Book Summary: The life and career of the greatest baseball closer of all-time, 5-time World Series Champion, Mariano Rivera.
Marino Rivera was already one of my favourite players. When I finally bought The Closer, it gave me such a deeper appreciation of the only man ever to be unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (2019). I think what I marvelled the most about the book is the revelations of how connected Marino was to his religion. He never held back on his feelings regarding any situation. No matter where he was or what he did, he took a moment to say a prayer and give thanks. I want to think that die-hard baseball fans didn’t know his deep connection to religion. It seems that only those close to him got to know his thoughts. These revelations made this book even better than I expected.
I continuously got pumped up every time “Enter Sandman” by Metallica would blast over the stadium speakers. I knew what that meant, and it meant the greatest closer of all time was coming in to finish off the opponent and win us the game. Although he closed out and saved more games than any pitcher in history, he is living proof that even the great ones have their hiccups. In the 2001 World Series, Rivera blew Game 7 after entering the game with a 4-2 lead in the ninth. He also had a hand in the Boston Red Sox epic 2004 American League Championship series comeback. During Game 4 of that series, the Red Sox trailed the Yankees 3-0 4-2 in Game 4 in the top of the ninth. Rivera did his best when he could, but even sometimes, his best wasn’t good enough. Although he moved on from those defeats, some around him wondered if those moments still haunted him or not.
Rivera has been on a pedestal for over two decades in the New York area. He may be one of the cities greatest heroes, but Marino is as humble as they come. I’ll never forget a story in the book when Mariano goes house hunting with his wife and agent. The owners were disrespectful to him, assuming he was some “Latino bum,” and requested they leave their home immediately. After his agent stepped in and explained who he was, Marino and his wife bought that house and still live there today. These moments of racism and social tension are throughout the book. Behind every story, Marino is quick to point out that people are genuinely good-natured.
Another story I enjoyed, but it almost brought me to tears, was when he injured his knee in 2013. As a Yankees fan, it was the worse thing that could happen to a player not named Derek Jeter. Marino thought about retirement that summer, but he didn’t want the injury to derail his career. Through a painful rehab, he came back for one final season in 2014. Those games gave us a chance to say goodbye. It was heartbreaking to listen to him tell us about the pain and surgery. The setback hurt him because he couldn’t be with the team. He lived for the game and to be at the ballpark every day. The only positive thing that came from the surgery was summer at home with his family. Family means everything to him, and you can tell how much he valued that.
After reading The Closer, I went on YouTube and watched some clips of Mo in action. When I clicked on his final appearance at Yankee Stadium, I had tears in my eyes. I’ll never forget the great moments he provided me as a Yankee fan (which includes the prayer on the mound after the 2013 ALCS victory – picture up above). I already thought he was a great baseball player, but The Closer made me realize that not only is he one of the greatest of all time, he is also one of the most exceptional human beings of all time.