Mariano Rivera Biography

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Birth Name: Mariano Rivera

Perhaps one of the games greatest closers, Mariano Rivera's domination has helped earn himself, and his team the New York Yankees, four World Series championships. Although playing a key role in each of them, the hurler was named Most Valuable Player of the 1999 Series against the Atlanta Braves, who were swept in four games. But this is only an inkling of what the reliever has accomplished in his illustrious career.

Rivera made his Major League debut on May 23, 1995, as a starting pitcher. Although he was roughed up in that first game, he started nine more that season, including a two-hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox. He also fanned 11 batters in that game. But that June a shoulder injury nearly landed him with the Detroit Tigers via a potential trade for starter David Wells (who would later become a Yankee himself); however, in a rehab start for the [Yankees'] AAA affiliate Columbus Clippers, he pitched five hitless innings in a game that was shortened by rain. During that game, team scouts noted his high velocity, prompting an end to trade talks with Detroit.

Lacking a variety of pitches in his repertoire, it was decided that he would pitch best out of the bullpen. Subsequently, he was added to the playoff roster and pitched against the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series, throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings out of the pen, despite the team losing the best-of-five series, 3-2. He was permanently moved to the bullpen the following year.

The Yankees rebounded in 1996, one of their most memorable seasons to date. Rivera's role in the bullpen as a set-up man for closer John Wetteland made the duo's one-two punch a proverbial "nail in the coffin" to end many games. It was virtually impossible for opposing teams to score any late inning runs. But Wetteland left after that championship season, signing with the Texas Rangers and leaving the door wide open for Mariano to assume the role of closer.

In his first year as the stopper he saved 27 games by midseason, landing him a spot on the All-Star Team and becoming the first Yankee to save an All-Star game. He had a good second half, but he gave up a game-tying home run to Sandy Alomar, Jr. in the divisional playoff series. The Cleveland Indians would move on, winning the series 3-2 and sending the Yanks home.

Rivera bounced back in 1998, one of the greatest seasons in baseball history: Both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke Lou Gehrig's single-season home run record (that stood since 1961); Yankees starter David Wells pitched a perfect game; Chicago Cubs rookie hurler Kerry Wood fanned 20 batters; and Iron Man Cal Ripken, Jr. sat one out, ending his consecutive games streak at 2,632. It was also that year that the Yankees would win 114 games, setting an American League record. During that storybook season, Mo had become the most dominant closer in the game, saving 36 games in 41 opportunities and allowing only 48 hits in his 61 1/3 innings pitched. In the World Series, he shut down the San Diego Padres with three saves and a 0.00 earned run average (ERA), proving his command as a big-game pitcher.

In 1999, he developed a cut fastball, which became his most effective pitch. He saved 45 of 49 games during the regular season and threw 12 scoreless innings in the playoffs. His MVP role in the World Series would make him the game's most dominant post-season pitcher with a 0.38 ERA.

In 2000, it was all about the New York Mets. In a unique day/night doubleheader, where the first game was played at Shea Stadium and the nightcap at Yankee Stadium, Rivera recorded saves in both games. That fall, Mariano made appearances in all four World Series wins for the Yankees, surrendering two runs on four hits, earning saves in games 4 and 5.

Despite a save in game three and a win in game four of the 2001 World Series, Rivera's playoff armor was cracked as he allowed two runs in the ninth inning of game seven, losing the series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2002, his save of game one in the Divisional Series against the Anaheim Angels proved futile, as the team lost the next three games. Then in 2003, after being named American League Championship Series (ALCS) MVP for his performance against the Boston Red Sox, his services were used only in two games of the World Series against the Florida Marlins. A save in game three and two innings pitched in game six were not enough to help the Yankees win another series, losing to the fish four games to two.

The following year, to the delight of Red Sox fans, Rivera begun showing signs that he is human after all. Just after New York knocked the Minnesota Twins out of the Division Series Rivera got a call from his family in Panama. His wife's cousin and his son were electrocuted while cleaning the pool at Rivera's home in Puerto Caimito, Panama. Mariano left the team to deal with this tragic personal matter, but he returned in time for the ALCS against Boston, a day after the funerals. Despite saving the first two games, he fell victim to the Sox after blowing consecutive saves in games four and five.

Mariano Rivera was born on November 11, 1969, in Panama City. The son of a fisherman, he grew up poor and played baseball as a kid using a glove fashioned out of a cardboard box. He is deeply religious, once stating that he would retire from baseball in 2003 to return to Panama and become a minister. His loyalty to his team and his religion are mirror images of each other, and his class on the field translates to his persona off the field. In 2001 he was awarded the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award (for a second time) and donated the award to the New York City Fire Department to honor their efforts during the terrorist attacks of September 11. Mo wears number 42 in honor of legendary ballplayer Jackie Robinson, and he enters from the bullpen to the tune of Metallica's Enter Sandman." He signed his first contract with the Yankees in February of 1990 and has been with the team throughout his entire career.

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