Friday, March 08, 2013


Mariano Rivera is the Babe Ruth of Yankee pitchers-Mike Lupica

3/8/13, "Yankees great Mariano Rivera to retire - no one in Major League Baseball history was better at his job than future Hall of Fame closer," Mike Lupica, NY Daily News

"Babe Ruth was the greatest Yankee hitter, Rivera is absolutely the Babe Ruth of Yankee pitchers. The great Rivera will leave as the Yankee immortal who never had a bad season in his life, who was better at what he did than any Yankee who ever played the game."

"Mariano Rivera is expected to announce his retirement on Saturday morning in Tampa, announce that this will be his last season with the Yankees, announce the beginning of what will be one of the best and longest and most emotional goodbyes in all of Yankee history.

“No one will ever have to tell me when it is time to leave,” he told me once in front of his locker.
So now he has decided it is time to leave, No. 42 telling us that at the age of 43, at the end of a career that stands with anything any Yankee has ever produced, on either side of 161st St.

He will leave with pitching accomplishments that stand with the hitting accomplishments of Babe Ruth, leave with the grace of Joe DiMaggio, leave as someone who deserves his own monument at Monument Park as much as anybody who has ever worn the pinstriped uniform. Ruth was the greatest Yankee hitter, Rivera is absolutely the Babe Ruth of Yankee pitchers. Start there.

And here: The great Rivera will leave as the Yankee immortal who never had a bad season in his life, who was better at what he did — the ninth inning, at the old Stadium and the new one — than any Yankee who ever played the game.


Someday there will be a Mariano Rivera Day at the Stadium, and they will officially retire the last No. 42, Jackie Robinson’s number, that anybody will ever wear in baseball. You know that will be a fine celebration of everything he has been as a pitcher, a day to remember everything he has been as one of the lasting gentlemen of sports, here or anywhere else.

But when that does happen, what we will remember best is the end of all the important baseball nights of his career.

Remember when the door in the outfield wall would open and “Enter Sandman” would play over the Stadium loudspeakers, and he would come running to the pitcher’s mound and get the last three outs of another Yankee victory.

Ruth was the first to make home runs glamorous in baseball, to make the Yankees matter. Ruth, in all the important ways, was the beginning of the Yankees. All this time after Ruth, here came Rivera with his cut fastball and his champion’s nerve and champion’s heart, to get those last three outs. He was all those endings, over all the years, the most memorable of them in October, some of them even in November.

“Think about what it will be like when he’s gone,” Buck Showalter said a few years ago, Showalter remembering first seeing the skinny kid from Panama on a back field in Fort Lauderdale one spring, long before the world would know his name.


“You look around baseball,” Showalter said, “and everybody has closer issues eventually. Everybody except the Yankees.

Closers come and closers go. Except Mo never goes anywhere.”

The only time he stopped closing games and stopped closing Yankee seasons was last season, one that ended much too early when Rivera’s knee gave out while he was chasing fly balls before a game against the Royals in Kansas City, and you thought that might be the end for him right there.

But if Rivera would know when it was time to leave, he would also go out on his own terms. He not only tried to rehab that knee in a hurry at the age of 42, he actually thought he might somehow make it back for the playoffs. He did not. But he would come back for one more season, now expected to be his last.

He will retire with more saves than anybody in regular-season history and with more saves than anybody in postseason history, the number currently at 42. The number on his back.


“Sometimes,” he told me once, “the only person they can compare you to is you.”

He is a relief pitcher, a power relief pitcher, who will be a month short of his 44th birthday if he helps pitch the Yankees to one more October. You look at all the big games he has pitched, from the time he was setting up John Wetteland when the Yankees won their first World Series under Joe Torre in 1996, and have a right to ask yourself  

how you can say that there was ever a better money player in professional sports history.

Michael Jordan made a lot of game-winning baskets and Derek Jeter has gotten all those big postseason hits. Then you put all that against all the big games Rivera has closed, all the ninth innings that belonged to him, all the bats and hearts he has broken on the other team.

So he is right: You only compare Rivera to Rivera. The fastballs, the longevity, the extraordinary consistency and excellence. And grace.

“He has changed less than anybody I’ve ever known in baseball,” Showalter was saying again the other day. “He came in a gentleman and leaves a gentleman.”


Say it again: Nobody you have ever seen in baseball, no hitter or pitcher, was ever better at his job as Rivera has been at his.

Now it is supposed to be coming to an end, the closer expected to talk on Saturday about the closing act for him, the oldest man in baseball still prepared to show all the young guys how to do it, with a right arm that has never gotten old. Somehow it is 10 years ago since that Game 7 against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series when he pitched three innings because that’s what was needed of him to get the Yankees to another World Series, ready to pitch all night if that’s what it took.

“I have always known who I am,” he says.

So have we. Oh man, so have we. Sometime this season there will be one last ninth inning for the great Rivera, and for us all.

Exit Sandman." ap photo via NYDN


Mariano Rivera in the dugout before game v Detroit Tigers, 4/29/12, photo K. Kmonicek via Newsday


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