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.
Throughout the course of their distinguished careers with the Yankees, Mariano Rivera has made a habit of finishing what Andy Pettitte started.
That one-two starter-closer punch has been among the most reliable in baseball, and on May 29, 2009, the duo made history with their relationship on the field. Rivera recorded the final three outs of the Yankees' 3-1 win over the Indians at Progressive Field, marking Rivera's 58th career save in games won by Pettitte, setting a new Major League record.
Since then, they've teamed up 14 more times. Rivera has saved 72 of Pettitte's wins, and counting -- 23 more than any other pitcher on Rivera's list. Back in 2009, Rivera and Pettitte broke the record of 57, held by Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch of the Oakland A's.
"It means we are old," Rivera said after that game. "We've been playing together for a long time, that's what it means. It's great. I think nobody deserves that more than Andy. He's been a big guy for us, and I'm glad that I just follow and try to do my job."
"It's awesome. He's awesome," added Pettitte. "What can you say? I feel honored to have been able to play with him for as long as I have. He's a tremendous person and a tremendous baseball player."
The two members of the Yankees' "Core Four" entered the organization in 1990, with Rivera signed as an international free agent out of Panama and Pettitte drafted in the 22nd round out of Deer Park High School in Texas.
They worked their way through the Minors together, ultimately making their Major League debuts in 1995. And along with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, they broke out as stars while the Yankees turned into a late-1990s dynasty, winning four World Series titles in five years.
Those four remained together, with Pettitte taking a few detours along the way: his three seasons in Houston from 2004-06 and his brief retirement in 2011. Rivera didn't save any victories for Pettitte in 2012, missing most of the year due to injury. But they got back to work in Rivera's final season, putting together final scoring lines with a "W" by Pettitte's name and an "S" by Rivera's.
"It's incredible what those two have done together," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after they claimed the record. "Obviously, you have to be really good and you have to play together a long time. They've been able to do both of those things."
Rivera also occupies the third spot on the all-time list of win/save combinations, as he closed out 49 of Mike Mussina's victories.