Now it’s official.
Long considered the greatest reliever in baseball history, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera picked up record save No. 602 yesterday with a perfect ninth inning as the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 6-4.
The 41-year-old Rivera’s 43rd save of the year broke a tie with the retired Trevor Hoffman for No.1 on the all-time list since the statistic became official in 1969.
“Thank God it’s over, too,” the famously unselfish Rivera told reporters. “Because I was getting a little uncomfortable.”
After Rivera fired a 93-mph fastball that struck out Chris Parmelee looking, his teammates swarmed him, and the afternoon crowd of 40,045 at Yankee Stadium roared.
The milestone for the five-time World Series winner from Panama resonated with fans.
“Regardless of ups, downs, left or right, he was all about the team,” said 32-year-old Justin Stone of Williamsburg, who watched the game at the Blarney Stone in midtown. “Even in his quest of greatness, he was more about the team than he was himself — and that’s through and through.”
Rivera’s command of the mound for the Yankees since he took over the closer job in 1997 has also resulted in 42 postseason saves that do not count toward his career total. Hoffman retired last year with four postseason saves.
“[Rivera] just legitimizes the saves record,” said Wayne McDonnell, professor of sports management at NYU. “This man is going to personify the Yankees for the next 50 years of his life.”
Some fans argued that Rivera’s accomplishment was greater than his teammate Derek Jeter’s 3,000-hit milestone this summer.
“Rivera supersedes Jeter because he had to close those games out,” said Devin Rosa, 35, of Forest Hills.