Few things in baseball make Yankees fans happier than the future Hall of Famer. Next year will be tough, as the Yankees will go through their first season without Mariano Rivera in the organization since...
November 5, 1605: Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.
Seems about right.
I kid. /checks Baseball-Reference/
February 17, 1990: Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.
Well, crap. Rivera pitched in the Yankees' organization for my entire life. J.R. Murphy's life. Mike Trout's life.
There have been so many terrific memories associated with Rivera that it can be difficult putting them all together. Nevertheless, I have made an attempt by creating my top 42 favorite Mo GIFs. It's been a long journey since 1995.
1. Rookie Rivera
Mo quietly entered the majors in 1995 as a 25-year-old rookie without a clear role, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation.
2. Embarrassing John Kruk
After a brief demotion, Rivera returned to the majors for good with added velocity on July 4th in Chicago. In his best start, he struck out 11 White Sox in eight shutout innings, including an amusingly over-the-hill Kruk.
3. Baptism by fire in the '95 playoffs
The Yankees' bullpen was weary by October, but manager Buck Showalter discovered a surprising new weapon in Rivera, who threw 5 1/3 shutout innings of relief. He won his playoff debut in Game 2 by pitching 3 1/3 scoreless with three strikeouts, embarrassing the Mariners.
4. The first save
On May 17, 1996, Rivera gave closer John Wetteland the day off by pitching a scoreless ninth to earn his first career save. His ERA was also lowered to 0.89 in 15 games as he emerged as Wetteland's indispensable setup man for the eventual AL East champions, finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting.
5. Cat-like reflexes
Mo was a phenomenal fielder on the mound, committing just six errors in his career. This awesome play from '96 was probably the greatest of his career, and it ended a game.
6. Setting up the clincher
In the final game of the '96 World Series against the Braves, Rivera pitched two scoreless innings to set Wetteland up one last time, striking out Javy Lopez to conclude his fantastic season. The Yankees won the title, their first in 18 years.
7. The dominant duo
8. All-Star closer
Wetteland moved on from New York, so the Yankees turned to Mo to be their closer. He immediately became an All-Star in his first season, and he saved the '97 All-Star Game in Cleveland.
9. The cutter
Until June 1997, Rivera mainly succeeded with fastballs and pinpoint location. However, in a catch with fellow reliever Ramiro Mendoza, his pitches suddenly began to take a sharp turn near the end. Eventually, Mo and his coaches realized that this was an amazing gift; it completely threw the hitters off, as evinced by former Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson above.
Mo blew a Division Series save opportunity in '97 that would have sent the Yankees to the ALCS; instead, they lost to the Indians. A year later in the '98 ALCS, Mo threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings and saved Game 5 in Cleveland, helping the Yankees exact revenge for the previous year's loss as they beat the Indians in six games.
11. Finishing the dream season
The '98 Yankees won a combined 125 games between the regular season and playoffs, ending their season with a four-game sweep of the NL champion Padres for their 24th World Series title. Mo saved three games in the World Series, including the finale at Qualcomm Stadium.
12. World Series champion closer
13. Love of the game
One of the most remarkable aspects of Rivera's career was his success despite coming from Panama, an impoverished country. When Mo was a kid, he had to make his gloves out of milk cartons like the kids above. Rivera later said he felt ecstatic just to have this kind of faux-glove when he was around their age.
14. Enter Sandman
During the '98 World Series, the Yankee Stadium crew was inspired by Trevor Hoffman's "Hell's Bells" entrance music, so after a few different song tries, they settled on "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. Mo stoically made the jog in from the old Yankee Stadium bullpen to the mound 435 times in his career.
15. Breaking bats
Mo's cutter always frustrated opposing hitters since the late action on the ball frequently made them break their bats. Atlanta's Ryan Klesko broke three bats in one plate appearance against him in Game 4 of the '99 World Series.
16. World Series MVP
Mo was named the '99 World Series MVP for appearing in three of the four games, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings, and earning two saves in the sweep. The Yankees won their second straight title with Mo on the mound at the end.
17. Tip of the hat
The Yankees played the Mets in the Subway Series for the 2000 Fall Classic, and while he did give up two runs, he pitched to a 3.00 ERA and saved two games in the World Series. He offered Shea Stadium fans a tip of the hat after finishing off Game 4 to push the Mets to a 3-1 deficit.
18. Three-peat complete
The Yankees beat the Mets in Game 5 to capture their third World Series title in a row, and Mo again ended the season as the last man standing on the mound. As the tying run, slugger Mike Piazza hit a long drive to center field, but not far enough away from Bernie Williams to prolong the season.
19. Subway Series celebration
20. Celebrating with the fans
21. Yankees single-season saves leader
In 2001, Mo saved 50 games to break Dave Righetti's Yankee record of 46, set in 1986. Mo's highest single-season total would be 53, which he did in 2004. Above, he notched number 50 against the Devil Rays at the end of the '01 season.
22. 0-2 ALDS comeback complete
The Yankees were nearly knocked out of the '01 playoffs in the first round via a sweep when the A's jumped out to a 2-0 lead against them at Yankee Stadium with the series shifting to Oakland for Game 3 and a possible Game 4. Nevertheless, the Yankees gave some New Yorkers something small to smile about after the 9/11 attacks by winning three games in a row to win the series, culminating in the above Game 5 save. They were the first team to ever come back in a best-of-five down 0-2 with the first two losses coming at home.
23. ALCS MVP
The '01 season ended in Game 7 disappointment, but two years later, Mo propelled the Yankees back to the World Series with an incredible ALCS Game 7 performance against the rival Red Sox. He pitched three scoreless innings for the first time in seven years, and allowed just one run in four games and eight innings during the series. After Aaron Boone ended it with a homer, Mo was named the ALCS MVP, a well-deserved honor.
24. Carried off the field
25. Closing down Yankee Stadium
The Yankees lost the '03 World Series to the Marlins, and Mo never appeared in another World Series game at the old Yankee Stadium. The Yanks played their last game there in 2008, and in the midst of perhaps his greatest regular season, Mo closed out the 85-year-old stadium with one more victory.
26. Mo's first RBI
Forced to bat with the bases loaded against Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez in 2009, Mo stunned everyone by working a walk to make his only career appearance on the basepaths and earn his only RBI. It was every bit as hilarious as one might have guessed from the description alone.
27. Back to the Fall Classic
The Yankees returned to the World Series in '09, their first season at the new Yankee Stadium. Mo threw seven innings of one-run ball in the ALCS against the Angels to help the Yankees defeat them in six games. He struck out Gary Matthews Jr. to end it.
28. A World Series champion again
The Yankees beat the Phillies in six games during the World Series to earn their 27th World Series title. Rivera did not allow the Phillies a run in 5 1/3 Fall Classic innings.
29. Five-time champion
30. The all-time saves leader
In 2011, Mo notched his 602nd career save to finally move past Hoffman and become baseball's all-time leader in saves. It was a long time coming and another honor long anticipated for Mo.
Mo reacts to the 2013 Yankees
The Retirement Party
35. All-Star Farewell
Selected for his 13th All-Star Game in his last 16 full seasons, MLB set the spotlight for Mo, as he saluted fans on the national stage for one last time. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and was voted the All-Star Game MVP in an otherwise-quiet 3-0 win for the American League. Mo's All-Star teams went 10-2-1 in his career.
36. The Charitable Farewell Tour
Being a better person than all of us ever, Mo decided to turn his farewell tour into a salute to the baseball park workers around the country whose contributions are often never seen. ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor wrote a terrific article chronicling some of his visits around the majors, like the above, when he surprised 65-year-old Oakland A's mailroom worker Julie Vasconcellos with a pizza and a hug. No one would have thought twice if Mo just did a Chipper Jones-like farewell around the majors, but while Mo accepted gifts from other teams, he took it a step beyond with a heartwarming tribute to the overlooked contributors to the game's success.
37. The final save: #652
In the 2013 season, Mo proved to be just as capable a closer as ever at age 43, rebounding from an injury-shortened 2012 campaign to once again baffle players a generation younger than him. He saved 44 games with a 2.11 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP, ending his career with a MLB record 652 saves (311 more than the second-closest active closer, Joe Nathan) and an incredible 2.21 ERA and 1.000 WHIP, easily the best marks among all pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched since the end of the Deadball Era. Combined with the playoffs, Mo saved 694 career games.
38. The final K: #1,173
Rivera fanned the Giants' Ehire Adrianza for the last strikeout of his career, number 1,173. Only seven relievers have ever struck out more men, and five of them pitched a fair amount of more innings than Mo due to the evolution of the reliever in the past 30 years. Combined with the playoffs, Mo struck out 1,283 players.
39. The final entrance
The tune of "Enter Sandman" rang through Yankee Stadium one more time, as Mo entered his 1,115th and final career game on September 26, 2013.
40. The final pitch: #13,549
On his final pitch, Mo induced a pop-up from Yunel Escobar, the fourth batter in a row out of four faced who he retired that night.
41. Pettitte and Jeter bid Mo adieu
42. It all ends with one last curtain call
Gonna miss you, Mo.