On this day in 1990, Yankees scout Herb Raybourn made what seemed at the time a relatively insignificant signing. Raybourn came to terms on a $3,000 contract with a slight 20 year-old pitcher from Panama City. Raybourn was drawn by the righty’s effortless and smooth delivery, but underwhelmed by his velocity. At the time, young Mariano Rivera had only been pitching for two weeks, and had no formal training as a pitcher.
Rivera was an instant success. His pitching line during his 1990 rookie season is almost comical. In 52.0 innings for the Yankees Gulf Coast League team, he allowed exactly one earned run. That comes out to a 0.17 ERA. Raybourn had unearthed a gem.
The Yankees initially developed Rivera as a starter, but he would leave his mark on baseball history as arguably the greatest closer of all time. When he trotted onto the field, Metallica blaring in the background, the game was over. For 19 seasons, Mo frustrated hitters with a constant stream of cut fastballs. He did not have a true second pitch, but that did not matter. With Rivera, hitters knew what was coming, but were still helpless to handle cutter after cutter running in on their hands.
Rivera retired after the 2013 season as the all-time leader in saves with 659. Baseball fans will most remember him for his postseason performance. Rivera pitched to a 0.70 ERA in 141.0 postseason innings while recording 42 saves, another record. Through it all, Rivera was an incredibly humble and classy man, earning the respect and admiration of baseball fans everywhere. When the 2018 Hall of Fame class is announced, Mariano Rivera will be there unveiling his plaque.