Mariano Rivera's career would be worth celebrating no matter where it unfolded, whether it was in another city for 19 years or split between several teams across the Majors. But the fact that he's done it all for one team, playing in one of the world's biggest markets, makes it all the more impressive. And nothing demonstrates his single-team longevity better than the events of May 25, 2011.
On that Wednesday afternoon, Rivera ran out of the Yankee Stadium bullpen to "Enter Sandman" and pitched a 12-pitch ninth inning in a non-save situation against the Blue Jays, his first game action in a week. He gave up a single and then recorded three consecutive outs, the final one a swinging strikeout by J.P. Arencibia. Nothing remarkable on the surface, by Rivera's standards.
But it was his 1,000th career appearance, all of them with the Yankees. He became the 15th pitcher to reach that mark, and the first one in history to do so with one team.
"You have to be old to do that," Rivera joked at the time, modestly deflecting praise the way he's often done after such accomplishments. "But it's a blessing, being with the same team and being able to do that, not too often you see. Most important thing is that we won."
With 1,114 career appearances, Rivera ranks fourth on the all-time list behind Jesse Orosco (1,252), Mike Stanton (1,178) and John Franco (1,119) -- all left-handers. After going out to work for the 1,000th time in the Majors, Rivera told reporters he planned to celebrate his achievement by going to church.
The Yankees closer was asked if it was hard to believe he'd jogged to the mound 1,000 times in his career, and he turned the question back on reporters: What did they think?
"It's pretty hard to believe," one reporter replied.
"Well it is," Rivera said. "Because again, you've got to have the right combination ... the organization that was willing to keep you, and you've got to do your job and take care of yourself.
"All of that has to be in place. And thank God that He helped me with all that, [the] support of the family and all that, my wife. And with that, you just have to be thankful to the Lord, being able to play with so many great, great players. And what else you can say?"
General manager Brian Cashman said quite a bit about Rivera's feat, offering up his praise for the closer's effectiveness, longevity, toughness and character.
"Every aspect of what he's done is incredible," Cashman said after that game. "Again, when you simplify it to [the fact that] he's a one-pitch pitcher, coming from a small fishermen village in Panama, to have this type of success in the biggest city of the world -- one of the biggest cities of the world -- it's incredible. And he's that great a guy at the same time. He hasn't changed; he's the same person he was when he signed. ... Just a rare person."