Editor’s Note: As part of WFAN’s 30th anniversary celebration, from May 1-12, we asked you to vote on the best local sports figures over the past 30 years. Over the course of two weeks, we are revealing the top-10 vote getters.
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Debates often rage when it comes to naming the best players by position in major league history.
There is no discussion when it comes to closer.
There was Mariano Rivera, and there was everyone else.
The great Rivera went from being a middling starter as a 25-year-old back in 1995 to becoming the most dominant relief pitcher baseball has ever seen.
Rivera will eventually become the sixth pitcher who was primarily a reliever to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The five to come before him — Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage — though each exceptional, couldn’t hold a candle to the career put together by the great No. 42.
Rivera played 19 seasons, all with the Yankees, and amassed a major league-record 652 saves, to go along with a 2.21 ERA over 1,283 2/3 innings. As phenomenal as the Panamanian right-hander was in the regular season, he was markedly better in the postseason, going 8-1 with 42 saves and an unbelievable 0.70 ERA in 96 appearances, spanning 141 innings. He was a member of five World Series championship clubs and appeared in the Fall Classic two other times.
And he did all of that as basically a one-pitch pitcher. Rivera’s cut fastball was the ultimate weapon. Just ask opposing hitters. It was never a guessing game when facing Rivera. They knew all too well what was coming, but were powerless to do anything with it.
Affectionately known as “The Sandman,” Rivera will forever be remembered as a legend of the game.