(Mariano Rivera – @baseballhall)
Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Read what Yankees legends Rivera and Mussina said to the big crowd on hand in Cooperstown, New York:
MARIANO RIVERA: His plaque reads, “Mariano Rivera, “Mo”, “The Sandman.” New York A.L., 1995 through 2013. Set standard for relief pitchers with unprecedented consistency and efficiency as a pillar of the Yankees dynasty of the 1990s and 2000s. Devastating cut fastball, frustrated batters, generating broken bats at a prolific rate. Saved record 652 games and compiled a 2.21 career ERA, lowest for any pitcher with at least 1,000 innings in the live-ball era. 13-time All-Star, recorded 40 or more saves in nine seasons. Native of Panama, pitched on five World Series winners, setting post-season records with 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA in 96 appearances. Named World Series MVP in 1999, and ALCS MVP in 2000.”
Mariano Rivera then addressed the crowd: Thank you. Thank you. First of all, I don’t understand why I always have to be the last (smiling). I keep saying that for the last 20 years. Last 17 years of my career, I always say, Why I have to be the last one?
I guess being the last one is special.
I wanted to start this thanking my good Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me the talent and the blessing and opened doors that I could never close, and no man can close. So He has given us a beautiful day today. It’s amazing. So thank you, Lord, for everything You have done in my life.
To my wife, Clara, thank you, thank you. You have been the pillar of our wonderful family. You have been the backbone in our family. I couldn’t have done it without you. You were there alone to raise our boys, support. Always been there in the good times and the tough times. For that I respect you, I love you. If we had to continue to do this again, I would love to do it with you again. I love you.
To my children, Mariano, Jefet and Jaziel, Jamilet, Alissa, thank you. You guys been amazing. I have to apologize and I say I’m sorry for all those times I couldn’t be there for you guys. Tough times, but I know I have to be at the ballpark. Days that I know you guys wanted me there at home, but I have to go to work. Mariano, I missed all your birthdays. October 4th, man, I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry. I was on a mission. We celebrate later on.
Jefet, February 12th, imagine that, I was in spring training. Jaziel was the one I always celebrate with him because it’s November 20th.
All of you guys mean a lot to me. This honor and this blessing is for all of us, not just for myself, but for all of us. I love you all. Thank you very much.
To my parents, Mariano and Delia Rivera, gracias, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for teaching me the right way. Thank you for loving me unconditional. That tough love that you always showed me, my dad, I know why you did that. Dad, I understand. I know that it made me better man today.
To my mother, always been there for me. Thank you. I always said and will continue to say it again, before I pitched my last game at Yankee Stadium, I said these words: Whatever my dad and ma did, I don’t know if it was day or night, but they were good because they did a good job with me. So I thank you for that.
To my in-laws, Anna, Juan, and the entire family, I cannot do it without you guys. I mean, you guys helped me. Anna and the rest of the girls, you helped me raise the boys. I know Clara and I sometimes were away and you had to stay at home helping, taking care of the boys, raise them for us. So for that, thank you. Thank you very much.
To my brothers and my sister, thank you. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for the support. Thank you for all those advices and all the helps and prayers that you guys did for me. For that I love you always and I thank you.
For my spiritual parents, Naomi and Mario Gandia, Jojo Boy, thank you for all those prayers, all that love and support. The day I met you guys, you became someone special in my life. For that I always will be grateful and thank you for.
Fernando Cuza, you always believed in me. You always were there fighting for me. Fern, today I thank you. You’re a special man. Thank you very much.
To my boss, Mr. George Steinbrenner, it’s a person that I would love for him to be present so I can look at his face and say thank you for believing in me. Thank you for all those times. Thank you for always trying to give us the best team to succeed.
To the whole entire George Steinbrenner family, the family, they’re special to me. They always were there for me. I remember when we have tough times in Panama, a tragedy happened in 2004. They sent me to Panama, they brought me to New York in a private plane. Can’t believe that, talking about a private plane when I was in Panama. They always believed in me and trust me. Therefore, I always will appreciate that.
The New York Yankees organization, Brian Cashman, everybody else, front office. Man, it’s a privilege and honor to just be part of one organization. I did it with dignity, with honor and with pride. I tried to carry the pinstripes the best that I could. I think I did all right with that.
To my skipper, they’re all special, this one has a little bit more time because he’s a little older than everybody else, that’s Mr. Joe Torre. I call him Mr. T. That man is something. For me, he’s an older brother and a father figure and a friend. I remember when I met him in 1996, spring training. I start talking to him in Spanish. I said, Hola, Torre, ¿cómo estás? He looked at me like I’m crazy. I didn’t know that the man didn’t speak Spanish.
But for me, it was a blessing to meet him, to be part of his team. For that, Mr. T, it was special. So thank you very much.
Baseball is a team sport. You cannot do it alone. This honor is always the same. You cannot do it alone. To all my coaches, all my managers, all my teammates, man, you guys are special. I cannot do it without you guys.
I have few guys of those here. Those four are special. But to Gene Monahan and Steve Donahue, those guys always kept me ready. Times when I was injured, times when I needed their help. They always were there for me. I will no be standing here today giving this speech if not for them. Thank you very much.
To the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame for me is important. The history of baseball is within these walls. For that, thank you Jane, Jeff, Jon. And all you guys do that for old-timers and all the fans. Thank you.
To the baseball writers, thank you for voting me and making me a Hall of Famer. Thank you for all your support. I always respect you guys and give you time. If I didn’t give you time, I’m sorry. I might give you time later on (smiling).
To the fans, you guys always push me to be the best. All those New York fans, when I was at Yankee Stadium, pitching, it felt like I was pitching with 55,000 people next to me throwing one pitch after another. You guys are the best. Man, without your support, I cannot do it. You always push me to the limit, always wishing me the best, but always all the boos when I don’t do my job, I really deserve it. I deserve it. You guys came to see me succeed. But those guys also that have a bat in their hand, they have a job to do, too. So thank you. Thank you for all of you fans, thank you very, very much.
As a young boy in my beautiful Panama, yes, I wanted to be the next Pelé. Was not about Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, I wanted to be a Pelé. Pelé is a soccer superstar. So every child in every Latin country wanted to be the next Pelé.
But my abilities were not good enough for me to be a soccer player. So the Lord was pushing me to baseball. I loved baseball, but I didn’t thought that baseball would be something I would use as a career.
As a 20-year-old boy, man, I went to try out with the New York Yankees, where my two teammates from my hometown team gave me a tryout with the New York Yankees. I asked them to do what? He says, To pitch.
Guys, I didn’t know how to pitch. I was throwing baseball, I wasn’t pitching. I was throwing baseball when I was playing back home. I wasn’t pitching. But I took the opportunity. I had no uniform. My spikes, have a big hole in my big toe. I didn’t have a glove. But I went and I asked my father at that time, I was fixing the nets for the boat that my father and I work. I asked permission to my father to allow me to go and practice. He said, Go ahead. I did that.
When I got there, I met my coach, Mr. Karl Heron. A man that I learned to love and respect for what he did for me and baseball. Then Sunday came and we had to face the national team, the Panamanian national team of baseball. There were two guys that they want to see before me, since I was the fill-in. I thought, Well, if I pitch last, I might do a good job because the two guys that are in front of me will start the game, and I will come out good. Maybe I had a chance to sign as a professional player.
Well, to my surprise, I started the game. I did good. I threw three innings, few punch-outs, no hits, came out smelling like roses. Next day I was signed for the New York Yankees. They gave me $2,000. They gave me a glove and a shoes. I was happy. Happy because I took that opportunity that the Lord has given me.
On my way to Tampa, 1990, I didn’t know what to expect. I was leaving my hometown, my family, my people. First time on a plane. Arriving to Miami. I don’t know where to go. No English. Thank God for the people that were there that help us.
We got to Tampa. I don’t know what I was expecting. But God guided me through. At that time everybody, most of the guys I played with, they were Spanish, so they spoke Spanish.
But my second year in professional baseball, I went to Greensboro, North Carolina, where not too many people spoke Spanish. I used to at times go to bed crying because I couldn’t communicate, couldn’t communicate with my teammates. I was frustrated. I was frustrated because no English, no relationship with my teammates, with my manager, my pitching coach. I made one of the biggest decisions and the greatest decision I made. I talk to a few of my teammates, one is here, Bob Dillard and his family. I asked them, Guys, please I need to learn English.
