COOPERSTOWN, NY – One Hall of Famer after another has been brought to the stage, one more impressive than the other. Legendary pitchers and homerun hitter.
Ken Griffey Jr., followed by Greg Maddux, followed by Hank Aaron.
However, none of them can ever say what Mariano Rivera can do now. He is a unanimous member of Cooperstown, the first player ever to enter the Hall of Fame, receiving a vote in his first year of election from all 425 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Thank you for voting for me and making me the Hall of Famer, "Rivera said during his 25-minute speech to complete the steaming and emotional afternoon. "Thank you for all your support."
Rivera thanked everyone as usual for all those involved in the effort, from coaches and teammates to family and friends. He barely talked about his own accomplishments.
He highlighted his longtime Yankees team-mates Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, as well as deceased team owner George Steinbrenner. He thanked the Yankees fans for having always driven him to his best and occasionally even booed him.
"It is a privilege and an honor to be part of an organization," he said. "I did it with dignity, honor and pride. I tried to wear the pinstripes as much as possible. I think I've done everything right. "
Rivera, the best baseball player of all time with 652 parades, remembered the many highs, but also lows. He remembered how frustrated he was not being able to communicate with teammates and coaches, because of the language barrier at the beginning of his minor league career, and because he was sent along with Jeter in 1
"We almost literally cried," Rivera said. "That only made us stronger."
Rivera believed that the turning point in his career had been the discovery of cut-up fastballs in 1997. He remembered that one day, during a catch with teammate Ramiro Mendoza, the ball moved like never before. He had no idea where it would go. During a bullpen session with late pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, they tried to limit the entire movement. But it did not work.
"I said, leave it that way, whatever happens will happen," Rivera said, "I've learned so much, I've been using this place for 17 years, and I use it well."
He was the only unanimous Hall of Famer to date in Cooperstown.