Rookie Card of the Greatest Closer in Baseball History: Mariano Rivera

The closer is the only position in baseball that has no margin for error. There is an expectation of perfection. Your job is to come into the last inning of a game, get handed a bad situation then you’re expected to take out the competition without flaw. There is a  pressure that the closer must endure and he’s expected to strive through it.

I recall the 2016 World Series, Game 7 when my beloved Chicago Cubs took the mound. With runners in scoring position I couldn’t bear to watch. Every pitch the pressure mounted. I remember thinking, how can the closer even throw a pitch right now? Throughout Mariano’s amazing career he found himself in this exact scenario. He’s a prime time, big game closer. It’s been said of him he’s the best in the business. When Mariano comes in it’s over. He’s automatic! Money in the bank! Long time team-mate Derek Jeter has stated, “Mariano is the best in the history of baseball.”

He had elbow issues in the minors but seemed to always find away to get things done so he was promoted and debuted in the MLB in May of 1995. He struggled in the big leagues and was sent back down to the minors. But Mariano determined to get back, he doubled down and got to work. He topped out at 91mph but by adding pure determination he began to throw the ball 94-96mph consistently. He was immediately brought back up where he began to have instant success and earned himself a permanent spot on the roster.

The secret to his success was the cut fastball. Testimonials of Major League batters say it was no secret at all. They all knew what was coming. A cut fastball around 95 mph but they couldn’t hit it. And if batters decided not to swing he had a knack for placing that cutter right where he wanted and would catch the batter looking.

Mariano is a man of faith and has built and restored churches in his homeland Panama. He attributes his success to prayer and the prayers of his wife. That explains the personality of the man; he is patient, composed, a cool cat that has the perfect demeanor for the closing role at Yankee Stadium.

Mariano Rivera embodies what the New York Yankees stands for. In an interview with Charlie Rose he was asked, “What does it mean for you to be a Yankee?” Taken back by the question Mariano said,

“It’s amazing, its different. Playing with the New York Yankees for me is proud, prestige, honor. I feel so blessed putting that uniform on everyday, I put it on and fight for it. That was the amazing thing that made me want to win.” 

There is an inner strength about him. A genuine humility, the heart of a champion, one of the good guys that believes in loyalty, hard work, and persevering. This is why the Hall of Fame voters, for the first time in history, gave him a unanimous 100% of the vote. Thank you Mariano Rivera it was a pleasure to watch you play the beautiful game of baseball. Look at these amazing statistics and achievements:

Career Stats: Games 1115 | Innings Pitched 1283.2 | Strikeouts 1173 | Walks 286 | Saves, All-Time Leader with 652

Career Achievements: 13x All-Star | 5x World Series Champion | 1999 World Series MVP | 3x MLB Saves Leader | 2013 Comeback Player of the Year

ROOKIE CARD OF HALL OF FAMER MARIANO RIVERA


1992 Bowman, Card No. 302 (shop eBay)

Bowman really stepped up and offered collectors to this point, their best modern-day release. You could consider this set to be a benchmark product of the 1990’s. At the heart of the “mass-produced era” Topps opted to do something different. They printed their Bowman set to order, meaning order forms were sent to hobby shops, those forms were collected than printers ran to fulfill orders. This approach cut production runs which equates to hobby gold. This 705 card set is loaded with Hall of Fame rookie cards most of which are dressed in some pretty corny street clothes.

Cards were printed on white card stock with a UV coating giving them that shiny veneer. Card fronts have a thicker than usual white border and great photography throughout the set. Not too much distraction on card front giving us brand emblem on the upper left corner and a small ribbon towards the bottom right giving us players name. The card back however, is full of goodness: full color player portrait, player bio, very colorful stats with brief player commentary. This one has all the characteristics of an iconic card.

As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $40.00-$80.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell between $85.00-$95.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $350.00-$400.00 range.


BONUS BABY – 2ND YEAR PREFERRED

1993 Bowman, Card No. 327 (shop eBay)

For me personally I respect the 92 Bowman, which is his only true rookie, but to be honest it feels more like a prospect card rather than a true RC. The street clothes never really did it for me either. But now this 93 Bowman which is his second mainstream card produced is an absolute stunner. The young Rivera in Yankee pinstripes with matching glove is a must have for any collection.

As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $5.00-$12.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell between $15.00-$30.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $65.00-$100.00 range.

Happy Collecting, Collectors!

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.

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Victor Roman Sr

I've been collecting for over thirty years. My goal is to inform and inspire collectors of cardboard. I believe there is nothing that holds its value better than rookie cards of Hall of Famers, nor is there anything more rewarding than learning the history of the All-Time Greats. I summarize it this way- LEARN. COLLECT. ENJOY.