The Greatest Closer in history with one more masterful display in his final game at Yankee Stadium
1996 was a great year in sports.
The NBA was blessed with the greatest draft class of all time
in the same year that Michael Jordan completes his redemption tour with the Bulls by posting the greatest regular-season record at 72-10 - en route to a fourth championship versus the Seattle Supersonics. The Cowboys win Superbowl XXX. Oscar De La Hoya wins the Junior Welterweight Title against Julio Cesar Chavez, and Tiger Woods begins his journey towards greatness by winning the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award.
Oh, right. And the Yankees win their first World Series Title in 18 years.
This after Donnie Baseball
retires, an unpopular decision to hire the man then-dubbed as "Clueless Joe
" was made, and the call-ups for four young farm prospects
marked the beginning of a new dynasty
in the Bronx, with those four guys serving as the core players.
And now, we find ourselves watching the end of an era. A huge part of that beginning in 1996 was the man who would be "touched by God
" a year later when he stumbles into a weird pitch that he can't un-learn how to throw.
Mariano Rivera was supposed to be a starting pitcher. He leaves Yankee Stadium on Thursday night as the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history.
He is beloved in this city. And he's probably the only Yankee that never gets any hate from opposing fans. His respect for the game, for people and for his teammates is echoed throughout the baseball community, and he truly deserves all the accolades he is getting.
He leaves the game as a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. He has the most saves in baseball (652) and most games finished (952), as well as the numbers to support his stature as the most dominant postseason pitcher with the following records: lowest ERA (.70) and most saves (42). A 13-time All-Star with 5 World Series Championships in 7 appearances, he also leaves as the last person to have worn #42 since MLB retired the number league-wide for Jackie Robinson.
I wish he wasn't retiring. But I suppose all good things must come to an end.
Now, Yankee fans are left wondering...
What do we do now?
[Related: Mariano Rivera Day 9/22/13
I just hope he gets his wish this weekend to play center field.