One of this year’s inductees is the great New York Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera. Rivera’s induction is unprecedented in one particularly distinguishing way.
Mariano Rivera’s career achievements
When Mariano Rivera debuted with the New York Yankees in 1995, few could have predicted how his career would turn out. Initially, the Yankees used Rivera as a starting pitcher where he struggled with an ERA of 5.51. It wasn’t until the 1995 AL Division Series against the Seattle Mariners that Yankee manager Buck Showalter thought to use him out of the bullpen.
From there, history was made.
From 1995-1996 Rivera was the Yankees’ setup man. After Yankee closer John Wetteland left the team for the Texas Rangers, he assumed closer duties in 1997 and would become one of the faces of the Yankees’ ’90s dynasty. His career numbers speak for themselves:
- 652 saves (an MLB record)
- 952 games finished (an MLB record)
- 2.21 ERA
- 1,173 strikeouts in 1,283.2 innings pitched
- 1.000 WHIP
- ERA+ of 205 (an MLB record)
- 12 All-Star game selections
- Six top ten finishes in the Cy Young Award voting
- 42 postseason saves
- A postseason ERA of 0.70
- 2003 ALCS MVP
- 1999 World Series MVP
- Five World Series championships
Rivera is quite simply the greatest closer of all-time with very few players coming close (the San Diego Padres’ Trevor Hoffman was the only closer who approached Rivera’s dominance). No player has towered over his peers at a position or role the way Rivera has over other closers.
Why Mariano Rivera’s Hall of Fame induction was unprecedented
In his first year of MLB Hall of Fame eligibility, Rivera received the call from the MLB Hall of Fame that he was being inducted. Rivera received the news with his family on hand to celebrate with him.
Once they heard he had been selected, they erupted in cheers. But according to the New York Post, their cheers almost drowned out the other news the Hall of Fame gave Rivera: that he was the first-ever unanimous selection to the MLB Hall of Fame.
To put this amazing fact into its proper context, consider that the Baseball Hall of Fame first began inducting players in 1936. Players such as Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, and Cal Ripken were all inducted into the Hall of Fame without being unanimous choices.
Rivera’s Hall of Fame nod was hardly surprising, but him being the first-ever unanimous selection undoubtedly was.
Reaction to being the first unanimous selection to the MLB Hall of Fame
Here’s how Rivera described the feeling of being the MLB Hall of Fame’s first unanimous selection to the New York Post:
“I told someone that [to be the first] feels like when you just won the championship, the World Series. That level of intensity it was. I feel honored, I feel humbled, that I was the one that did that. I never considered myself better than anybody. But the Lord blessed me with that. I thank the Lord for that, because it won’t change my life but it’s something that you know that you were the first one. That’s what’s special.”
Mariano Rivera was the recipient of one of the greatest honors any baseball player could receive. While him being the first unanimous choice for the Hall of Fame may be a bit ridiculous – there were many players ahead of him also deserving of the honor – no one can argue that Rivera was a slam dunk to be a unanimous selection on his first ballot. His results, class, and professionalism all speak for themselves.