The Great Mariano Rivera Breaks All-Time Saves Record

September 23, 2011 — Over the last decade, we’ve seen some magical accomplishments and several historical moments at the old Yankee Stadium and in the new Yankee Stadium.

Mariano Rivera has been at the heart of many of those feats, including the Yankees 2009 World Series championship.

On Monday, September 19,  Mariano Rivera broke the all-time saves record, when he recorded his 602nd save.

In my brief career, I have seen some of the greatest baseball players in history take the field on a daily basis, but I have never seen an athlete — in baseball or in any other sport for that matter — dominate his opponents as consistently as Rivera has.

It’s easy to take Rivera for granted because he rarely ever leaves the mound in defeat. In Rivera, we are watching one of the single most accomplished pitchers ever to take the mound, and it’s difficult to imagine that there will ever be another one as dominant as Rivera.

In 17 seasons, Rivera’s regular season ERA is 2.22. Trevor Hoffman, who finished his career with 601 saves, along with Hall of Famers Goose Gossage, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford all had career ERA’s that were higher than Rivera’s. Truthfully, the aforementioned pitchers are the only guys I looked up for this piece, meaning that the list of all-time greats whose ERA’s are higher than Rivera goes much deeper.

While Rivera has been as good as any pitcher in the regular season, he’s been even better when the pressure is at its highest level. In 31 postseason series, Rivera has amassed a record 42 saves, and his ERA stands at 0.30.

While the likes of Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Rivera’s current teammates, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, will always stand out as some of the greatest and most recognizable athletes in history, Rivera is just as great — even though he has never garnered the attention of those legendary figures.

As I watched Rivera discuss his career and his day with members of the media a few minutes after the game, the characteristic that stood out to me the most was the pitcher’s humility.

Rivera, who was with his three sons at the postgame press conference, was animated when he discussed the curtain call he took from the Yankee Stadium mound.

“For the first time in my career, I was on the mound by myself,” Rivera said. “Nobody was behind me. Nobody was in front of me. I can’t describe the feeling because it was priceless. I didn’t know what the moment would be like that. All I have to say is I was thanking God in that moment. It was an indescribable feeling.”

Rivera was gracious about the attention he received in the days leading up to his record-breaking save, but he also was candid about his desire for the focus to go back to his team.

“I was getting more uncomfortable,” Rivera said. “I’m a team player and when things like this come up, I kind of feel like it’s not right to have so much attention on me. I like to be under the radar and to do my job. Now it’s over, and we have places to go. We’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

A few minutes after the press conference, I rushed off to an event that Alex Rodriguez was at in a Yankee Stadium suite, and I spoke to the third baseman about Rivera.

A-Rod’s comments epitomized what Rivera is all about. Mo’s is as great a teammate as he is a baseball player — and there haven’t been too many baseball players as good as Rivera.

“I sit at third base, and I marvel at this guy,” Rodriguez said. “He is truly amazing, and I’m such a big fan of him. Everyone talks about 602, but what’s really amazing is that what he does in our clubhouse. He is one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever known. From the minute I came here in 2004, he made it easy for me to be one of the guys, and has meant more to me than I can put into words.”

–Alfred Santasiere III


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