It was Monday afternoon, September 20th, 2011 and I was the Official Scorer for the game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and Minnesota Twins. I was in my 13th season as an accredited MLB Official Scorer but there was added significance to this regular season game, which was a make up game from a previous postponement. More on that later.
Once a game ends, an Official Scorer has the responsibility of making a few press box announcements including time of the game and the line score. The scorer also has to announce the winning and losing pitchers and their respective records and if there is a save, what is the individual’s seasonal total.
There was a little more significance to the “Scorer’s Recap” than usual because this was the day that Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera set the all time saves record. When Rivera caught Twins first baseman Chris Parmalee on a called third strike (a fitting way to set the mark) to preserve a 6-4 Yankee win, he broke Trevor Hoffman’s career record with his 602nd save. After the final strike was called, I anxiously made the announcement.
“The winning pitcher is Cory Wade, six and one, losing pitcher Scott Diamond, one and five, and a save for Mariano Rivera, his 43rd……..”
I didn’t announce the fact that it was his 602nd career save. Everyone knew it and the Yankees P-R Department handle making the announcements for those milestones, but to be the Official Scorer for this great moment in baseball history came back to me when it was announced that Rivera was the first to be unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame.
It was a matter of luck that I got to work this game. The Yankees and Twins were rained out at the Stadium in early April and the game was re-scheduled for September. Whoever the scorer is for the game that was rained out is also the scorer who works the rescheduled game. If that game was not postponed, I may not have had the chance to score this historic game simply because the numerology would not have lined up the same.
I began scoring games on a regular basis in 1999. I’ve worked 1,176 regular season games and 32 playoff games and I don’t know how many times I’ve said after a game at Yankee Stadium, (and two games at Citifield) “….and a save for Mariano Rivera.”
I had already been covering the Yankees for 15 years on a professional level when Rivera was brought up as a starter in 1995. In 1996, Rivera may have been the best pitcher in baseball and he was not even a closer yet. He was that dominant and that good.
Of course, there are the memories that his greatness and impeccable character provided over the years.
The gutsy, three inning outing in 2003 where he was the winner in game 7 of the ALCS vs. Boston, is one that comes to mind. In 2009, I was the Scorer at Citifield when Rivera recorded his 500th career save against the Mets (who by the way, certainly had their moments against, “the Great Rivera,” as the great Mets announcer Howie Rose referred to him after one of those games) It was also the game where he walked and drove in the only run of his career. It was the only time he would reach base in 4 career plate appearances, and how about the numerous times that he was on the mound wrapping up a Series win, including four times in the World Series.
Rivera is not only the greatest closer, he’s the greatest relief pitcher, period. His accomplishments will not be matched in this lifetime and his impact on the game on and off the field, will be felt for years to come. Is he the greatest pitcher in the history of the NY Yankees? Possibly, but I have him just a small notch below Whitey Ford in that department.
Rivera is one of the most beloved Yankees of all time and that’s not only because of his on the field accomplishments. The Panamanian born Rivera was highly respected by his peers and if you were lucky enough to interact with him, you realized you were in the presence of a great man.
In the future, anyone who closes or makes a living pitching out of the bullpen, will always be measured by the best. “None better than Rivera,” or “He’s no Rivera,” is a refrain that will be heard at ballparks, bars and wherever major league baseball is being watched, for years to come.