Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is the greatest relief pitcher in baseball of all time. There is no discussion, no dispute, no disagreement about that. He’s actually been one of the greatest constants, one of the sure things in all of sports for nearly 20 years.
Rivera has played his entire career, all 19 years of it, with the New York Yankees. Born in Panama, he was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 1990 and made his debut as a starting pitcher for the Yankees in 1995. By 1997, he had switched to becoming the Yankees’ closer. He is a 13-time All Star (including in this his final year in which he was named the MVP of the All Star game). He’s a five-time World Series champion and – as of this writing – he is the all time Major League Baseball leader in saves (652) and games finished (952).
He has led the major leagues in saves in 3 years (1999, 2001 and 2004) and was the runner-up to the American League Cy Young Award in 2005 (and he should have won). He was named the World Series Most Valuable Player in 1999 and the 2003 American League Championship Series MVP in 2003 and is the only player in baseball ever to be named the MVP in a World Series, League Championship Series and All-Star Game.
Rivera is also credited with what is known as a “hidden no hitter” in 1996 in which – for 3 straight games in which he pitched for 3 innings a game – he didn’t allow a hit (a streak that ultimately went to 14 innings without a single hit). And in what may be the most impressive feat of all, more men have walked on the moon (12) than have scored against Mariano Rivera in the postseason (11).
I’m exhausted just writing about all the things the great Mariano Rivera has accomplished during his time in pinstripes. And now that he’s retiring at the end of the 2013 baseball season, he’s been on sort of a farewell tour as he pitches for the last time in many of the major league ballparks. Virtually every team has honored him with gifts and many have made donations to the Mariano Rivera Foundation.
The Mariano Rivera Foundation was founded in 1998 by Rivera and his wife, Clara. The foundation distributes more than $500,000 annually to underprivileged children in both the United States and Panama. In addition, the Rivera family has done great philanthropic work in Panama including building a school and a church. According to The Giving Back Fund (a nonprofit that provides philanthropic services to individuals and corporations), Mariano Rivera donated $627,500 to charity in 2010, making him (according to the nonprofit) the 25th most generous celebrity in America.
So thank you, Mr. Rivera, for your never-to-be-seen-again career, for your accomplishments, for your philanthropy, for honoring the pinstripes. This Yankee fan will never forget.