13 moments that made Mo a legend in NYC

November 29th, 2023

MLB.com has been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting stories that pay tribute to some of the most significant and talented players from Latin America in the game's history. We close things out today, appropriately, with the greatest closer in baseball history.


Mariano Rivera's journey from Panama to Cooperstown included 652 regular-season saves and another 42 in the postseason, so there was no shortage of options in choosing the closer's greatest career highlights.

To honor the first player to be unanimously selected to the Hall of Fame, MLB.com looks at 13 moments that made Rivera a legendary presence on the mound -- one for each of his All-Star appearances.

1. Seventh heaven
Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series had already seen a full postseason's worth of drama by the time Rivera took the mound in the top of the ninth with the Yankees and Red Sox tied 5-5. Rivera allowed two hits over three scoreless innings, throwing 48 pitches to set the stage for Aaron Boone's pennant-clinching home run to lead off the 11th inning. Overcome with emotion, the closer ran to the mound and collapsed to his knees. With one run allowed over eight innings in four appearances, Rivera earned ALCS MVP honors.

2. The best team ever
Rivera and the Yankees won 114 games during the 1998 regular season, but anything short of a World Series title would have rendered their year unsatisfying. Rivera -- who had experienced a rare failure during the previous postseason, his first as a closer -- responded with an October to remember, throwing 13 1/3 scoreless innings over 10 appearances. He went 6-for-6 in save opportunities, including three against the Padres in the Fall Classic, recording the final out of the World Series for the first time in his career on Oct. 21, 1998, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It would not be the last.

3. MVP
Rivera closed out his second straight World Series as the Yankees completed a four-game sweep of the Braves on Oct. 27, 1999, in the Bronx. For the second year in a row, the closer was flawless in October, as Rivera threw 12 1/3 scoreless innings over eight appearances. His World Series line: 4 2/3 scoreless innings, one win and two saves, earning him series MVP honors for the first time.

4. A milestone day
Rivera entered the Yankees' game at Citi Field against the Mets in the eighth inning on June 28, 2009, looking to lock down the 500th save of his career. He accomplished that feat with a four-out save, but it was his bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth that served as the day's biggest highlight as Rivera picked up the only RBI of his career.

5. King of Queens
Playing in his 13th and final All-Star Game in 2013, Rivera jogged in from the Citi Field bullpen only to find an empty field. AL manager Jim Leyland opted to bring in Rivera for the eighth to make sure he got into the game, then held his team back while the greatest closer of all-time soaked in the lengthy standing ovation from the New York crowd. Rivera pitched a scoreless inning in the AL's 3-0 win, earning MVP honors.

6. No. 602
Rivera had already joined Trevor Hoffman as the only closers in history to reach the 500- and 600-save marks, but No. 602 officially moved the Yankee into rarified air. On Sept. 19, 2011, Rivera recorded the final three outs against the Twins at Yankee Stadium, striking out Chris Parmelee to become the Majors' all-time saves leader.

7. Welcome to October
All legends start somewhere, and for Rivera, it was at the old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 4, 1995. The right-hander entered Game 2 of the ALDS with the Yankees trailing the Mariners, 5-4, in the top of the 12th inning. Rivera struck out Jay Buhner to end the inning, then watched the Yanks tie the game in the bottom of the frame. He retired 10 of the 12 batters he faced, keeping Seattle off the board through the 15th before Jim Leyritz won it for New York in the bottom of the 15th. The most brilliant postseason performer of all-time had been officially introduced to the baseball world.

8. First of five World Series titles
Rivera had not yet assumed the Yankees' closer role in 1996, but he made his presence felt with a stellar season as a setup man, finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting. With the Yankees on the verge of their first World Series title since 1978, Rivera sat down six of the seven Braves he faced in Game 6 of the World Series, pitching two scoreless innings before handing off to closer John Wetteland. That season would mark the first of Rivera's five World Series championships.

9. New York, New York
For all of the Yankees' success, no series meant more to the team's fan base than the 2000 World Series against the crosstown-rival Mets. Although Rivera allowed a pair of runs in a non-save situation in Game 2, he rebounded with saves in Games 4 and 5 to close out the Yanks' third straight championship. The Oct. 26 clincher at Shea Stadium saw Mike Piazza step to the plate as the tying run, but Rivera got him to fly out to Bernie Williams to secure the title. That marked Rivera's seventh career World Series save, establishing a new record.

10. Back on top
It had been nine years since the Yankees had won the World Series, but the "Core Four" of Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada helped guide New York back to the Fall Classic in the first year at the new Yankee Stadium. On Nov. 4, 2009, the Yanks handed their legendary closer a four-run lead in Game 6, then watched Rivera get the final five outs against the Phillies to wrap up the fifth championship of his career.

11. Fond farewell
The Yankees were still mathematically alive for postseason contention, but their game on Sept. 21, 2008, against the Orioles was about much more. In the final game ever to be played at the old Yankee Stadium, Rivera took the mound with a four-run lead in the ninth, making quick work of Baltimore with an 11-pitch inning. Although the Yanks went on to miss the playoffs, there was no more fitting sight than that of Rivera closing out one last game to send the ballpark out on a winning note.

12. Monuments are forever
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed Sept. 22, 2013, as "Mariano Rivera Day," setting up a memorable day in the Bronx. During a 50-minute pregame ceremony, the Yankees retired his No. 42 and hung a plaque for him in Monument Park, making him the first active player to earn those honors. To cap off the ceremony, Metallica took the field to perform "Enter Sandman," which Rivera had used as his entrance music for the majority of his career.

13. 'It's time to go'
Rivera's final big league appearance on Sept. 26, 2013, wouldn't be a save situation -- or even a Yankees victory. With New York trailing Tampa Bay, 4-0, Rivera recorded the final two outs of the eighth and the first two outs of the ninth before manager Joe Girardi sent Jeter and Pettitte to the mound to remove their longtime teammate for the final time. "It's time to go," Jeter said, getting a laugh from Rivera before the closer broke out into tears, burying his face in Pettitte's shoulder before soaking in the extended ovation from a grateful home crowd.