David Cone slumped over and put his hands on his knees in the eighth inning on Oct. 8, 1995. The Yankees starting pitcher had just walked Mariners third baseman Doug Strange with his 147th pitch of the night, forcing in the tying run in the decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
Yankees manager Buck Showalter called on rookie Mariano Rivera to come in and keep the game tied at 4. Now, Rivera is accustomed to pitching in the game's toughest situations. But back then, he was just a 26-year-old rookie entering the game facing a bases-loaded jam with two outs and his team on the brink of elimination.
Like he would go on to do so many times throughout his 19-year career, though, Rivera pitched himself out of it. The rookie right-hander got Mariners first baseman Mike Blowers to strike out looking on three pitches to end the inning, keeping the score where it was heading into the ninth.
"When you look back from where he started and the process of how Mariano Rivera -- not a scared kid, but a wide-eyed kid -- becomes arguably and far and away the greatest closer that ever lived," Yankees closer John Wetteland said in July, "you can kind of see it now."
After the Yankees failed to plate a run in the top of the ninth inning, Rivera came back out to start the bottom of the frame. The right-hander gave up a single to left fielder Vince Coleman and a sac bunt to second baseman Joey Cora before intentionally walking Ken Griffey Jr. and getting removed from the game in favor of Jack McDowell.
Overall, Rivera threw two-thirds of an inning, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out one.
The Yankees went on to lose in the 11th inning after taking a one-run lead in the top of the frame. Edgar Martinez drove a double to left field off McDowell with runners on first and third, driving in Cora and Griffey, to give the Mariners a 6-5 win and eliminate the Yankees from the playoffs.
"There's not really any solace to be taken from this," McDowell told The New York Times after the game. "There's only one team left standing, and that's all that matters. When you put the uniform on in Spring Training, that's what you play for. The rest is a waste."
It might have been a waste for the '95 Yankees, but it wasn't a waste for their rookie reliever. Rivera got his first taste of the playoffs that season, a starting point for what has become arguably the best postseason career for any reliever in Major League history.