April 18, 1929: Larry French debuts for the Pittsburgh Pirates as the first of the 42’s.
April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the speediest of the 42’s.
May 23, 1995: Mariano Rivera debuts for the New York Yankees as the last of the 42’s.
April 15, 1997: Major League Baseball retires the number 42
From the first to the last, 42 has had some fun times. The most memorable being its ride with Jackie Robinson. The speedster from Cairo, Georgia who broke the color barrier. He may be the most important player in the history of the game.
Since the Robinson days, 42 has been adorned by so many, but maybe the best to wear it is Mariano Rivera. After all, this story is about him. From Panama City, Panama and entering the game via Enter Sandman, Rivera is the undisputed king of the save. He has over 630 of them and is adding to that in his final year. Rivera is in his 19th season in the league and he couldn’t be happier.
With the All-Star game on and the 8th inning about to begin, Buck and McCarver go silent and the cameras are on Rivera. He throws one last warm-up as the music starts. You can hear the crowd start to thunder over the music and the start of something incredible begins. Rivera walks through the gate, and I just know the fans are standing by now. He starts his jog to the mound and Citi Field is a madhouse. When Rivera reaches the mound, the cameras finally leave him, long enough to show the whole stadium on their feet, players included. It cuts back to Rivera who tips his cap and the place is at its loudest. Then Buck comes back on.
The top of the eighth is won in 16 pitches. The master is still the master. Rivera walks off the mound to another thunderous applause and a second ovation. He reaches the AL dugout and hugs Verlander as if they were the best of friends. Rivera had just completed his final All-Star game and did so in fantastic fashion. The AL went on the win the game 3-0 and Rivera won MVP honors, which included the game ball delivered by Joe Nathan.
Of all the moments in Rivera’s career, to me, that All-Star game has to be in his top 10. Rivera represents class, he represents the Yankees, and he represents the number 42.
Mariano Rivera is the last of the 42’s.