I'll admit, despite being born in 1986, my first real experience with Yankees baseball that I can remember is the 1998 World Series. I don't remember seeing the 1996 World Series, and as a child the only game I know I was taken to was the final game that Pete Rose managed with the Reds, but I don't actually remember the game I just remember being told about it.
Growing up in a small town in the fly over state of Indiana, you don't get a lot of exposure to the Yankees. Most of the games you see televised are Cubs or Reds or Cardinals. Seeing the 1998 team finish off their season with a championship, and hearing my father tell stories of Mickey Mantle was enough. I was hooked, I was a Yankees fan and as such all my experiences involve the Core Four: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and the immortal Mariano Rivera. Jorge has been gone for a couple of years, Andy we've already said goodbye to once, and now we lose a third, the man referred to as Mo.
Over the course of his career, the Sandman has been incomparably dominant with one pitch. Yet the phrase 'incomparably dominant' doesn't seem enough, he's been so remarkably brilliant the proper words may not even exist yet to describe him accurately. 652 saves, a 2.21 career ERA and a WHIP of 1.00 and yet somehow he has been even more stellar in the postseason with 42 saves, a career ERA of 0.70 and a WHIP of 0.759. All of that is with one pitch, his cutter. Let it sink in, he mowed through professional baseball like that with one pitch. Sink in yet? Yes? Good. No? Completely understandable, the fact he was able to do that for so long with just one pitch is mind-warping.
Last night Mo pitched his final home game of his career, retiring all four hitters he faced in vintage Mo fashion. When his night was finished, it wasn't Joe Girardi going to the mound for the hook, fittingly it was Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. We saw Mo in his sweatshirt hug Andy coming off the mound after his final home start, and last night Andy in his sweatshirt hugged Mo on the mound. The emotion of the players was obvious. Tears were shed not only by people at Yankee Stadium, but fans sitting at home. Considering the number of bats his cutter has reduced to toothpicks, the people at Louisville Slugger probably cried knowing their profit margins are going to take a hit. My eyes mysteriously sprung a leak last season at the thought that his Hall of Fame career could end in a heap on the warning track in Kansas City, and it is only fair that it didn't.
There will be other great closers with great seasons, some may have individual seasons that rival some of Mariano's. None will have the longevity of dominance of Mariano. Now we must bid adieu to the man as a new era begins with a new closer. I know I'm not the only one when I say this:
Thank you for the many fond memories, and goodbye Mo.