Sunday, September 29, 2013

'Mariano Rivera's Saving Grace,' NY Times Editorial Board

9/27/13, "Mariano Rivera's Saving Grace," New York Times Editorial Board

"It might not have been the ending Hollywood would have written — it wasn’t the World Series, and the Yankees lost — but it was powerful anyway. At the stadium on Thursday night, Mariano Rivera, baseball’s greatest relief pitcher, said goodbye.

The Yankees, in their last home game of the year, were trailing the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Rivera, the king of saves, was not going to get one more. But he retired four batters, and with two outs in the ninth, Manager Joe Girardi, in a neat gesture, sent Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte — two of Rivera’s teammates in some of the Yankees’ best years — to the mound. Rivera handed the ball over and then buried his head in Pettitte’s shoulder. For a long moment they stood still as the crowd cheered and cheered. 

Rivera was clearly overcome, but he, of all people, was not about to lose it. He straightened up, smiled, gave his eyes a quick wipe, took off his cap and saluted the fans. 

Rivera’s triumphs — his unmatched records, his Hall of Fame future — were the obvious reasons for the sellout crowd at an otherwise meaningless late-September game. But the long, warm ovation was for more than just a set of awe-inspiring statistics. Rivera is human and has never been completely invulnerable. What makes him so remarkable is his poise under pressure, his dignity in losing, his ability to put defeat behind him and come back to win, again and again. 

This is what Buster Olney wrote in The Times in 2001, when the Yankees lost the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, in the ninth inning of Game 7, because Rivera had a bad night: 

“Rivera answered questions quietly, politely, without regret; he had broken bats on all three hits he allowed in the bottom of the ninth. ‘I did everything I could,’ he said.” 

Everything he could was, in 19 Yankee seasons, more than enough to earn the fans’ deep and lasting gratitude and admiration."

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