From Panama to pinstripes to the podium this weekend, it has been quite a journey.
Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, the first player voted in unanimously by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
But Rivera’s path to Cooperstown began way back in the 1980s in the small fishing village of Puerto Caimito, Panama, 4,500 miles from the Hall of Fame.
MLB.com’s Full Account takes a deep dive into Rivera’s life, beginning on the streets of Puerto Caimito. (You can download this podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Art19, or anywhere else where you access your podcasts.)
Episode 1: Panama
Rivera -- who sat down with our crew in his home for nearly two hours to dissect his incredible career -- takes us back to Panama, painting a vivid picture of his life there and the future he had imagined for himself.
From his early days playing with homemade equipment to his tryout with the Yankees -- a session he arrived for without either a glove or cleats -- Rivera never envisioned a life as a professional baseball player.
Yet Herb Raybourn, the Yankees’ top Latin American scout, knew immediately that Rivera had promise on the mound despite the fact that he had never pitched prior to a few weeks before the workout. “He went through nine pitches, and that was it,” Raybourn said. “That's all I wanted to know.”
Episode 2: The Minors
We travel with Rivera from Panama to the United States for his first spring with the Yankees, encountering some speed bumps along the way. His lack of English wasn’t an issue during his first season in the Gulf Coast League, where he allowed one earned run over 52 innings, an astounding 0.17 ERA.
Rivera takes us through his Minor League career, making stops in Greensboro, Albany and Columbus before finally settling in the Bronx. Of course, it was no certainty that he would still be a Yankee by the time he reached the Majors. Rivera recalls the day he and Derek Jeter were sent down together in June 1995, a feeling that stuck with them for years to come.
“We were devastated,” Rivera said. “We were almost in tears.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also recounts the time he had to talk George Steinbrenner out of trading Rivera to the Mariners for a shortstop who would start ahead of Jeter in 1996.
Episode 3: Cutting Edge
Rivera had a breakout 1996 season, helping the Yankees win their first World Series in nearly two decades, but the most significant piece of history didn’t take place until '97, when Rivera received what he calls his “Gift from God.”
Here, we go inside Rivera’s mind as he discovers his famous cut fastball during a routine catch with teammate Ramiro Mendoza.
“From that moment to the moment that I retire, I threw the same pitch,” Rivera said.
The idea that Rivera would be able to succeed with one pitch for the rest of his career seemed preposterous. Teammates assumed he would need to modify his approach at some point, but over the next 15 years, that day never came.
Episode 4: Exit Sandman
From the origins of his iconic theme music (Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”) to his incomparable postseason performance, Rivera takes us through his many career highs, as well as some lows, such as taking the loss in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
“I didn't want to feel that again,” Rivera said. “I had to learn. I had to execute better, and I did. That motivated me to get better.”
The 2012 season was supposed to be Rivera’s swan song, but an untimely early-season knee injury caused him to reconsider how his story would end. He took the field again in '13, and that final season was filled with memorable moments. Rivera takes us back to his final All-Star Game at Citi Field (“I’ve never seen something like that before in my career”) and, of course, his final game at Yankee Stadium.
You may think you know everything about Rivera’s story, but in Full Account, you’re sure to learn even more about the Yankees legend.