Mariano Rivera’s Hall of Fame celebration tour concluded with a pre-game ceremony, and first pitch, Saturday at Yankee Stadium. It capped off a summer in which the greatest closer of all-time hit an inside-the-park home run on Old Timers’ Day, had a parade thrown in his honor in New Rochelle, N.Y., and headlined a stacked Cooperstown class as the Hall’s first-ever unanimous inductee.
“It has been busy, but it has been something special,” Rivera said as the Yankees faced the Indians. “To end up in Cooperstown with the blessing to be 100 percent unanimous, it’s like the cherry on top.”
Now that Rivera has broken the illogical, decades-old barrier, the all-time saves leader with 652 is hopeful that longtime teammate Derek Jeter will earn the same honor.
Jeter, a World Series MVP, five-time champion and 14-time All-Star, ranks sixth on the all-time hits list (3,465), and could be the Hall of Fame’s lone enshrinement next summer.
“If it was me, it would be 1000 percent. Forget about 100 percent,” said Rivera, when asked if he believed Jeter would also be voted in unanimously. “I played with Derek for so many years, and seeing him day in and day out, and seeing the way he played the game and respected the game, I don’t see why not. Obviously I don’t vote, but I don’t see why not.”
Following years of infuriating and head-scratching ballots failing to include no-brainer candidates — among the most legendary Yankees, Babe Ruth (95.13 percent) came 11 votes shy, Joe DiMaggio (88.84 percent) fell 28 votes short, Mickey Mantle (88.22 percent) was 43 votes short, Yogi Berra (85.61 percent) was 67 votes shy — the sentiment toward first-ballot candidates started to sway before Rivera made history.
In 2016, Ken Griffey Jr. (99.32 percent) fell just three votes short of becoming the first-ever unanimous inductee, and seven of the 12 highest vote totals in history — all over 97 percent — have come since 2007.
“It’s something that should’ve been done a long time ago, but who am I?” Rivera said. “I’m the first of many to come. I’ll be happy to be there for Derek.”
Rivera, 49, would be just as thrilled to see the first-place Yankees bring home their first championship since he picked up the save in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series.
“The only thing that can stop them is god and themselves They have everything to do it,” Rivera said. “It’s time for a championship to come back to New York.”