It has been six years since Mariano Rivera notched his 602nd save, and passed Trevor Hoffman for the most saves in Major League Baseball history. Holding on to a 6–4 lead against the Minnesota Twins, a familiar tune came over the stadium speakers and the Sandman trotted to the mound. Despite being the smallest crowd in the three year history of the new Yankee Stadium, the fans made their presence known. Everyone got on their feet and took out their cameras knowing they were about to see something special. They were about to see history.
Trevor Plouffe stepped into the box. Mo looked in, set up and fired. The crowd was hanging on every pitch, and when the Ump called strike they erupted in applause. Plouffe would ground out to second base, one down two to go. Michael Cuddyer lined out to right field. Chris Parmelee, Minnesota’s last hope, went down looking on three pitches. And just like that, the son of a fisherman from Panama became MLB’s all-time saves leader. Who would’ve imagined back in 1995, after he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and lost 10-0 to the Angels as a starter, that he would become the greatest closer of all time?
Russell Martin came from behind home plate to give him a big hug, followed by the rest of the Yankees’ players, dugout and bullpen. After the hugs, high fives and congratulations, Mo was left alone on the field and waved his cap to the cheering fans. When asked about the experience he said:
“Oh, my God, for the first time in my career, I’m on the mound alone. It was priceless. I didn’t know it could be like that.”
Mo amassed his 602 saves in 674 chances, while Hoffman got his 601 in 677 tries. He finished the 2011 season with a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves in 49 opportunities, becoming the first pitcher over the age of 40 to save at least 40 games in a season.
“I want to congratulate Mariano Rivera on setting the all-time saves record. It’s a great accomplishment and he is still going strong! I have tremendous respect for Mariano not just for his on-field accomplishments, but also for his service to the community.” -Trevor Hoffman