Kaleb pays tribute to the greatest closer of all time in the wake of a torn ACL.
Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, the epitome of class, sportsmanship, and the consumate teammate, tore his ACL in the most ignoble way possible two days ago, catching fly balls in practice.
Growing up a young Yankees fan, I failed to grasp that I was witnessing history watching him pitch, but now that I pause to reflect on his career, his achievements are staggering. For years, the Yankees practically played 8 inning games, because when Mo came on the mound, it was as good as over, and he only got better in the postseason.
He has every closer record there is to own, and has the lowest career ERA and WHIP for any pitcher in the live ball era, but perhaps he is more celebrated for his behavior on and off the field than for his achievements on it. His humility, grace, and calmness have won over the most staunch Yankee haters. Even my friends who are Red Sox fans publicly wished him a speedy recovery.
At a time when sports are so tainted from various scandals, it takes a special player to transcend one of the most bitter rivalries in America. He reminds me of another Yankee legend, and another one of my heroes, Lou Gehrig. The Iron Horse was noted for the same soft-spokeness, calm determination, and team mentality that Mariano is, and delivered the single most emotional speech on a baseball field, calling himself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” as he was dying. Watching it still brings tears to my eyes.
Mariano has publicly stated that he will recover from this injury, but given his age, it might not be possible. If he does however, it will go down in history as the climax of one of the greatest sports novels of all time, a testament to determination, hard work, and the team above all. So I pray this is premature, but whenever he retires, I will bid farewell to one of the greatest players and persons to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. Mariano, there will never be anybody quite like you.