Super Mariano

Today, Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is fitting that Mo will be enshrined in the Hall the weekend America is remembering and celebrating the triumph of Apollo 11.

You see, more men have walked on the moon than scored against Mariano in the postseason.

Growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s, I was genetically predisposed to being a Yankee fan. The environment of the Bronx supported this predisposition, but it was the specific location of apartment 6 at 1261 Leland Avenue that provided no choice in the matter.

My brothers Johnny and Michael were already Yankee fans when I was born in 1950. My father, being the source of the Yankee gene for all of us, grew up when Babe and Lou were young sluggers winning  Yankee World Series in the new ballpark in the Bronx.

My Yankee life began with Mickey Mantle. There was also Yogi, Moose, Roger, Elston, Hector, and Clete.

Later on, Horace Clarke and Jake Gibbs would be the stars that I followed.

That was during the lean years when the Yankees weren’t winning games much less World Series. Still, you’re a Yankee fan no matter.

The Yankees were already on the mend when George Steinbrenner bought the team, but he sure helped bring them back to the glory days. Munson, Nettles, Chamblis, Guidry, and Reggie were among the new heroes.

Donny Baseball, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, were soon joined by Jeter, Pettitte, and Posada.

But, the Yankee that eclipsed them all was Mariano Rivera.

My father and I would often discuss his favorite Yankee player. One day it would be Ruth, but then he would switch to Gherig. The next day it was Dimaggio.

At the time, I didn’t appreciate his reluctance to identify the one player that was his favorite. Now, however, I see what an impossible thing it is to do.

I saw Mickey play. How could you have a player that was better than Mickey? But then when I started taking my oldest son to games, we saw Don Mattingly. You just had to love Donnie Baseball. Then, of course, Jeter comes along and how could you think he was better than Mickey…I began to see how you could.

The fact is we remember all these great players as equally great and equally historic in their own right.

But then there’s Mo.

One of the things that I always regretted is that I had taken Mickey Mantle for granted. You know when you’re a kid you have a bad sense of time and history. I always thought Mickey would be patrolling centerfield and slamming long home runs in Yankee Stadium. Because of this, I never had the urgency that I had better get to a game to see him while I still could. I went to games but not nearly as many as I wish I had.

I didn’t make that mistake with the modern-day Yankees.

I made sure that I got to games and that my children got to see these players while they still could.

It was a great run.

We would go to a few games a year and, starting in 1996, we were able to see five World Series teams. Now, it wasn’t as glorious an age as when I grew up, but for me, it was much more exciting.

Even the years the Yankees didn’t win it all it was exciting because you knew you saw a Hall of Fame team, a once in a lifetime team. And the hear of that team was Mariano Rivera.

More men have walked on the Moon than have scored against him in the playoffs.

I tried to impart the historic nature of watching this generational player to my son. We had a Saturday package that provided tickets to sixteen games, mostly on  Saturday. On this one occasion, we were standing outside with a beautiful view of the field as Enter Sandman echoed all around us. I started haranguing Bryan by asking, “Are you getting this?” I must have asked him five times. Finally, in frustration of the nagging, he replied, “YES! I’m getting it.”

You see, at that moment I was with my father and Babe Ruth was coming to bat. I never got to experience that, of course. But, on that Saturday with my son Bryan, I felt I was experiencing a similar event.

It occurred to me that Mariano Rivera was the Babe Ruth of his day. He was the Babe Ruth of Closers. He was the best at what he does, and we have never witnessed anyone like him before.

The sportswriters, who unanimously elected Mariano Rivera into the Hall of Fame agreed with this assessment.

Today, Mariano joins Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle.

Today, Marian Rivera is a Baseball Immortal.

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