The last MLB player to ever wear the jersey number 42, Mariano Rivera, has retired from professional baseball after an illustrious 18 year career.
Rivera is a five-time World Series Champion, 13-time All-Star, and holds the Major League Baseball record for career saves with 652, over 50 more than second-placed Trevor Hoffman. He spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, from when they first signed him in 1990 while living in Panama, until his final appearance on Sept. 26 against Tampa Bay.
Debuting in May of 1995, he began his career as a starting pitcher and then became a relief pitcher the following season. Rivera was exceptional as a setup man for John Wetteland, the then closer, and eventually took Wetteland’s job in 1997.
Rivera was a crucial part of the Yankees’ dynasty in the late ’90s and early 2000s, closing out numerous playoff games and even winning the World Series MVP in 1999. It takes enormous composure to be able to record the last out of a game, let alone a playoff game. Rivera was spectacular at this, ironically recording 42 postseason saves with only one loss.
Rivera’s statistics in the postseason are second to none, and the fact that he did it for such a long period makes it even more incredible.
In March, Rivera announced that he would be calling it quits after the 2013 season. Little did he know that this would be a season of farewell to him, with all 30 MLB clubs honoring him in some form or another. While most teams donated an extensive amount of money to his charity, some teams were pretty creative when it came to their parting gifts.
The Cleveland Indians gave Rivera a gold record of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, the song that played as he entered each game, giving birth to his famous nickname the “Sandman.”
Rivera also received custom beach bikes from the San Diego Padres, and perhaps the most original gift, a rocking chair from the Minnesota Twins made out of bats broken from his legendary cutter pitch.
The Yankees were not to be outdone by any team though, as they donated $100,000 to his charity, The Mariano Rivera Foundation, along with a framed replica jersey, and a crystal baseball glove.
But the icing on the cake came from his longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, who walked out to the mound of Rivera’s last game in New York to give him a hug and pull him from the game, amidst one last standing ovation to a sold out Yankee Stadium.
The number 42 is retired by all MLB teams in honor of Jackie Robinson, and the Yankees will certainly be retiring the number once again, in honor of the greatest closer in the history of baseball.