Sunday, September 22, 2013


There will never be another Rivera-Mike Lupica

9/19/13, "Baseball stars come and go, but there will never be another closer like Mariano Rivera," Mike Lupica, NY Daily News

"When it comes to the Yankees closer, there is no debate: Rivera has been better at what he does than any other ballplayer who ever lived. If there is a sure thing in sports, Rivera at the end of the ninth inning is it."

"So finally it comes to this for Mariano Rivera, to a different kind of ninth inning whenever the last one comes. The bullpen door will open for the last time, and it will be the same as the door closing for good on the greatest Yankee pitcher of them all, the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived. There will never be anything like this for as long as baseball is played. This kind of excellence and grace, for this long. This kind of history in the capital of baseball history. Rivera has been the ninth inning for the Yankees the way Ruth was home runs.

As you close the book on him, you start there.

He is grace the way Joe DiMaggio was grace at Yankee Stadium, until DiMaggio broke down in a way Rivera never has. He is cool the way Clyde Frazier was cool with a basketball in his hands at the Garden. He is the sheer brilliance of the young Mantle, the difference between him and Mantle, the Mantle before his legs gave out underneath him, is that somehow Mo never got old.

He was first great for the Yankees in 1996. He is still great in the late summer of 2013, whether he makes it to another October or not. We can debate Ruth and Aaron, and whether or not Willie Mays was the best all-around player, debate whether or not Sandy Koufax in his prime was the best pitcher anybody ever saw, and if you ever saw a better leadoff hitter than Rickey Henderson in your life.

Those are always the conversations that drive sports, and carry us all.

But about this there is no debate or conversation: Mariano Rivera has been better at what he does than any ballplayer who ever lived. It is there in memory and in the books, all the saves, all the ninth innings, all the broken bats, all the big games he slam-dunked for the Yankees at the end the way Dr. J could dunk a basketball.

“No one ever dreams a life like this,” he said to me once in front of his locker.

You remember all of it now as he moves up on the end of his remarkable career. You remember all the triumphs, of course. And because of the triumphs, you have to remember the failures....

But if you ask me for one night to remember above and beyond all the others, it was the October before that (2003), another Red Sox-Yankee October, a rousing Game 7 out of the past for the old Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox were going to win the pennant that night until Grady Little left Pedro Martinez in the game too long.

The Yankees came back to tie. Rivera came in to pitch the top of the ninth that night, Joe Torre betting that the Yankees could find bottom-of-the-ninth magic, just because those were still the days for Torre’s Yankees when we thought the other team getting through the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium was like making it through the toughest baseball neighborhood in this world.

But they played on.

So Mo pitched the 10th.

Still they played on.

So there was Rivera, still out there, not just the ninth inning now, but the 10th, and then the 11th. You know what happened after that, know that Aaron Boone took Tim Wakefield into the leftfield seats, one of the most famous postseason home runs in Yankee history, and the Yankees had won another pennant.

On the night when Rivera was willing to pitch all night.

I was talking to him about that once, and wondered what Torre would have done if the game had stayed tied, if it had gone to the 12th, who would have pitched next.

“I would have pitched next,” Rivera said. “I was going out for the 12th.”

The one-inning man for so much of his storied career as a closer. The three-out man. Willing to get 12 outs through the 12th that night if that was what had been needed for the Yankees to win another pennant.

Talk about all the other stars we have ever had in New York sports. Talk about LT coming from the outside, and Simms in that Super Bowl in Pasadena. Talk Seaver and about Eli against the Patriots, and Clyde and Capt. Willis Reed. And Jeter, you never leave Capt. Jeter out of a conversation like this. Talk about Messier in the spring of 1994.

But then close your eyes and think about as close to a sure thing as we have ever had in sports or will ever have. See the door in the outfield opening and hear the music. See Rivera running toward another ninth inning. Red Smith, in his last column, wrote that someday there would be another Joe DiMaggio. Never another Rivera."

Rivera in the bullpen at old Yankee Stadium, NY Daily News, antonelli

2003 ALCS game 7, Rivera pitches 3 shut out innings with game tied, was winning pitcher and ALCS MVP




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