It’s been quite a ride, huh? For almost my entire life, you’ve been the closer for the New York Yankees. As far back as I can remember, I didn’t need to hope or pray going into the 9th inning of games. We had you, and there has never been anyone better. It didn’t matter whether it was Opening Day or the middle of July or the World Series, either. You were there, and we were going to win. That’s just how baseball worked.
I’d like to say that I remember the first time I saw you pitch, but that would be a lie. To be honest, I remember growing up thinking that the Yankees hadn’t ever existed without you. You, Derek, Andy, and Bernie – you were the Yankees, because regardless of whoever else they put out around you, you guys were always there. It was comforting. Baseball doesn’t work like that anymore. Star players don’t stick with one team for their entire career, and the stars didn’t get much bigger than you guys.
Yeah, I know it wasn’t a perfect ride the whole time. There was the whole torn-ACL-while-shagging-fly-balls fiasco last year, a less than glorious moment. There was the blown save followed by Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single to win the World Series for Arizona in 2001. But you know what? You came back from that ACL tear, at 43 years old, to put up the same kind of numbers you’ve always put up. That loss in 2001 was the only time you lost a postseason game, ever, and anyway, that year there was more on the line than just a trophy. What you guys did for the city of New York that fall, even without winning Game 7, was the stuff of legends.
Really, most of what you did was the stuff of legends. You went from a poor fishing village in Panama to the biggest city in the world. You never considered playing baseball professionally until you started to, and your career began with you at shortstop. You showed up in the minors having never left home, speaking no English. You learned how to throw your vicious cut fastball by accident, and even though everyone who came to the plate knew that’s what they were getting, they still couldn’t hit it.
Major League Baseball isn’t going to be the same without you, Mariano. I know already that I’m going to tell my kids about seeing you play, just like my dad tells me about Mickey Mantle or Reggie Jackson. You were the best to ever play the game. So, thanks, Mo. It was a pleasure watching you work.
Always your fan,