By, Sam G. ’19
Often considered the greatest closer in the sport, Mariano Rivera, the MLB career saves record holder and five-time World Series Champion, recently became the first ever player to be unanimously voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Along with designated hitter Edgar Martinez, fellow pitchers Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina, Rivera will be commemorated in Cooperstown, New York, joining scores of other legendary players as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
Players are inducted into the Hall of Fame by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America; in total, 425 ballots are cast, and at least 75% of the votes on a specific player must be in favor for that player to be inducted. Prior to Mariano Rivera, the highest percentage of confirmative votes received by a player was Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016, who received an astounding 99.3% of the vote. Approximately 1% of Major League players are inducted into the Hall of Fame, making Rivera’s addition, along with the unanimity of the vote, doubly impressive. “After my career, I was thinking that I had a shot to be a Hall of Famer,” Rivera shared with reporters, “but this was just beyond my imagination. I was amazed the way all this has been, through my whole career — and this being the pinnacle of every player that plays the game of baseball, to be unanimous.”
Mariano Rivera initially struggled in his role as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, and after being yanked from a game due to his own late mistake and the team’s subsequent loss, he thought he would be “in the bullpen forever.” Yet Rivera, the last player in the MLB to wear number 42 before it was retired league-wide in honor of Jackie Robinson, demonstrated the importance of hard work and perseverance and eventually emerged as a closer during the Yankees’ championship run in 1996.
Derek Jeter, former Yankees shortstop and longtime teammate of Rivera, writes that Rivera “never had a character that he portrayed. He’s always just calmly and coolly done his thing. He’s quiet. Thoughtful. Intense. He’s a man of faith. He has an incredible eye for detail.” This sense of calm, leadership, and determination to finish the job lead the Yankees to World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009.
Teresa L. ’19, a longtime Red Sox fan, commented, “A lot of times with sports, we become so passionate about our home teams that we blindly ridicule players on the opposing side. I think it’s really cool that Rivera was able to get a unanimous ballot, and it says a lot about his legacy in the sport and the respect he earned from the baseball community.” Rivera, along with the rest of his class, will be formally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 21, 2019.