New Article: NY Yankee Mariano Rivera Becomes All Time Saves Leader With 602!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mariano Rivera was warming up for his attempt at the all-time saves record Monday when a bizarre cheer caught his ear. When Rivera realized what had caused the applause - Nick Swisher hitting into a double play that ended the eighth inning and ensured he would get a save opportunity - he thought two things:

"These fans are crazy," he recalled, smiling. And, he added, "Oh, my God, these fans are into it."

Truth be told, so was Rivera. He has never loved the spotlight and, he admitted, was tiring of the attention to his personal pursuit of both Trevor Hoffman and history. He wasn't exactly rooting for a teammate to fail, but, he said, "I'll be honest, I was happy, too. I wanted to pitch.

Only Rivera could make Yankee fans cheer when one of their own hits into a double play, and from that moment on, the day turned into a party at the Stadium. Fans got on their feet and stayed there until Rivera completed a perfect ninth inning, slamming the door on a 6-4 victory over the Twins in a makeup game from an April rainout. In a season already soaked with history - Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit on July 9 - Rivera earned his 602nd career save, one more than Hoffman for the most in history.

The Stadium was not packed. Although the announced attendance was 40,045, there were large swaths of empty seats, something Rivera noted. But, as he put it, "There were a lot of wonderful people here who supported me my whole career."

And the fans were ready to celebrate. They trilled with delight when the first strains of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" cranked up. When it was over, they went wild when Jorge Posada and other Yankees urged Rivera to stand atop the mound to soak in the moment.

As much as he prefers anonymity, Rivera seemed to revel in the accomplishment. As it ended, the Yankees poured out of the dugout and the bullpens and Rivera embraced each one, getting misty when teammates directed him to the mound. He told the fans he loved them during an on-field interview and grinned and tipped his cap at the Twins and their manager, Ron Gardenhire, who stuck around to watch the celebration.

"For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone, there is no one behind me," Rivera said. "I can't describe that feeling. It was priceless. I didn't know it could be like that." He did try to describe it, though: "It was a feeling like that when we won the World Series. I'll give you that, that emotion."

Rivera grinned broadly and joked often, clearly having a good time, during a 15-minute press conference in which he sat next to his three sons. They all wore commemorative T-shirts.

He gave a shout-out to his home country of Panama, acknowledging that it "has to be a party" in Puerto Caimito, the small fishing village where he grew up. He paused during an answer to congratulate a reporter on the recent birth of a daughter. He joked that, unlike other closers, he didn't have big muscles or a beard.

"I don't have any hair," he added. Getting 600 saves means, in part, "you're old," the 41-year-old said.

Joe Girardi and several Yankees said they didn't think anyone would ever surpass this mark, but Rivera wasn't so sure.

"Records are meant to be broken, but I don't know," he said. "I hope whoever is going to do that respects the game the way I have." A religious man, he also thanked God multiple times.

Early on, though, it seemed as if Rivera's milestone would have to wait another day. The Yankees scored five times in the first three innings, squandered chances for more and watched while A.J. Burnett was, to hear him tell it, "nasty."

But as much as Rivera closing a game is a familiar script, so are things going haywire when Burnett pitches. He was out of the game midway through the fifth inning, meaning he was ineligible for the win, and Minnesota pulled to within 5-4. Cory Wade (6-1) had let one inherited runner score, but got out of danger, and Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson recorded seven straight outs to get the ball to the guy they always want to have it in the ninth.

And when Rivera gets the ball, "it's a peaceful feeling," Girardi said. And after that peace, after Rivera had saved another victory that trimmed the Yankees' magic number for winning the AL East to five , there was plenty of joy.

"It feels great," Rivera said. "I wasn't expecting this, but thank God it happened."