Mariano Rivera thought he might have “a good shot of being a Hall of Famer” after his 19-year career with 13-All-Star appearances, five World Series rings, MLB’s all-time saves record, an obscene postseason ERA and the title as the “greatest closer ever to play the game.” He never imagined, though, that he would make history on Tuesday night.
The Panamanian right-hander became the first player in baseball history to be elected into the Hall of Fame unanimously.
“After my career, I was thinking I had a good shot to be a Hall-of-Famer, but this was just beyond my imagination,” Rivera said Tuesday night on a conference call with reporters. ”Just to be considered a Hall-of-Famer is quite an honor, but being unanimous – it’s amazing.’’
Rivera, who was known for working with just his devastating cutter, and for his humility and faith, was true to form Tuesday night after receiving votes from all 425 voting members of the Baseball Writers of America Association.
“Just to be considered a Hall of Famer is the pinnacle for every player,” Rivera said. “But being unanimous is just amazing. I am so grateful to the Lord for the opportunities to be here.”
Mariano Rivera through the years
Mariano Rivera through the years
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees walks out of the bullpen before the game against the San Francisco Giants during interleague play on September 22, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Rivera was honored by the New York Yankees today with Mariano Rivera Day. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, left, applauds as retiring Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, back to camera, embraces relief pitcher Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Rivera's final appearance at a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in New York. The Rays won 4-0. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Aug 14, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Mariano Rivera throws out the first pitch before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera waves to fans after recording his career record 602nd save against the Minnesota Twins after their MLB American League baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE)
New York Yankees players (L-R) Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada (obscured), Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera look at the World Series trophy after the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 to win the 2009 Major League Baseball World Series in New York, November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Pool-David J. Phillip (UNITED STATES SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Mariano Rivera participates in a panel at Project Destined Bronx Bootcamp at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Aug 12, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Former New York Yankees Mariano Rivera embraces designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) on his last game as a Yankee before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Picture Supplied by Action Images
(TAGS: Sport Baseball MLB) *** Local Caption *** 2016-08-12T232817Z_1547777004_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_MLB-TAMPA-BAY-RAYS-AT-NEW-YORK-YANKEES.JPG
Mar 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees guest instructor Mariano Rivera during Sunday morning workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees Mariano Rivera (L-R), Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter listen to pitcher Andy Pettitte talk to the media during a news conference at Legends Field in Tampa, Florida, February 18, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES)
Sep 25, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) hugs former player Mariano Rivera after hitting a walk-off single during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, who holds baseball's all-time saves record, smiles as he announces his plans to retire at the end of the 2013 season during a news conference at Steinbrenner Field Saturday, March 9, 2013 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Former New York Yankees player Mariano Rivera acknowledges fans before an exhibition game "Legend Series" honoring him, between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins, at the Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City March 15, 2014. Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees returned to Panama for the first time in 67 years on Saturday, offering one final goodbye to Mariano Rivera and bringing the career of the game's greatest closer full circle. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso (PANAMA - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASEBALL PROFILE)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox and Former Yankee Mariano Rivera share a laugh during a pregae ceremony to honor David Ortiz at Yankee Stadium on September 29, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
American League’s Mariano Rivera, of the New York Yankees, acknowledges a standing ovation during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New York Yankees Derek Jeter, standing center, applauds as Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) tries out a rocking chair, one of many gifts Rivera received during a pregame retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium before the Yankees baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in New York. Rivera's sons Jafet, left, and Mariano Jr. watch the action. The 13-time All-Star closer is retiring at the end of this season. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
American League’s Mariano Rivera, of the New York Yankees, acknowledges the crowd as he is introduced during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera tips his cap to the fans during the ninth inning of the Yankees' baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Rays won 4-0 in Rivera's final home game. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
American League’s Mariano Rivera, of the New York Yankees, walks off the field with catcher American League’s Salvador Perez, of the Kansas City Royals, after pitching during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Former New York Yankees player Mariano Rivera smiles as he pitches before an exhibition game "Legend Series" honoring him, between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins, at the Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City March 15, 2014. Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees returned to Panama for the first time in 67 years on Saturday, offering one final goodbye to Mariano Rivera and bringing the career of the game's greatest closer full circle. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso (PANAMA - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASEBALL PROFILE TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera signs autographs during a workout before the spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, March 8, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitches to the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of Game 2 of their MLB American League Divison Series baseball playoffs in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 7, 2010. Rivera picked up his 600th career save. REUTERS/Andy King (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez (front) go for a fly ball against the Los Angeles Angels during the tenth inning in Game 2 of Major League Baseball's ALCS playoff series in New York, October 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
He will be inducted into the Hall this July in Cooperstown with his former Yankees teammate Mike Mussina, Mariners slugger Edgar Martinez and the late great pitcher Roy Halladay.
He racked up 652 saves and finished 952 games; both are major league records.
Rivera’s best moments came on the biggest stage. He nailed down 42 saves and had a 0.70 ERA in the postseason en route to his five World Series championships.
Let that sink in. Rivera pitched 141 postseason innings over 96 games, and he allowed just 11 earned runs.
Even Rivera doesn’t know how he did it.
“It was tough, after I retired, when I start thinking about it, to put in perspective how I was able to dominate, how was I able to even pitch with one pitch,” Rivera said. “I was grateful to the Lord. I have to thank the Lord. It’s amazing. I can’t comprehend, I can’t understand how it can be possible with one pitch, but it was possible with me.”
Rivera credits his humble upbringing for his deep faith and humility. He is now just the second Panamanian player elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Rod Carew.
“We belong to Panama,” Rivera said. “Being the second player to reach that, I am grateful. I am grateful the Lord allowed me to be born in that beautiful country that I love and respect.
“I can’t wait to get there and celebrate with my people.”
There is another group of people that Rivera would like to celebrate with as teammates again in Cooperstown some day.
Next year, Derek Jeter will be eligible for the Hall for the first time. Rivera knows it is likely that The Captain will join him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But as unlikely as it is, he would like to see the Core Four — Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada — in the Hall together someday as well. Pettitte received 9.9% of the vote this year and Posada fell off the writers’ ballot in 2017.
“We all four players had the opportunities to be there, we all gave our best,” Rivera said. “When it came to winning we were there with everybody else. We were pushing, we were pushing our teammates to win like everybody else. I remember Andy and Jorge and Derek coming from the minor leagues and finishing our careers there.
“Hopefully Derek next year, God willing, will be there and I would like to see Andy and Jorge too. That will the greatest moment of my life if those guys will be there too.”
Pettitte could not have been prouder.
“Mo, congrats on being a first ballot Hall of Famer. What an honor it was playing alongside of you for all those years,” Pettitte said in a statement released by the Yankees. “When I look back on my career, many of my best memories directly involve you. This is a pretty obvious statement, but I wouldn’t want anyone else closing out a game that I started. I never took for granted what you provided for each and every starting pitcher in our rotation.”
Posada was also celebrating Rivera’s honor Tuesday night.
“Mariano is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime pitcher, and the greatest closer to ever play the game of baseball,” Posada said in a statement. “There was such a humility and grace to the way he did his job — day after day and year after year. I’m so proud of everything he has accomplished, and I’m ecstatic that he and his family can celebrate this ultimate honor.”
Rivera becomes the first “homegrown” Yankee to be elected by the writers since Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford in 1974, according to the YES Network.