He spent his entire career with one team, something rare today, and he played well under pressure. Most of all, and not mentioned in any tribute, is how well he handled the games where he blew leads and blew save opportunities.
The World Series in 2001 was arguably one of the most memorable. Several games were come-from-behind games. Game seven of that series had the Yankees leading in a year when it was important that New York win the World Series. Rivera gave up the lead and the game.
He lost the lead in 2004 to the Red Sox in game four of the playoffs. He won many more big games, but when you appear in a lot of big games, you are bound to lose a few of them. Mariano Rivera always spoke to the press. He never blamed his teammates. He was a class act in the wake of whatever happened on a baseball field.
Some of us older fans remember Rich “Goose” Gossage as the Yankees’ intimidating closer. And how couldn’t we? Gossage was a giant of a man from the mountains of Colorado who threw in the mid-90’s. Gossage was also a class act, once refusing manager Billy Martin’s order to hit a batter.
When Gossage pitched out of the Yankee bullpen, he reminded older baseball fans of Ryne Duran. Duren threw so hard that manager Casey Stengel once said "I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever hit you in the head you might be in the past tense."
And then came Gossage some 20 years later. And then came Mariano Rivera. One generation of closer to another to another. Mariano Rivera, to be considered the greatest of all time, was better than all of those great strong arms.
This is not even mentioning the great closers on other teams. Rivera is universally appreciated in a world where respect and sportsmanship are not often common. What Rivera gave to the fans in New York, fans of both teams, is special. How he played the game mattered as much as the results.
What Would Koch Do?
This will be the first election in New York City without quintessential New Yorker Edward I. Koch. Koch, the colorful 12-year mayor of the city, was also an active participant in our democracy right up to the very end.
He endorsed candidates of both parties. He fought for reforming our redistricting process. He was plugged into our politics right up the end.
A Koch endorsement was something candidates fell over themselves to try to get. It meant that the ultimate political gray-beard, the “liberal with sanity,” gave you a stamp of approval. It was worth something; his endorsement was universally respected. There is no other endorsement that has that kind of reach (although a pat on the back from the Rev. Floyd Flake comes close).
Would Koch have endorsed liberal Republican Joe Lhota? Lhota has similar views as Rudy Giuliani when it comes to managing the city, although Lhota is perhaps more progressive than Rudy. Koch and Rudy fell out of favor, but not on the issues.
Or would Koch have sided with Bill de Blasio? De Blasio’s likability may have been a factor. And all of those other races for City Council, Assembly, and State Senate, all will be without the extra seasoning of Ed Koch's opinion.
This City is different without Koch. While Giuliani will still be thought of as America’s mayor, Koch is still New York’s mayor, at least in spirit.