Mike Mussina was once asked, “What’s your favorite thing about pitching in New York?”
“Mariano Rivera,” he shot back.
My favorite Rivera moment happened in game seven of the 2001 World Series. As everyone knows, Rivera’s throwing error in the bottom of the ninth helped put the tying and winning runs on first and second with nobody out. Pinch hitter, Jay Bell dropped down a bunt and Rivera made a quick grab and forced the runner at third.
The rest of the game doesn’t matter. The moment he sprang off the mound and fired to third, will forever define Rivera in my mind. He was, as always, absolutely fearless. He uses all the right clichés after the game, but they don’t work on the field. You can’t just say it and know it; you must truly believe it. Rivera does. Mentally, he is the toughest player I have ever seen. Period.
Many call him the greatest closer ever, but he is arguably one of the greatest pitchers ever. Not for his riding four-seamer, darting two-seamer and exploding cutter, but for his mind.