Mariano Rivera was a high school dropout working on his father’s fishing boat in Panama. That was 1990, and a 20-year-old “Mo” was playing amateur baseball as a hobby. His primary position was in the outfield.
In Rivera’s book The Closer, he describes the game that changed his life. His team's bullpen was dry and they needed an arm. “All we’re looking for is for you to throw strikes,” his manager said. And Mo stole the show.
A few weeks later, he was invited to a local tryout with the New York Yankees. He had no formal training as a pitcher. Herb Raybourn was the Yankees’ scout in Panama that day. Rivera threw nine pitches before Raybourn signed him.
It took four years in the minors before Mo joined the real Yankees in 1995. In 1996, they won the World Series. In 1997, he was given relief duties as the Yanks’ go-to closer. The rest is history.
Mariano Rivera’s Stats
.70 ERA in 96 postseason games
5 World Series rings
13 AL All-Star selections
24 World Series games pitched (MLB record)
652 career saves (MLB record)
The work of a closer is an art form. It’s mind over body, head over arm and placement over power.
In sports, it's the clutch gene in big moments that separates trophies from tears. Forty-eight minutes on a court punctuated by one Michael Jordan jumper. Sixty minutes on a football field decided by one Tom Brady throw. Eighteen holes culminating in one magical Tiger Woods putt. For a closer in any sport, it’s not games, but moments that define a legacy.
There’s much more to the Mariano Rivera story than we can pack into The Underdog, but Mo’s message is simple.
“I am convinced that being fully committed to the moment, without any worries about the past or projections into the future, is the best attribute a closer can have.”
The Baseball Writer's Association of America filled out 425 ballots. Every last one voted for Mo, the first-ever unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Read: It’s Unanimous (New York Times)
Watch: The Moment Rivera Found Out (NY Post)