Joe Torre, Bob Gibson agree: Mariano Rivera is best closer ever
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SCARBOROUGH, N.Y. -- Joe Torre knows a thing or two about Mariano Rivera, as well as a thing or two about life after baseball.
The former Yankees manager took over in the Bronx before the 1996 season, before baseball's all-time saves leader ever had an opportunity to close out a game. Now, 638 saves -- and counting -- and four World Series rings later, Torre is able to look on admiringly as one of his greatest players prepares to join him in retirement.
"I wouldn't be wearing World Series rings without him," said Torre, speaking Wednesday at a golf charity event for his Safe-at-Home Foundation at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. "What he's done in a high-pressurized role for a high-pressurized organization in the City of New York, it's not easy to do. Trust me."
As Yankees manager, Torre, who is now a Major League Baseball executive vice president, benefitted from Rivera's unparalleled ability to saw off bats and close out games. A number of former MLB players joined him Wednesday morning to express awe and respect for Rivera.
"He's the best closer ever. He's so good, I don't know that you could possibly compare him to anyone else," Hall of Famer Bob Gibson said.
"The crazy thing is, Mo could do this for five more years," said Mitch Williams, who was a closer for six major league teams and is now an analyst for MLB Network.
Added Gibson: "But in a couple of years, people might forget [how good he was]. He'll be out of sight, out of mind. And they'll pick someone else to love."
For now, the love is being directed toward Rivera, who has been honored this season at ballparks throughout the majors. The defining moment of the farewell tour may have come during Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Citi Field. Rivera entered the game in the eighth inning to a standing ovation from fans and players that lasted more than a minute.
"What an amazing show of respect," said David Cone, a teammate of Rivera's for six seasons.
"He deserves it. He's the best I ever saw," said former Yankee Sparky Lyle, a three-time All-Star and one of only nine relievers to win the Cy Young Award. "His record will never be broken. It'll be a sad day [when he retires]."