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.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Exit Sandman: Mariano Rivera will hang up his mitt after the 2013 season is done

Exit Sandman
by rick olivares

For the longest time, among life, death, and taxes, the other sure thing was it was lights out for opposing batters when Mariano Rivera was on the mound.

The man had one pitch – a cutter. Well, he threw variations of it but still everyone knew it was coming. Still they couldn’t hit it. The New York Yankees utilized Rivera’s pitch to the hilt for five world titles in seven tries.

When I’d go to Yankee Stadium, aside from the great baseball atmosphere, I looked forward to singing “Take me out to the ball game”, yelling “charge” at the behest of a bugle, and dancing along to the Village People’s “YMCA”. But the one thing I looked forward to hearing aside from Old Blue Eyes after every game was Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” either at the eighth or at the bottom of the ninth inning.

That mean Mo was coming in for a game that needed saving.

I am not here to recount his statistics because you’ll find that everywhere else. Instead, I’ll talk about Rivera’s consistency and his quiet demeanor on and off the field. He never upstaged opponents. Never showed any over emotion except once or twice.

I guess Rivera took on the personality of then manager Joe Torre who was normally taciturn. Derek Jeter was mostly this way too. Ditto with Andy Pettitte. Only Jorge Posada of the Core Four showed fire.

There was a time when I’d be a nervous wreck during games (except when I was playing). I think it was the demeanor of those great Yankee teams that taught me a lot about keeping my emotions in check and remaining calm. I still remember how shocked I was to hear that Joe Torre said they’d lose Game Two of the 1996 World Series at home but win them all in Atlanta. The late George Steinbrenner looked at Torre like he was made and the normally loquacious team owner had nothing to say. But the skipper was right. The Yankees won the next four games for the 1996 World Series title and that begat a dynasty unparalleled in this modern era of baseball.

Rivera wasn’t closing then. He was the set up man for John Wetteland. And I wondered why they let go of Wetteland after that season more so after he won Finals MVP. But the Yankee brass handed the closer’s ball to Rivera and he won 96 playoff games with New York after that. Amazing.

Just as there were many brilliant moments there were memorable hits he gave up such as to the Cleveland Indians in 1997, to Luis Gonzalez in 2001, and the Boston Red Sox in 2004. But he rebounded quite nicely and there was a fifth ring in 2009. The encore for the Core Four for soon Jorge Posada was gone.

I’ve always been a Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill fan so I always wore their jerseys. But in this final season of Mariano Rivera in the Bronx, I find myself wanting to get one. Not just because he’s a great and classy player and what he stands for. He gave back massively to the people of Panama where he built a school and a church. Every year, his foundation gives away half a million dollars to underprivileged kids. He is a true role model. Just like the last man to wear that #42, Jackie Robinson.

When this 2013 season is over, the #42 will be officially retired. Rivera is the last man to wear that fabled number by the great Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson.

It’s fitting that it goes out with Rivera, don’t you think? 

1 comment:

  1. Fitting indeed. Mo will be missed. Too bad he likely won't be on the mound when he goes to the other stadiums for the last time.