Mariano Rivera's first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame will be with the Class of 2019, but visitors to Cooperstown, N.Y., will not have to wait that long to relive his career.
Thanks to the retiring Yankees closer's graciousness over the years, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has amassed a trove of game-used artifacts from him. They range from items used during past World Series to his emotional 13th and final All-Star Game.
"Mo's career achievements, of which there have been many, are well-documented in Cooperstown, thanks to his generosity in donating game-used artifacts," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said Friday. "From his important role in helping to establish a Yankees dynasty as one of the Core Four, to his brilliance on the mound, to the personal connection he made with baseball's fans, Mariano's career is well-documented in the Museum."
Here are items visitors will see included in the collection, and the Hall will follow this final weekend series at Houston closely to see if other stories emerge that might pique interest in further documentation:
• Spikes worn by Rivera during the 1999 Fall Classic, when he was named World Series MVP. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, getting the Braves' Keith Lockhart to fly to left to record the Game 4 save and clinch that title at old Yankee Stadium.
• Cap worn by Rivera during the 2000 World Series. He got Mike Piazza to fly out to center field to record the Game 5 save and clinch that title at Shea Stadium.
• Cap worn by Rivera on July 16, 2006, when he recorded his 400th career save. Amazingly, that was less than two-thirds of the way toward his record saves total, which is 652 entering the final weekend series. No. 400 was a six-out save against the White Sox at home, finished off when Jermaine Dye struck out swinging.
• Yankees home jersey worn by Rivera in the 2008 All-Star Game played at Yankee Stadium. The American League won that 15-inning contest and Rivera pitched in the ninth and 10th innings, finishing both innings with double plays.
• Baseball signed by Andy Pettitte and Rivera on May 29, 2009, when Pettitte was credited with the win and Rivera picked up the save. It was their 58th career win/save combination, a run that would last far longer.
• Yankees cap worn by Rivera during the 2009 World Series. In Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, he got the last two outs of the eighth against Philadelphia before sealing the ninth inning as New York clinched its 27th World Series championship.
• Yankees cap worn during the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field, where he was given the Arch Ward Trophy as the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet. Rivera retired the National League in order in the eighth for the hold as manager Jim Leyland wanted to make sure there was an opportunity for the legend to appear, and then Joe Nathan closed out that 3-0 AL victory.
Rivera's generosity toward the Hall that night in July was typical, according to Hall vice president Brad Horn. It was 90 minutes after the game, and Rivera had fulfilled every media obligation and walked back into the clubhouse. Rivera said his kids had taken "everything," but he was still wearing his game cap. So he handed it over to Horn and said: "Here you go, Brad. For the Hall of Fame."
The wait for Rivera himself is about to begin. After this weekend, he will begin the required five-year waiting period and will appear for the first time on the December 2018 ballot that goes to Baseball Writers' Association of America voters. Rivera's first shot at enshrinement would be that following summer, and count Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley among those who are wondering whether Rivera might finally be that first unanimous inductee.
"Nobody can be," Eckersley, a TBS MLB analyst for this postseason, told MLB.com this week. "Look at the number of guys who didn't get it. The highest [vote percentage] is [Tom] Seaver, isn't it? I don't know. All it takes is one or two guys out of 600. If there is one, he'd be it."