On Sunday night, Mariano Rivera entered a place only one man — Trevor Hoffman — has ever been before.
With the 500th save of his career, Rivera joined Hoffman as the most reliable and consistent closers in the history of baseball.
But only Rivera stands alone as the greatest ever.
One day, those who have seen Rivera pitch will be able to tell their kids and their kids' kids that they saw the best relief pitcher in the history of the game take the mound.
And what Rivera has done in his 15-year major league career defies logic. A pitcher with one pitch, striking out hitters and closing out games at an alarming rate. Basically tipping pitches to opposing hitters with just a perfect cutter in his arsenal, Mo has made a career from getting hitters out when they know what's coming.
"The longevity that he's had, the consistency that he's had since [he became a closer in] 1997, what he's been able to accomplish during the regular season and the postseason, he's a remarkable pitcher," Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News. "To think he did it with one pitch, it's even harder to imagine."
Rivera has done his job better than anyone in baseball and possibly all of professional sports. And to think he has done it without fist pumps, intimidating facial hair, glares towards home plate and exuberant celebrations is just a testament to his humbleness and professionalism.
"You run out of superlatives for the guy, from what he does on the mound to the elegance and class with which he handles everything," baseball analyst Tim McCarver told the Daily News. "He's the epitome of the standup guy and the consummate human being to go along with everything else."
It was just a couple months ago, when Mariano had some early-season struggles, that the baseball world believed Rivera's career was finally coming to a close — the same way he was all done in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. But Mr. Consistency buckled down once again and has now converted 18 of 19 save opportunities on the season.
"We’ve played together for 17 years," Derek Jeter told the New York Times. "He’s the definition of consistency. You can line up all the players who ever played the game. Mo’s been as consistent as anyone."
Every season a new closer seems to emerge and make a name for themselves among the majors in an attempt to steal the spotlight from Rivera and the old guard. But for all the short-term wonder closers like Eric Gagne, J.J. Putz, Huston Street and Brian Fuentes, there has been only one Rivera.
"He's been the best at his job for so many years," Johnny Damon told the Daily News. "When closers come up in this game, they all say they'd like to be as good as Mo, and that says a lot."
And the feelings of Rivera's greatness extend beyond the Yankees' clubhouse and into the minds of those who have to worry about hearing the first few notes of "Enter Sandman" trickle out of the Yankee Stadium speakers.
"As a guy that competes against him, I know that every time you hear "Enter Sandman" and Mariano coming into the game, you know you've got your work cut out for you," David Wright told MLB.com. "And chances are, you're not going to be able to get to him."
Since Rivera put on pinstripes the Yankees have won four World Series, six pennants, 10 division titles and have made 13 postseason appearances. To think he isn't the most important Yankee over the franchise's incredible run that began in 1995 is ridiculous. And the two men who have caught nearly all of his saves on his way to 500 are probably right when they say no closer will ever match what Rivera has done in his career.
"I don’t know if we’ll ever see another Mariano Rivera," Girardi told the Daily News. "I really don’t believe we will."
"He's the best ever, there's no doubt about it," Jorge Posada told the Daily News. "There's not going to be another Mariano Rivera out there. Ever."