Mariano Rivera's a true Yankee, almost mythical in his dominance
If there's an expression of the Yankee myth, it's Mariano Rivera in the ninth
Rivera has 502 saves by essentially throwing one pitch -- the cut fastball
Rivera learned the pitch in 1997 while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza
"They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand."
There is a Yankee mythology that sustains New York fans and drives everybody else crazy, and it goes something like this: To play for the New York Yankees, you need to have a certain quality -- quiet dignity, maybe, that's part of it, or valor or a sense of the moment. All of that. More. To be a Yankee, the mythos goes, you should suffer your pain in private like Mantle, and keep hitting home runs even when your hair falls out like Maris, and find your true self in October like Reggie. You can be larger than life, like the Babe, and call yourself lucky when dying like Gehrig, and see the world through your own eyes like Yogi. You can even punch out marshmallow salesmen like Billy Martin. As long as you win almost every time out, like Whitey, and make perfectly timed moves, like Casey, and are willing to dive headfirst after victory like Jeter.
No team has so many legends ... and no team celebrates their legends to New York Yankee excess. This is what makes the Yankees so beloved and despised, depending on which side of the pinstripes you stand. And the man who probably represents the Yankee mythology better than anyone is the man who, according to the Yankee legend, never threw to the wrong base. "I thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee," Joe DiMaggio famously said, and he hit in 56 straight games and made plays with grace. People wrote songs about him. Hemingway wrote literature about him.
"I must have the confidence," Hemingway's old man says to the sea, "and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio, who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel."
The funny part is there is actually a Yankees player who, perhaps even more than DiMaggio, lives up to the Yankee mythology. He too is the son of a fisherman, and he grew up poor enough to understand. His career almost ended before it began, and he was almost traded (twice) before the Yankee pinstripes looked right on him. On the field, he has triumphed under the most intense glare in American sports. Off the field, he has been quiet to the sound of invisible. And all the while, he has looked calm, stunningly calm, the sort of superhuman calm that Hollywood gives its heroes.
Yes, if there is an expression that conveys the Yankee myth, it would be the countenance of Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning.
"Have faith in the Yankees, my son," Hemingway's old man says to the boy. "Think of the great DiMaggio."
If Ernest Hemingway was alive and writing today, those words would be: "Think of the great Rivera."
One pitch. Think about that. Mariano Rivera has saved 502 baseball games by essentially throwing one pitch, that same cut fastball. And, of course, he has done much more than save 502 baseball games with the cut fastball ... you can choose a thousand numbers to show his eminence. Consider ERA+, a statistic that measures a players ERA against the pitchers of his own era. In ERA+, 100 is exactly league average.
Here are the greatest ERA+ in baseball history (more than 1,000 innings pitched):
1. Mariano Rivera, 198
Look at that -- Rivera's ERA+ is more than FORTY POINTS higher than anyone else in baseball history. How about WHIP -- walks-plus-hits per inning pitched?
1. Addie Joss, 0.968
*You will note the other three on the list are all pitchers from the Deadball Era.
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