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On way to top of saves list, Mariano passes Smith

As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.

Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.

Mariano Rivera has passed a lot of people -- every closer in baseball history, in fact -- on the all-time saves list in his 19-year career. On Sept. 15, 2008, he passed the pitcher standing in his way for second place in Major League history.

The Yankees closer made quick work of the White Sox on that Monday night, earning career save No. 479 and passing Lee Smith for sole possession for second place on baseball's all-time saves list.

"There's not a lot of guys that are up in this territory," manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "It just tells you how great he's been, and it takes a long time to get 479 saves, and most closers don't have that shelf life.

"Mo's so consistent in what he does. A lot of times, people don't talk about Mo as an athlete when Mo's a great athlete, and that's why he's able to do what he does."

Rivera needed only seven pitches to throw a perfect ninth inning in that game, retiring designated hitter Jim Thome, second baseman Alexei Ramirez and catcher A.J. Pierzynski in order on routine infield groundouts to seal the Yankees' 4-2 victory.

"I'm so happy for Mo," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "That's what people should be talking about, because his consistency throughout the years is second to none. He deserves everything he gets. A lot of times, I think he goes unnoticed in terms of the attention, because people take him for granted, but we definitely don't take him for granted. I'm happy that I've been here to see all of it."

But like he has throughout his illustrious career, Rivera downplayed his individual accomplishments after the game. The most important thing about the night, he said, was that the Yankees won.

"With due respect to the game, it's OK to me, but to me, that isn't what it's about -- it's about winning," Rivera said. "I'm a team player, and I'm not really thinking about myself, and that's the way it's going to be."

Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for

New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera