Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Death, taxes, and #42

Death, taxes, and #42
by rick olivares with photos from elaine thompson

American statesman Ben Franklin's once said, "But in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."

Maybe it’s time to add Mariano Rivera into the sentence.

I have intently watched the New York Yankees from 1995 up to today. I’ve seen great players in pinstripes walk up to that plate and get a crucial hit, pitch an all-important game for the win, or snag that sharply-hit ball for a huge out.

Through the World Series titles and pennants, I wondered how many of these players will go to Cooperstown, baseball’s hall of fame.

Roger Clemens, steroid charges aside. Andy Pettitte. Alex Rodriguez. Derek Jeter. And there’s Mo.

I wondered why John Wetteland was not brought back after 1996 considering he was the World Series MVP. Rivera was Wetteland’s set-up man then. However, soon enough, Mo owned the spot and how.

There are several times I get goose bumps when I think of things Yankees – 2001 and those middle three World Series games to go with Paul O’Neill’s send-off; the Bleachers Creatures roll call, and when “Enter Sandman” begins playing to announce the entry of Rivera to save a game.

Through the years, I’ve seen that calming influence he has over a game. The opposing batter/team knows they must really get a good at-bat because the odds are stacked against them. The Yankee fans know its 1-2-3 strikes your out. Then Mo will shake  the hand of Jim-Joe-Jorge-Russell* at the end of the game.

Who else inspired fear on that Yankee mound? I’d say Rich Gossage but that was a different generation. So there’s Clemens. And… CC Sabathia is his three years in the Bronx is regarded as an automatic W but he doesn’t give the opposing team visions of doom.

Seeing Mo jog down from the bullpen all the way to the hill, I get that calming feeling I always felt when gazing across New York Harbor at Liberty Island. Or when I’d find my favorite hangout at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park and watch the world and all those pretty girls pass by.

Tom Verducci, one of my favorite baseball writers, wrote about his numbers and how they will lead to Cooperstown. And here's Andrew Marchand's piece. Amazing, isn't it?

No disrespect to Trevor Hoffman, the San Diego Padres famed closer who hold the saves record with #601, but how is that the Padres never really went anywhere? The last time they made the World Series in 1998, the Yankees destroyed them (as did Mo). And Hoffman didn’t do jack in that series. He never pitched in a pressure cooker like New York. He didn’t pitch for a team that every team in the league gets up to play against.

The rite of October is a pilgrimage to baseball’s cathedral that is Yankee Stadium. Since 1995, the Bronx Bombers missed the post-season only once. In that span they have won five World Series and lost two.

At the heart of it all have been Jorge Posada, Jeter, and Rivera.

Jeet has made this season special with his 3,000th hit and passing all these names on Yankee and baseball lore. And Rivera is on the cusp of tying Hoffman then owning the record.
They are the only two with 600 saves. No one else even has 500. But Rivera, has 42 post-season saves to go with those five World Series rings. And everyone knows that it’s in October where legends are made.

When he gets save #601, it will be his 42nd save for the year. That’s the same number that he wears on his back. And Rivera is the only remaining player to wear the number after it was retired league-wide in honor of the late Jackie Robinson whose exploits on and off the field paved the way for African-Americans and Latin Americans to play in professional baseball.

And like Robinson, Cooperstown is where Rivera is headed. He doesn’t need the record to prove he belongs there. It’s one of life’s certain things.

* Jim Leyritz, Joe Girardi, Jorge Posada, and Russell Martin (the four regular catchers for the New York Yankees since 1995). Back up catchers were John Flaherty, Jose Molina, and Francisco Cervelli.

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