Mariano Rivera, 'The Closer,' Caps Brilliant Career

Baseball's Greatest Relief Pitcher Bids Farewell

11/6/2013, 3 p.m.
Muhammad Ali enjoys a figurative copyright when it comes to the phrase "The Greatest," so it may not be appropriate ...
Mariano Rivera (Courtesy photo)

For instance, it’s customary that a song representing a player’s favorite tune blares over the stadium’s public address system when he enters the game. For nearly two decades, Rivera emerged to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

At his final Yankee Stadium appearance in September, the famous rock group set up a stage in center field and, when Rivera entered the contest, the band performed the hit song live, much to the delight of nearly 56,000 people in attendance, including “The Closer” and his family.

Rivera, who hails from Panama, said he wanted to give all he had before retiring.

“I think I squeezed every ounce of fuel that I had in my tank, and it’s empty now,” he said. “I have nothing left. I gave everything I had.”

In his final game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Rivera retired the last four batters to face him, before walking off the field to a thunderous four-minute standing ovation from the stadium crowd in New York.

Moments later, the Yankees officially retired Rivera’s uniform No. 42, meaning it will never be worn again by any other Major League Baseball player. League officials previously retired the number in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

Rivera counted among a dozen players allowed to continue wearing the number, but by 2003, “The Closer” stood as the only athlete in the sport who donned 42.

“Jackie Robinson was a great man,” Rivera told ESPN in September. “I have always said that wearing this number is a privilege and a great responsibility and to represent what Jackie represented for us, as a minority, and for all of baseball in general, it’s tremendous. For me, it’s just a privilege to wear and to try to keep that legacy.It makes me want to be at my best.”

Baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig, who mandated that Robinson’s number never be worn again, said Rivera probably counted among the very few who deserved the privilege of being associated with No. 42.

Torre said he couldn’t agree more.

“There’s nobody, I don’t care what era you are talking about, that’s ever going to do what Mariano has done,” Torre said.

“He’s the top of the game as far as his position.”

Torre then summed up Rivera by using a title that by all rights probably should never be used again: “He’s the Closer.”