Panamanian baseballer Mariano Rivera has retired from professional baseball after a successful 19-year career.
At the age of 42, Rivera missed the entire 2012 season due to an injury. For some fans that signaled the end of the Panama native's career, but Rivera decided to return for another year, announcing that he would retire at the end of the 2013 season.
Pitching with the New York Yankees for his entire career, Rivera saved 43 games during the 2013 regular season (the Yankees did not qualify for the postseason) leaving his record at 652 regular season and 42 postseason games saved, becoming the pitcher with the highest number of saved games in the entire history of professional baseball.
The media in general has honored the career of Mariano Rivera, who has not only distinguished himself in the world of sports, but has also gained the respect of the general public, even while playing for a team as hated as the Yankees.
Rivera's popularity led baseball fans everywhere to offer him a heartfelt tribute at every stadium he visited during the 2013 season, bidding farewell to one of the greatest baseballers Latin America has produced in recent years.
The Yankees, in their last home game of the year, were trailing the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Rivera, the king of saves, was not going to get one more. But he retired four batters, and with two outs in the ninth, Manager Joe Girardi, in a neat gesture, sent Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte — two of Rivera’s teammates in some of the Yankees’ best years — to the mound. Rivera handed the ball over and then buried his head in Pettitte’s shoulder. For a long moment they stood still as the crowd cheered and cheered.
Colombian newspaper El Tiempo [es] recounts the humble origins of Rivera, who went from fisherman to amateur baseball player when he signed on with the Yankees:
Nació un 29 de noviembre hace 43 años (1969) en Ciudad de Panamá, hijo de Mariano Rivera y Delia Jirón, y creció en Puerto Caimito, un lugar pobre. De niño recogía piedras y las mandaba lejos y el deporte de los bates y las manillas lo practicaba con palos, guantes de cartón y bolas elaboradas con red de pesca. Soñaba con ser grande, aunque el béisbol lo jugaba más por diversión y le apuntaba al fútbol.
He was born one November 29th in Panama City 43 years ago (1969), the son of Mariano Rivera and Delia Jirón, and grew up in Puerto Caimito, an impoverished village. As a child he used to gather stones and send them flying, and he played the sport called “bats and gloves” with sticks, cardboard mitts, and balls fashioned from fishing nets. He dreamed of being great, although he played baseball more for fun and was more focused on soccer.
Jayson Stark of ESPN also devoted an article to the “real” Rivera, emphasizing the fact that he has set the bar very high, so high that it will be hard to meet or exceed:
Perhaps you're asking yourself: Who's the next Mariano Rivera? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. You're kidding, right? No current closer, who is still in his 20s, is even within 500 saves of him. Yep, 500. The only two current closers in their 20s who even have 100 career saves: Craig Kimbrel (138) and Chris Perez (132). We'll rejoin their pursuit of Mariano in — what? — about two decades?
Panama also paid tribute to their native son in various ways. Journalist Álvaro Alvarado shared a photo of one of the floodgates in the locks of the Panama Canal, painted with the number 42 (the number worn by Rivera for his entire career):
Homenaje a Mariano Rivera. pic.twitter.com/pFZGcnBhiR
— Alvaro Alvarado (@AlvaroAlvaradoC) September 29, 2013
A tribute to Mariano Rivera.
User Carl Gustav shared an image of Rivera's last time on the mound at Yankee Stadium:
John Cornyn expressed the sentiment of thousands of baseball fans who, while having little sympathy for the Yankees, see in Rivera one of baseball's best players.
@CaptYonah I hate the Yankees, but Rivera's greatness transcends team affiliation.
— Primary John Cornyn (@LibertarianTex) September 27, 2013
Susana Marina shows pride in the world's discovery of the existence of Panama and of Puerto Caimito (where the pitcher was raised) thanks to the excellent work of this player:
Hoy el mundo escuchó el nombre de Panamá y de Puerto Caimito… Gústele a quien le guste #Mo
— Susana Marina (@susanamarina) September 22, 2013
Today the world has heard the names of Panama and Puerto Caimito…like it or not.
Michiko Kakutani has written an article titled: “Mariano: A Zen Master With A Wicked Cutter” for the New York Times, in which he comes to the same conclusion that thousands of fans, baseball experts, and professional ball players have also drawn about this player's retirement: Rivera is moving on, “jogging into the future and retirement. And through the gates of Cooperstown [the National Baseball Hall of Fame] and into the forever of history.”