My very close friend, the late Ron Bishop, is celebrating in Heaven today. His favorite baseball player, Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees, was chosen for induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame yesterday, becoming the first player in history to ever be a unanimous choice. Rivera will join five others including Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines and Lee Smith in being inducted on July 21st in Cooperstown, New York.
What makes this so special is not that Rivera is going in on his first try at the Hall of Fame, but that he is the first ever unanimous pick for the Hall. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.....none of them getting every single vote on a ballot by the American Baseball Writer's Association.
That really shows the kind of respect that Rivera got from everyone in his tremendous 19-year baseball career.
Five World Series rings, 652 saves, the most ever, 13 All-Star game appearances, as well as MVP awards from the All-Star Game, the ALCS and the World Series are part of his legacy. There has never been a more dominating or intimidating pitcher to ever step on a mound. When Mariano would enter a game from the Yankee bullpen to "Enter Sandman" by Metallica you could feel the air going out of the opposing team's bubble. They knew they had no chance, and most of the time they didn't. Not only would his "cut" fast ball get batters out but many times batters would break their bats trying to hit him.
If you didn't know what Mariano Rivera looked like, you would swear he was about 6'7" inches tall and weighed 260 pounds. That wasn't the case. He was a skinny guy who stood barely six feet tall and weighed 175 pounds dripping wet. And when you saw him in person he was the most friendly, polite person you would ever want to meet.
A few years back, Mariano was signing autographs for Ron Bishop and his SCORE organization in Tampa, Florida. I asked Coach Bishop if he could get him to sign a few pictures for me. He signed as many as I sent him at no charge. I gave most of them away except for two I have framed in my house. That kind of willingness to serve others is what separates Mariano Rivera from most other professional athletes.
There have been polls in New York City to determine the Greatest Yankee ever. Mariano Rivera is on or near the top in every single one. What a great legacy by an even greater man.; a legacy that is being touted by Ron Bishop in Heaven today.
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com