That was certainly a fun game to watch. It’s not every night you can see a legendary player drive in his first career run and get his 500th save.
Here is the full audio of Mariano’s postgame press conference including the questions asked in Spanish. Take the time to listen because you’ll really get a sense of what kind of person and teammate he is:
A few notes and quotes for you:
Chien-Ming Wang: The starter had to wait 11 outs to see if he was going to get his first win in 379 days. So, I asked, what were you thinking when you saw Rivera come in the game?
“We’re winning the game,” Wang said.
Wang had a baseball in his locker and he planned to have Rivera sign it. “For my son,” he said. “I want him to know I played with Mo.”
Justin Wang is 12 days old and his old man has had 24 of his 55 wins saved by Rivera. Only Andy Pettitte (59), Mike Mussina (49), Roger Clemens (35), El Duque Hernandez (32) and David Wells (25) have had more,
Derek Jeter: “Yes, No question,” he said without a moment of hesitation when asked if Rivera was the greatest he has played with. “There has never been anybody more consistent. Mo is great in the regular season, the postseason, even spring training.”
Jorge Posada: “I think I’m as excited as he is,” the catcher said. “This means a lot to me, to have caught this game. That man … we’ve been through a lot together. He makes my job easier, he makes all our jobs easier. He’s the best ever.”
Joe Girardi: The manager was the catcher when Mariano recorded his first save on May 18, 1996 against the Angels. Fittingly enough, Andy Pettitte got the win and Jeter was 2 for 4 with an RBI hitting eighth.
With the Yankees up 8-5, Mo entered the game in the ninth inning. He struck out Randy Velarde. Mike Aldrete singled and then Garret Anderson grounded into a double play.
Girardi said that when he caught Mo in spring training of 1996, he knew the Yankees had something special. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Who is this guy?’ Then he had the best, most dominant year I think I’ve ever seen a reliever have,” he said.
The numbers bear that out. Mo pitched 107.2 innings over 61 appearances with a 2.07 ERA. He allowed 73 hits and fanned 130 with 34 walks.
Cody Ransom: Mo used Cody’s bat and batting gloves again. Cody, no fool, put the bat in a sanitary stocking after the game and was taking it home as a souvenir. Mo said he was welcome to it. “It’s his bat,” he said.
Mariano Rivera: Ever the class act, Rivera talked about how special it was for him to be congratulated by Jeter, Posada and Pettitte, his three long-time teammates. Jeter, he said, has always supported him and said the right thing at the right time.
Mo had a box of balls after the game and was planning to sign them for his teammates.
If you’ll permit me a personal aside, I’ve been doing this job since I was 17 and Mariano is the best athlete I have covered. He is the model of professionalism in how he approaches every aspect of his job, how he treats his teammates and how he treats those around the team, including reporters.
A few years ago, he blew a save and was not around after the game to talk to the writers. It turned out he had left the clubhouse quickly because one of the his children was sick. The next day, he apologized and said he would be willing to answer any questions about the blown save. It’s easy to be gracious in victory but the true measure of a man is how he handles defeat and Mo always is there, win or lose.
If at some point, God willing, I’m an old man telling stories on a porch somewhere, the first thing I’ll say was that I got to cover the great Rivera. It has been a tremendously fun part of this job.
It also is tremendously fun to write for such dedicated fans. Nearly 2,100 comments on the blog today and close to 90,000 page views. Thanks to everybody for reading. No baseball on Monday, but we’ll have a few posts.