Rivera was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July after becoming the first unanimous selection by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. On Monday, he became the 13th baseball player to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which along with the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award a civilian can receive in the United States.
Monday's ceremony began with the familiar sounds of Metallica's "Enter Sandman," Rivera's entrance theme throughout his career. Before fastening the medal around Rivera's neck, Trump praised the Panamanian-born hurler, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015, for his success.
"Today we present the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to American baseball legend and maybe the greatest pitcher of all time … Mariano Rivera," Trump said.
"His dominance on the mound mesmerized fans, teammates, and unfortunately for them, it mesmerized the competitors."
Rivera spent his 19-year career with the Yankees, and he is MLB's all-time saves leader with 652. He also was renowned for his postseason effectiveness, as he recorded a lifetime 0.70 ERA in 141 innings during the playoffs and won five World Series championships. Four of those came under the guidance of manager Joe Torre, who was among those in attendance Monday.
Joe DiMaggio was the first baseball player to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom when President Gerald Ford presented him with the award in 1977. Since then, Jackie Robinson (posthumously), Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente (posthumously), Frank Robinson, Buck O'Neil (posthumously), Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra (posthumously) and Babe Ruth (posthumously) have received it as well. Broadcaster Vin Scully also earned the honor in 2016.
Moe Berg, a former MLB catcher who served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, was presented with the Medal of Freedom -- which preceded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, established in 1963 -- by President Harry Truman in '45.