Whatever I do, whatever things I said that is not right, please you can laugh all you want, but please teach me, teach me the right way. And they did. They never laughed. They never laughed. They teach me the right way.
’95 I got the call, made it to the big leagues as a starter, like Andy Pettitte was saying. I didn’t do too good. I have another friend with me also. They send me down. They send him down with me, too. That was Mr. Derek Jeter. Can you believe that now (laughter)? We were almost little bit crying. Couldn’t believe it.
That only make us stronger. ’96 I had to fight for my job again. I made the team from the beginning. I start as a long reliever. The middle of the year, early in the year, I was the setup man. We accomplish great games, accomplish something special. That was a championship. That team was special.
1997, to my surprise I became the New York Yankees’ closer, and I was shocked. I thought I was looking for Wetteland and we would doing the same thing over and over, I would be seventh and eighth guy, and he would be the ninth. Again, God had different things for me.
At the beginning of 1997, I was struggling a little bit. Then my manager and my pitching coach, Joe Torre and Mr. Mel Stottlemyre, that I miss dearly, I wish he was here today, too. He said, Mariano, I am the manager here, you will be my closer. I knew that if I don’t do my job, I won’t be his closer. But that’s what I took, that’s what I wanted to hear, and my career took off after that.
Little after that, few days after that, the Lord gave me the best pitch in baseball. Sorry, guys (smiling). The cut fastball. I was playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza. I’m throwing the ball the same way I’m throwing it since I was six years old. Now the ball is moving. I was afraid, I don’t know what to do.
Imagine that a closer that don’t know where the ball is going to go, just won the World Series the previous year, now you have all that responsibility, and you don’t know where the ball is going. That was me.
As a matter of fact, after that game we went to Detroit, and Mel, Mike Borzello the bullpen catcher and myself, we worked for 45 minutes almost to an hour to make the ball stop from moving. Thank God the ball didn’t stop.
I told Mel, I said whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I learn how to use that pitch. I use that pitch for 17 years, and I used it well. I used it to the last day that I pitched at Yankee Stadium. My two brothers came in and take me out of the game. That moment was special for me. I was grateful to the good Lord that allow me to play in New York with the greatest fans and end out my career the way I did, with my two brothers next to me, me hugging them and crying over them, being thankful for them.
Derek, Andy, Mr. Posada, Bernie Williams, Mr. Tino Martinez, thank you, guys. I love you, man. You guys mean so much to me. To all my friends, I got my family here, the rest of the family, my friends here, thank you. Thank you for all that support…
There is a family here I cannot pass. There is the Foncina family. Thank you for being here, Mark and Lisa, thank you. I’m so humble and blessed to receive this incredible honor. God bless you all and I love you. Thank you.
MIKE MUSSINA: The inscription on his plaque reads, “Michael Cole Mussina, “Moose,” Baltimore, A.L. 1991 to 2000. New York, A.L. 2001 to 2008. With command of both sides of the plate, and a diverse repertoire, delivered consistent excellence in a career spent entirely in the powerhouse AL East division. Recorded 270 wins and a .638 winning percentage, one of only four live-ball era pitchers to attain both marks. Notched eight seasons with 17 or more victories, including 18 in 1992, his first full year, and 20 in his final campaign. Helped the Orioles and Yankees to nine post-seasons in his 18-year career. Five-time All-Star, and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner.”
Mussina then said to the crowd: Thank you. First I want to thank everyone for putting the best videos together they had of me. That was really great. Joe, that’s the best monotone I got, okay? I’m sorry (laughter).
First, I want to welcome everyone to Cooperstown. Whether this is your first trip or you’ve been here many times before, we all appreciate your love of baseball and your efforts to be here.
I have a special welcome for all the Orioles fans, all the Yankee fans, and to all the central Pennsylvania people who drove up here for today’s ceremony.
I’m standing up here with the best who ever played the game, some are my former teammates, some are former opponents, some I grew up watching on television. So the obvious questions are: what am I doing up here, and how in the world did this happen.
