Mariano Rivera’s Greatest Moments As A Yankee

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The Yankees recently added Adam Ottavino to their bullpen of doom, yet no reliever in that deep pen will jog in from beyond the outfield wall and give fans the same sense of security that Mariano Rivera did. Rivera, who we can now call the Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, is undoubtedly the greatest reliever of all-time, making him one of the most obvious choices to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

We know all the stats. An all-time record of 652 saves, while posting a career ERA+ of 205, a 56.3 WAR, and a 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings. There were five World Series wins along the way, with Rivera often standing on the mound to close those championships out.

But every Hall of Famer also goes into baseball lore with unforgettable moments that made up a Hall of Fame career. So, what were Rivera’s? Let’s rank the top five.


5. Building the bridge to a dynasty

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It’s sometimes hard to believe given how many years Rivera dominated as a closer, but his best season in the bullpen came in his first year in the bullpen. Serving as a setup man for Joe Torre’s “formula” in 1996, Rivera posted a career-best 5.0 WAR with a 1.88 FIP in 107 23 innings.

When the playoffs arrived, Rivera kept surging. There was the two shutout-inning performance in game one of the ALCS to guide the Yanks to a win that set the tone for the series. Then, one win away from the franchise’s first World Series title in 18 years, Rivera shut the Braves down through two scoreless. Fittingly, he broke a bat in the process.

4. The final outs

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Is there a lasting image more synonymous with the Yankees’ dominance in the late nineties than Rivera on the mound, with his arms raised in triumph? Mo was on the bump for four of the Yankees’ last five World Series celebrations, including the most recent one in 2009.

There was 1998, as Rivera put the bow on top of what was the greatest team in baseball history:

Rivera also ended the Subway Series in 2000, though that one was in doubt for juuuust a split second when the ball left Mike Piazza’s bat:

Nine years later, Rivera and the Yankees were back on top:

Yes, I am aware there’s one missing, but that’s obviously because…

3: The MVP

The final out of the 1999 World Series was particularly special for Rivera, as it reinforced his MVP case for the series. Rivera tossed 4 23 shutout innings in the rematch with the Braves, walking just one batter and recording a pair of saves.

His MVP case might have been sealed after he forced Ryan Klesko to go through his entire bat rack in one plate appearance. Remember that rocking chair made out of broken bats that the Twins gave Mo during his farewell tour? I’d like to think Klesko’s bats made up the entire backrest of that chair.

2. The best ever

Everyone with a brain already regarded Rivera as the greatest closer who ever lived before he had the most saves of anyone who ever lived, but save number 602 was still the cherry on top, as it passed Trevor Hoffman’s mark of 601.

Rivera’s 602nd save in 2011 was punctuated in typical Rivera fashion, on a 93 mph cutter that painted the outside corner, basically an unhittable pitch.

1. Keeping a curse alive for one more year

Rivera’s MVP performance in the 1999 World Series isn’t his most memorable one that ended with such a reward. After the Yankees tied game seven of the 2003 ALCS against Pedro Martinez in unforgettable fashion, they still had to hold the fort until they could push across the game-winning run. Torre turned to Rivera, who was willing to stay on the mound for as long as it took.

Turns out, it took three innings until Aaron Boone sent the Bronx crowd home happy in the bottom of the 11th. First, Rivera put Boone in that spot by shutting the Red Sox down through three frames, completing an ALCS where he allowed just one run through eight innings, earning himself the series MVP. Of course, we’ll always remember Rivera collapsing on the pitcher’s mound while Boone made his trip around the bases.

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Mariano Rivera was the closer for New York Yankees dynasty in the ’90s and 2000s. For his work as the greatest late inning pitcher, Rivera made history by becoming the first ever unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.

Three years ago, Ken Griffey Jr. came the closest to a unanimous induction when he received 99.32 percent of the vote or just three ballots short.

Filled with excitement, Rivera said, “After my career, I was thinking that I had a shot to be a Hall of Famer. But this was just beyond my imagination. I was amazed the way all this has been, through my whole career — and this being the pinnacle of every player that plays the game of baseball, to be unanimous.”

Rivera, a 5-time World Series champion, was eligible for the first time this year, is joined by three other inductees, the late Roy Halladay (85.4 percent of ballots), longtime Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez (85.4 percent) and former Oriole and Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina (76.7 percent).

Mariano Rivera (born November 29, 1969) is a Panamanian-American former professional baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, from 1995 to 2013. Nicknamed “Mo” and “Sandman”, he spent most of his career as a relief pitcher and served as the Yankees’ closer for 17 seasons. A thirteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is MLB’s career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). Rivera won five American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards, and he finished in the top three in voting for the AL Cy Young Award four times. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in its class of 2019 in his first year of eligibility, becoming the first player ever to be elected unanimously by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

Raised in the modest Panamanian fishing village of Puerto Caimito, Rivera was an amateur player until signed by the Yankees organization in 1990. He debuted in the major leagues in 1995 as a starting pitcher, before permanently converting to a relief pitcher late in his rookie year. After a breakthrough season in 1996 as a setup man, he became the Yankees’ closer in 1997. In the following seasons, he established himself as one of baseball’s top relievers, leading the major leagues in saves in 1999, 2001, and 2004. Rivera primarily threw a sharp-moving, mid-90s mile-per-hour cut fastball that frequently broke hitters’ bats and earned a reputation as one of the league’s toughest pitches to hit. With his presence at the end of games, signaled by his foreboding entrance song “Enter Sandman“, Rivera was a key contributor to the Yankees’ success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. An accomplished postseason performer, he was named the 1999 World Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the 2003 AL Championship Series MVP, and he holds several postseason records, including lowest earned run average (ERA) (0.70) and most saves (42).

