For New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday marked the culmination of a career that established the longtime closer as one of the most dominant – and highest-earning – players in MLB history.
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Rivera retired after the 2013 season as a five-time World Series champion and MLB’s all-time career saves leader. He also became the first player in history to be unanimously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with 100 percent of the vote on his first ballot.
Rivera earned nearly $170 million during 18 major league seasons and spent his entire career with the Yankees. That total ranks 28th all-time among MLB players and first among relief pitchers, according to Spotrac data.
“To the fans, you guys always pushed me to be the best,” Rivera said during his speech. “When I was at Yankee Stadium pitching, it felt like I was pitching with 55,000 people throwing one pitch after another. Without your support, I cannot do it. You guys came to see me succeed.”
Rivera’s unexpected rise to stardom began in Panama, where he caught the eye of Yankees scouts after switching from shortstop to the pitcher’s mound. He signed his first professional contract with the Yankees for a signing bonus of just $2,500, and arrived in the United States in 1990 unable to speak English.
The right-hander began his professional career as a starting pitcher, but he shifted to a relief role during his rookie season. Rivera became known for his cut fastball, which confounded both left-handed and right-handed batters through his career.
As a member of the Yankees, Rivera saved a record 652 games and made 13 All-Star appearances. He is just the second player born in Panama to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame.