myself "The Sandman" (after Mo) and I would discuss random baseball snippets from around the game with my host Matt Dery while "Enter Sandman" played in the background. It was a silly, fun radio bit. In 2005 I asked Mo if he would be willing to record an intro for the segment. He did it in a heartbeat even asking to do a 3rd take because he wasn't happy with the first two. Think about that. The greatest relief pitcher in baseball, on the most successful franchise in sports history took the time to help out a nobody, part time producer/reporter. It does not get any cooler than that!
I had the privilege of attending Mariano's last game at the stadium on September 26 2013. The crowd chanted "Mar-i-ano" clap clap clap clap clap "Mar-i-ano" as Mo pitched to his final batters I started crying like a little kid. They were not just tears of sadness because Rivera was leaving the Yanks and the game of baseball. They were tears of joy because Mo was so great. He may not have thrown as hard as he did when he was younger, but he was just as good. He was truly dominant over the course of his entire career, and I saw the whole thing. I stood there and thought about how much my life had changed over the course of his amazing 19 year run. When he burst onto the scene in 1996 I was struggling with my grades in college with no idea who I really was or who I wanted to be. Then as he delivered those final pitches I was a 37 year old married father of 2. So much had changed for me personally over that time. One thing that remained was the joy I got from watching Mariano Rivera pitch. Thank you Mo for being a true hero in every sense of the word. Congratulations on being elected to Hall-of Fame. No one in my lifetime has ever been more deserving of something.
I will be back later on this week to talk more about the Hall-of-Fame. In the meantime please keep listening to the podcast and submit those reviews.