First to the voters, an enormous thank you, to those who voted for me in my very first year, and kept me on the ballot. I thank you. To those who continued to reevaluate my career, and ultimately felt I deserved this honor, I wholeheartedly thank you.
To Jane, Jeff, Shesta, Whitney and the entire staff, thank you for all you do to make Cooperstown what it is, the home of the great game of baseball.
I’m sure that every year the inductees take advantage of this one chance to stand up here and tell great stories about their lives, their challenges, their successes and their failures. In about a million words or less, I want to give you a few of my stories.
My baseball journey began in the backyards of our neighborhood, back in my hometown of Montoursville, Pennsylvania. It’s located right next to Williamsport, the home of Little League baseball. Both are connected to Cooperstown by about a 200-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River.
Before I was old enough to play organized baseball, it was all about wiffle ball. Even after I was old enough to play organized, we still ruined people’s yards with wiffle ball games. There was no travel ball, no fall ball. In fact, at eight years old, I barely made it to my first organized team practice. I rode my bike the four or five blocks to the field at the elementary school. I was so excited to go, I arrived so early, there was no one else there. I did not even get off my bike. I turned around and rode back home. As I pulled into our yard, my mom looked at me and asked the obvious question, What are you doing here?
My response was, Obviously there isn’t anybody there.
Well, get back on your bike and go back to the field.
Luckily I did. My baseball career got better once I made it back to that first practice. The Little League years were great, just playing ball, no stress. It was all about pizza and sno-cones, the packs of baseball cards with that stale piece of gum inside.
During those Little League years, I saw my first big league game ever. It was in the late 1970s at Yankee Stadium. Our family seats were in the mezzanine behind the right field foul pole. At some point later in the game, my brother Mark and I got tired of sitting there, and went on an adventure. That took two kids from small town America to the back row of the right field upper deck at Yankee Stadium with no adult supervision.
The players look awfully small from way up there. That was my first taste of the Major Leagues.
Now, high school ball, that wasn’t quite as stress free, but my coaches Carter Giles and Fred Springman who are here gave me the opportunity to play pitcher and shortstop for four years.
I want to thank them for trusting me at a young age and allowing me to grow as a player. We even got a state championship in there. Thank you, guys, again.
When high school was winding down, it was time to decide whether college was my next challenge or pro ball. I had the opportunity to play for an 18-and-under national team one summer during high school. That’s where he met coach Dean Stotz from Stanford University. We sat down after a game for an hour or so, and needless to say, he did not leave a great first impression with me. He knows this, I’ve told him many times. Fortunately for me, I did not stick with my first impression. So even though I was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles after high school, at 18 years old, I left Pennsylvania for the land of palm trees and earthquakes, central California, and Stanford university.
Head Coach Mark Marquess, pitching coach Tom Dunton, coach Dean Stotz are all here. I thank you guys for coming all the way from California. They taught me more about baseball than I ever imagined. They also had the confidence in me to put me in the rotation for my entire freshman year. Somehow we won the National Championship.
I loved my years at Stanford. I met so many great people. These coach, still my close friends 30 years later.
Thank you again, guys.
After spending three years at Stanford, I was once again drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. Most of their minor league affiliates were near Pennsylvania, so I was looking forward to heading back east to play. My minor league debut was in Williamsport. After 14 months they drafted me, the Orioles took a shot, and I was called up to Baltimore with about two months left in the 1991 season. My first start was at Comiskey Park in Chicago. I actually threw really well that day, and only gave up four hits. The problem was Frank Thomas had three of them, including a solo home run and we lost 1-0. That was my introduction to the big leagues.
The next season was my first full year in the majors, and the first year for Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore. It was sold out every game, and we had a pretty solid season. I won 18 games to make my first All-Star team. I want to thank the Orioles organization for giving me the opportunity to prove that I could pitch and prove that I could succeed at the Major League level. To the Orioles executives who brought baseball back to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, it remains one of the best ballpark environments in the game.
To the Orioles fans who came out every game, 48,000 strong to support us and to support me, thank you. I have some great baseball memories from those years, and I loved pitching in orange and black.
