BOSTON — Mariano Rivera has made more appearances at Fenway Park than any other visiting reliever in the park’s 102-year history. Sunday marks his final game in Boston — unless the Yankees return for a playoff matchup.
Rivera’s farewell tour has stretched the entire season, but his final trip to Fenway Park marks one of its more interesting moments. The 43-year-old has been a huge part of the Boston-New York rivalry over the last 19 years and even the most passionate Yankee haters have come to respect Rivera’s contributions to the game of baseball.
Rivera is undeniably the greatest closer in MLB history. He’s a 13-time All-Star, a five-time World Series champion and his 651 saves are the most ever. Rivera’s successful career has been built on reliability and durability that are rarely seen across all sports.
“He sets the bar in terms of consistency and I think it’s directly related to how great of an athlete he is,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday. “The thing you can marvel at is you watch video from 15, 18 years ago and it’s the same delivery as the one he’ll use tonight if he gets to the mound. He’s a great athlete and that’s the primary reason in my mind. Just from afar, that’s the view.”
Rivera has been getting the job done for a long, long time. When Rivera recorded his first save on May 17, 1996, the most popular song of the year was Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” and the top movie at the box office that year was Independence Day. But through soaring gas prices, two MLB teams being added to the mix and a huge influx of new stadiums, Rivera has remained a constant.
“He’s kept himself in such great shape, and because of physically being consistent, that’s allowed him to be that way from a delivery standpoint,” Farrell said. “Along the way, he’s had to make many, many sacrifices and many, many decisions. What he’s done is not by accident. He’s a great player that has stayed focused and committed to his profession.”
Rivera has owned the ninth inning in the Bronx, and it might be a long time before we see someone match his remarkable feats. No one will ever match Rivera’s combination of professionalism and generosity.
When Rivera announced on March 9 that he would be retiring at the end of the season, it was obvious that this year would be a love fest everywhere he went. But Rivera undertook one personal mission. He wanted to meet and thank the many employees and fans across the league who supported the game of baseball during his lengthy career.
Rivera has made stops all over the place, and on July 20, he met with a group of Boston-area natives. Rivera met with J.P. and Paul Norden of Stoneham, Mass., who helped others at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and who each lost a leg the day of the tragedy. He also met with a 13-year-old and a 19-year-old who receive support from the Jimmy Fund, a Fenway Park usher and ticket window representative who are in their 46th year with the Red Sox organization, and four members of the Boston-area RBI program.
“He’s a role model and I mean that in the greatest sense that I can say it,” Farrell said. “Everyone should look up to him and the way he lives his life.”
It’s time to close the book on Rivera’s Fenway career, and it’ll soon be time to close the book on his entire baseball career. But while Rivera continues to thank those who made his career so special, we should be the ones thanking him for a fun ride.
Thank you, Mo.