Mariano Rivera has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Taking the podium last as he predicted, the former New York Yankees star reliever had to wait for the chants of his name to stop before he began a speech that included a brief thank you to his native Panama and the fans there.
“You’re special for me,” said Rivera, the all-time saves leader with 652. “Thank you for your help. Latin American fans, thank you. Thank you for loving me. I’m so humbled and blessed to receive this incredible honor. God bless you all.”
Part of a core with shortstop Derek Jeter, left-hander Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada, all of whom were in the audience, Rivera helped lead the Yankees to five World Series titles from 1996-2009. He posted 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA over 16 postseasons, including 11 saves in the World Series.
Rivera, the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, pitched 19 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Yankees, retiring with 952 games finished, also a record. A 13-time All-Star, Rivera helped the Yankees win five World Series titles and seven American League pennants. He led the AL in saves three times and finished with 40 or more saves nine times, a record he shares with Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.
Rivera, who joins Rod Carew as the only Panama natives in the Hall of Fame, left home at age 20 in 1990 not knowing what lay ahead.
“I don’t know what I was expecting, but God guided me through,” Rivera said.
Among those he thanked were his parents, his wife, Marla, and their four children, the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who made Rivera his closer in 1997.
“That’s what I wanted to hear and my career took off,” Rivera said.