As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
The party began as soon as Jim Leyritz's home run landed beyond the left-center-field wall at the old Yankee Stadium.
A three-run lead with Mariano Rivera on the mound in the postseason? The next three outs seemed like an afterthought for the 56,752 in attendance at Game 4 of the 1999 World Series.
To Rivera, of course, those three outs were not an afterthought. Neither was the groundout Rivera induced off the bat of Chipper Jones in the top of the eighth to maintain the Yankees' two-run lead over the Braves. Jones represented the go-ahead run, as Atlanta threatened for the first time all night. A dominant Roger Clemens had worked 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball, and Rivera was tasked with sealing Clemens' first World Series win.
There may not be one at-bat that better represents Rivera than his showdown with Ryan Klesko with one out in the ninth. Rivera came inside with his signature cutter on Klesko, who broke his bat, dribbling a foul ball off his foot.
Klesko walked back to the visitor's dugout to retrieve some new lumber, and Rivera greeted him right away with another cutter in on his hands: Broken bat, foul ball, strike two.
With a 2-2 count, Rivera threw a ball outside to bring the count full, then went back in on Klesko. This time, Klesko put it in play: a weak popup to second base on -- what else? -- another cutter-induced broken bat.
The Yankees clinched their second consecutive World Series title a batter later, when Keith Lockhart flew out to left fielder Chad Curtis. Rivera took home World Series MVP honors for his 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the Series. He saved a tense Game 1 in Atlanta, then threw two dominant frames and picked up the win in Game 3 when Curtis' walk-off homer gave the Yankees a 3-0 series lead.
In Game 4, Rivera became the third pitcher ever and the first since Bob Kuzava in 1951-52 to record the final out in consecutive World Series. A year later, he'd become the only pitcher to record three-straight World Series final outs.