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Rivera is regarded within baseball as one of the most dominant relievers in major league history. Pitching with a longevity and consistency uncommon to the closer role, he saved at least 25 games in 15 consecutive seasons and posted an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons, both of which are records. His career 2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are the lowest in the live-ball era among qualified pitchers. Fellow players credit him with popularizing the cut fastball across the major leagues. Along with his signature pitch, Rivera was known for his precise control, smooth pitching motion, and for his composure and reserved demeanor on the field. In 2013, the Yankees retired his uniform number 42; he was the last major league player to wear the number full-time, following its league-wide retirement in honor of Jackie Robinson. Rivera has been involved in philanthropic causes and the Christian community through the Mariano Rivera Foundation.

Post-baseball life

Rivera (right) at the presentation of the 2015 AL Reliever of the Year Award to Andrew Miller. The award was named in Rivera’s honor the year prior.

In March 2014, Rivera was twice recognized for his philanthropic efforts, receiving the ROBIE Humanitarian Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, as well as a Jefferson Award for Public Service. Later that month, the “Legends Series”, comprising two MLB exhibition games between the Yankees and Miami Marlins, was played in Rivera’s native Panama to “honor [his] legacy”; he helped promote the games, which were supplemented by charitable events and a gala benefiting his foundation. On April 9, 2014, MLB announced that a new annual award for relief pitchers, the Reliever of the Year Award, would replace the existing Delivery Man of the Year Award, and that the AL honor would be named after Rivera. The following month, a section of River Avenue bordering Yankee Stadium at 161st Street was renamed “Rivera Avenue” in the pitcher’s honor. This coincided with the release of his autobiography, The Closer: My Story, co-authored with Wayne Coffey. New York University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon Rivera during its commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium on May 21, 2014. During the 2015 Little League World Series, he was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. The Yankees dedicated a plaque to Rivera in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park on August 14, 2016. In May 2018, Rivera was nominated to co-chair the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.

Baseball accomplishments

Awards and honors

Award/Honor # of Times Dates Refs
All-Star Game MVP Award 1 2013
American League All-Star 13 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013
American League Championship Series MVP Award[a] 1 2003
American League Comeback Player of the Year Award 1 2013
American League Player of the Week 3 May 26–June 1, 2008; June 22–28, 2009; September 19–25, 2011
American League Rolaids Relief Man Award[b] 5 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009
Babe Ruth Award 1 1999
Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award 1 2013
Clutch Performer of the Month 1 June 2010
Delivery Man of the Year Award[c] 3 2005, 2006, 2009
Delivery Man of the Month Award 2 April 2008, July 2009
Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award 1 2013
Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award 1 2013
Sporting News Pro Athlete of the Year Award 1 2009
Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award[c] 6 1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009
This Year in Baseball‘s Closer of the Year Award[c] 4 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009
Thurman Munson Award 1 2003
World Series MVP Award[a] 1 1999
World Series champion 5 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009


  • Only reliever to win both a League Championship Series MVP Award and World Series MVP Award
  • Tied for most times won


MLB Records
Most career games finished 952
Highest career adjusted ERA+ (minimum 1,000 innings pitched) 205
Most career games pitched with single team
Most career games pitched in American League history
Most career games pitched by right-handed pitcher
Most consecutive seasons with at least one save[a] 18 (1996–2013)
Most seasons with at least 20 saves
Most seasons with at least 25 saves
16 (1997–2011, 2013)
Most consecutive seasons with at least 25 saves 15 (1997–2011)
Most seasons with at least 30 saves 15 (1997–2001, 2003–11, 2013)
Most consecutive seasons with at least 30 saves 9 (2003–11)
Most seasons with at least 35 saves[b] 12 (1997–2001, 2003–05,
2008–09, 2011, 2013)
Most seasons with at least 40 saves[b] 9 (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003–05,
2009, 2011, 2013)
Most seasons with at least 50 saves[c] 2 (2001, 2004)
Most seasons with sub-2.00 ERA (minimum 60 innings pitched each)[d]
Most seasons with 20-plus saves and sub-2.00 ERA
11 (1997–99, 2003–06, 2008–11)
Most seasons with at least 20 saves, sub-2.00 ERA, and sub-1.00 WHIP 7 (1999, 2005–06, 2008–11)
Most career saves for a single winning pitcher 72 (Andy Pettitte)
Most career interleague saves 75
Most career saves in a single ballpark 230 (original Yankee Stadium)
Lowest career ERA (minimum 30 innings pitched) 0.70
Most career saves 42
Most consecutive scoreless innings pitched 33 13
Most consecutive save opportunities converted 23
Most consecutive scoreless appearances 23
Most career two-inning saves 14
Most career games pitched 96
Most career saves in each postseason round 18 (DS), 13 (LCS), 11 (WS)
Most career games pitched in each postseason round 39 (DS), 33 (LCS), 24 (WS)
Lowest career ERA in Division Series history (minimum 20 innings pitched) 0.32
Most career saves to clinch series 8
Most games finished to clinch series 16
Most games finished to clinch World Series championship 4
All-Star Game
Most All-Star selections as reliever 13
Most career saves 4
Yankees Records
Accomplishment Record Refs
Regular season
Most career games pitched 1,115
Highest career wins above replacement for a pitcher 56.3
Highest career win probability added for a pitcher 56.6
Most saves in single season 53 (2004)
Lowest career WHIP (minimum 500 innings pitched) 1.00
Highest strikeouts per 9 innings in single season 10.87 (1996)
Most consecutive save opportunities converted 36
Most games finished in single season 69 (2004)