For the longest time while I was in Baltimore, I told myself that I would never play in New York. I’m a small-town guy, and that place was just too much for me. Well, obviously I changed my mind, mostly because Joe Torre called me two or three days after they won the 2000 World Series over the Mets, and Joe simply said, “I just wanted you to know that we’re interested in you coming to New York to pitch for us.”
Well, his first impression was a big one. After 10 years in Baltimore, I was off to New York City. I want to thank the Steinbrenner family, general manager Brian Cashman, and the entire New York Yankees organization for making my transition painless, and making me feel like I’d been there forever. To all the Yankee fans everywhere, thank you for your support during my eight years in pinstripes. We made seven playoff appearances and two trips to the World Series, although we couldn’t quite win one while I was there. I have tons of great stories from those years. The Subway Series matchups with the Mets, the Red Sox rivalry, historic playoff games, including my first ever relief appearance in Game 7 of the ’03 ALCS, and of course, my only 20-win season in my final year.
Because I was an American League pitcher, I needed help every game if I wanted to be successful. I could pitch great and still lose. I could throw below average and still win. I needed guys to get hits, to make plays on defense, and quite often get the last few outs for me when I could not finish the game.
I did, however, get nine hits in the big leagues, including my first one off of John Smoltz. Since he’s sitting behind me, I’m kind of proud of that (smiling).
Of course, I’m not up here because of my hitting ability. I need to thank everyone who is on this journey with me. You’re all pieces of a giant puzzle. Whether your contribution was large or small, the final product would not be complete without you. From my childhood friends to all the friends I met along the way, for all the guys who worked out with me in the cold weather during the offseasons in Pennsylvania, to my agents Arn Tellem and Joel Wolfe and all their staff, to the athletic trainers in Baltimore and New York who kept me on the field and got me through 18 seasons with no surgeries. To all my coaches from Little League through high school, the minors and the majors, who all gave me information to use, ideas to try, and leadership to learn from. To each and every one of my teammates with the Orioles and the Yankees, you’re all a part of this. Your base hit or the double play you turned or the strikeout you got in relief with the bases loaded in the eighth, you all contributed to this moment for me. I thank you for all your support.
That includes a few of my fellow inductees today. Harold Baines got more than a few hits for me in our seasons together in Baltimore. Lee and Mariano saved tons of games for me over the years. I want to congratulate them along with Edgar and the Halladay family on this great honor today.
It is definitely not easy to be the family of a professional baseball player or any family who has someone who is not able to be home all the time. That’s one of the toughest parts of this game. To my wife Jana, who raised our three children by herself most of the time for most of those years, thank you for being this family’s foundation. I love you, honey.
To our children, Kyra, Brycen and Peyton, sorry I wasn’t around during those years. These last 11 years are great and I never regretted once retiring when I did. As you can see, things worked out nicely. I love you guys.
I can’t be more grateful for my family for their love and patience and understanding to allow me to do this for 18 years. Thank you to my mom for convincing me to get back on my bike and go back to that first practice, for washing my stuff, for making me lunch, and for finally allowing me to stop taking piano lessons because it just wasn’t working out.
Thanks to my dad for always being there, for playing catch and throwing me batting practice even after a full day at the office, for coaching some of my Little League teams, for your words of advice even when I didn’t agree with them. For you and mom always being at my game for football, basketball and baseball, all the way through high school.
To my one and only sibling, my brother Mark, for watching, charting, sometimes recording many of my games. For being supportive and obsessively superstitious, to the level that no one could leave their seats in his row at the stadium for any reason whatsoever if I was throwing well, and for all those wiffle ball games when we were kids. Thanks for everything. Maybe all that superstition helped me out here.
Since I received the incredible and surprising news of my election to the Hall of Fame back in January, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my journey to Cooperstown. How did a kid from small town and rural PA play enough wiffle ball to make it to the Major Leagues and pitch there for 18 years. I was never fortunate enough to win a Cy Young award or be a World Series champion. I didn’t win 300 games or strike out 3,000 batters. While my opportunities those achievements are in the past, today I get to become a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe I was saving up from all of those “almost” achievements for one last push. This time I made it.
Thank you to baseball for an awesome ride. To all the fans for supporting this great game, and to all of you for being here with me today. Thank you.