Supreme closer Rivera dignified yet deadly on the mound

Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:31pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dignified yet deadly efficient with a game on the line, Mariano Rivera rose from makeshift games on the beach of his hometown fishing village in Panama to become Major League Baseball's greatest closer.

The slender right-hander with the easy motion frustrated hitters for nearly two decades, relying more on precision than power, armed with a confounding, late-breaking version of a fastball that became his signature pitch - the cutter.

Darting in toward a left-handed hitter just as it reaches the plate, Rivera's cutter ruined hundreds of bats as hitters swung at the tantalizing offering just before it broke in toward their hands and cracked the thin handle on their lumber.

Thursday marked Rivera's last game at Yankee Stadium, ending an extraordinary 19 seasons with the Bronx Bombers in which he has registered a record 652 saves with four games to go, and another record 42 saves in the postseason while taking home five World Series rings.

Other relievers have come close to Rivera's heights in shorter stretches, but the man affectionately known as 'Mo' was unparalleled in his consistency and remarkable longevity.

In his first season as a closer, he saved 43 games in 1997. As the oldest player in the major leagues this year at age 43, Rivera has saved 44 games as the 2013 season draws to a close.

Universally respected, Rivera has been honored with tributes at every stadium stop in his farewell season, and the humble champion in turn has visited with stadium workers in private sessions before each occasion to show his appreciation.


New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera responds to the sold-out crowd during ceremonies honoring him before their MLB Interleague baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium in New York September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine