"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice


A piece I photoshopped together back in 2013 for “Serious Consideration!“. I dare say this is a good moment to bring it back out for people to see…

This was, believe it or not, a seminal moment in baseball; a crossroads for everyone involved. From players to owners to fans and the media all, this was the time to decide if the way we honor the people we often consider heroes had merit in itself.

And to be totally frank, I think the answer saved more than just baseball from itself.

Could you imagine the outrage, the utter frustration and perhaps final resignation from the realization that there would always be that one person who, for reasons either predictable or inexplicable, decided to not vote for Mariano Rivera.  Anyone reading this, please tell me that you fully believed that the writers entrusted with the task of selecting the new entries to the Baseball Hall of Fame (which by name and by dynamic carries almost a mysticism of grandeur and worldly accomplishment) would actually act in accord with one another to vote for the undisputed greatest reliever of all time to enter this cadre of baseball greatness… unanimously??

Questions, plenty of them if you have the time, but not really.  I care not for the arguments this obviously opens; why NOT Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr, et al… why were they not given the honor of total agreement by the fickle and oblique judges of such honors? We know the answer, and by knowing that answer we were hostage to the possibility of what could easily be described by most as recklessness at the least.  The worst of human nature flashed curiously through some minds; what would be the excuse, the agenda, the agonizing self-aggrandizement that would crush its employer to earthly oblivion, ironically in a plane dominated by cyberspace?

I don’t care about that.  I only care right now that this one man, who was universally loved and/or respected by anyone within earshot of his name, with casual interest or platonic worship, had finally broken through to an entire subset who, whether on pain of personal loss or with genuine gumption, parted for Moses and held the gates wide open.

A couple of years ago, my girlfriend-now-wife were driving through New Rochelle, NY which is actually within walking distance of where I live, and we came to a light at an intersection. In front of us, a man ambled somewhat slowly across the street, looking down along his path as though he was organizing his thoughts about either something he had just done or was about to do. He wore a collared white shirt with one button undone at the top and pleated slacks. He was slightly balding from the back and his gait was a little stiff, as though he had been sitting in a pew for more time than he’d realized.  I stared blankly, as he crossed the street in front of us towards the gas station, wondering if this was one of those moments…

“Is that who I think it is?” I said slowly to Lyne, “who does that look like to you?” Lyne was and is a casual baseball fan; I’ve taken her to Yankee games when I was given tickets by friends or people I’ve worked for in the past, and though she was excited by the experiences, her interest remained largely casual beyond beyond certain players.  Certain players… “Who is that… I know him… wait, are you sure it’s him?” I pondered for a split second whether to honk my horn and hope that he knew why we were honking, jump out of the car and chase him to the gas station store and thank him profusely for his career or just leave the man alone to his thoughts and respect him as a fellow human being. I chose the latter. The light turned green and I kept driving, thinking about any and everything, and hoping that he was at least having a nice day.

You see, that’s the thing about Mariano Rivera. For all I know, he is one of the nicest people I’ve ever seen play pro baseball.  Sure, he’s an ordained minister with a church somewhere nearby, and he was revered by millions of fans and respected by millions more. And you better believe he confounded, frustrated and utterly infuriated opposing batters, teams and their fans in game situations that meant do or die for their varied aspirations.  But I never heard one person utter a cross word about him as a person, as a human being. Mo was the antithesis of the admonishment by Charles Barkley so many years ago.  His victories were ours, his pride in a job well done was our pride.  His glare was the glare of many. His focus was legion. The moments of shock, when the fabric of time in space was torn and he did the unthinkable: fail… that was felt and carried by many.  The way he shifted minds, moods and destinies with such fluidity and attentiveness; such a solid state of grace and accomplishment was lifeblood and fountainous youth for any Yankee fan.  “Exit light… enter night!” was clarion and carrier of emotions; the entitled and the marginalized, the wealthy and the poor, the casual and livid; all came to witness the ninth inning  as if it were an address by a world dignitary, an execution or a sermon from some high mount. I could not control myself when it introduced him for the last time as the closer of the New York Yankees.

Unreal, yet Real.  That’s the only way anyone can describe this moment in baseball history. It is only proper that it is connected with a player who fits that description.  Hyperbole?  Sure, why not; don’t we have rare moments that deserve some? I think we can all agree on that.

Categories:  1: Featured  Chyll Will  Hall of Fame  Yankees

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1 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 23, 2019 9:17 pm

Yep. #praisebetoMO

2 Bama Yankee   ~  Jan 23, 2019 10:09 pm

Great job, Chyll.

3 rbj   ~  Jan 24, 2019 8:51 am

Nice write up.

Ah, Mo

4 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Jan 24, 2019 12:28 pm

Thanks Chyll. I have been on the bandwagoin against those neaderthals who refused unanimity since it was denied to The Mick. Here's a thought: do you think that guys who stay with the same team for their eentire careers have a better chance at the HOF than guuys with equal stats, but played for multiple teams?

DJ is the bext unanimous HOFer.

5 Greg G   ~  Jan 24, 2019 1:19 pm

Wonderful write up and truly captures the once in a lifetime talent that Mo had.

I remember reading an article about his last year and how he would meet with so many folks from the stadium personnel. The author of the article suggested that Mo was doing that to also curry favor of the writers that would be deciding his fate for the HOF in 5 years.

Mo is an incredible human being, and while I have strayed from my Catholic upbringing, Mo is a devout Christian, who seems to embody what is best about the religion (That few actually are) in being humble and helping others selflessly.

So glad that it was unanimous because aside from being an otherworldly talent, he appears to be just as great as a human being. There was never a whiff of a scandal and for NY, to play our whole career and nothing...that echos loudly.

Think of all the pitchers that he mentored and helped to teach his signature pitch. He wasn't trying to hold onto it like it was the secret recipe for KFC chicken. Love Mo!

6 JoeG   ~  Jan 24, 2019 3:46 pm

Very happy for Mo, however, allow me two counter arguments.

1) I agree Mo is the greatest reliever to ever play the game and a key factor for the Yankee dynasty in which he played. However, what bothers me is he was a failed starter. Couldn't seem to get going in the early innings and didn't really have the right stuff. Relegated to the bullpen, he discovered the cutter, and is eventually the first ever unanimous selection to the HOF. Who beat him out as the #5 starter in 199X?

2) On to Jeter. Really like DJ and recognize his immense contributions. However, was he ever the best player on any Yankees team? Bernie, Tino, and Paul made bigger contributions in the 90s; Giambi was a giant in the early '00s, and then Rodriguez and Matsui came along. I don't recall Jeter ever being "the guy," except from a news reporter's perspective. From a position player, he was never more than the 2nd best player on the team. And here he is in the conversation as the "next unanimous" selection.

It seems to me, that if you are a player of a certain stature, it is more important to be perceived by the Writers's Association as approachable, quotable, and personable. That is the ticket to Cooperstown, not being the GOAT.

Sorry to play "Debbie Downer;" just want to air some thoughts amongst other thoughtful Yankee fans. I've been a fan since '76/'77.

7 Boatzilla   ~  Jan 25, 2019 7:47 pm

[6] Well if the bar for unanimous is now set by Mo, and somehow failed Babe, Willie and Ted, Jeter is nowhere near unanimous worthy. I think we can all agree to that. Should he be in, yes.

The problem I keep going back to is what is the Hall of Fame? Is it a Hall of the Greatest or a Hall of the Most Popular With Great Stats, or is it Hall of the Greatest Without Any Character Flaws? Actually that last one would leave everyone out.

I guess the fun part is debating about it.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 25, 2019 8:56 pm

[7] Agreed. That's not a 'Hall of Fame' problem in of itself, since it is and has heralded (or shielded) itself as a museum and not a governing body. That's a "bunch of writers" problem. Mo would likely agree he should not have been the first to be so duly honored, but that he is speaks of the history of the process as much as his prowess as a modern baseball player amongst his contemporaries. Jeter may or may not be the next unanimous vote, but I don't believe Mo will be the only one ever; social media will definitely see to that.

9 rbj   ~  Jan 29, 2019 10:09 am

100th anniversary of Jackie's birthday. Cool that Bernie is going to be part of a jazz concert in his honor at UCLA of Feb. 5th. Hope it makes it to youtube or something at some point.

10 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Jan 31, 2019 3:56 pm

[9] Also very cool: Mo was the last player to wear 42, and he gets in the HOF with 100% in Jackie's 100th birthday year.

11 rbj   ~  Feb 5, 2019 7:55 pm

One more week until pitchers and catchers

12 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Feb 6, 2019 11:39 am

[11] Hoo-rah. Stil wondering whether the Yanks will be inking Harper or Manny M. Did you hear Judge saying that if they signed Harp, Harp could play anywhere in the outfield, because he's faster than AJ.

13 rbj   ~  Feb 6, 2019 4:05 pm

[12] Saw that. Sign Harper and Machado, package Miggy Jr. & Hicks for Kluber.

Hate to see Mini-Miggy go, but Manny is better. And still young.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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