Few Clouds 40° Good Evening
Few Clouds 40° Good Evening

Rivera proves it pays to save

Mariano Rivera blows a kiss to the crowd

Mariano Rivera blows a kiss to the crowd to acknowledge cheers after recording his 602nd save. (Sept. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

Lord knows Mariano Rivera had nothing to prove when he took the mound yesterday in the ninth inning against the hapless Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. His plaque for Cooperstown is already inscribed.

Leaving aside a rookie year that included 10 starts, Rivera had racked up 16 seasons of relief duty so consistently and effortlessly dominant that nobody else comes close.

He already had kept the lead for the Yankees 601 times. And he racked up a stunning 42 postseason saves.

By any reasonable standard, the incomparable Mariano Rivera was already the greatest relief pitcher ever to don a uniform when he headed for the mound yesterday afternoon.

Then, in case anyone had any doubt, he calmly racked up save No. 602 when he got there, breaking a tie with the retired Trevor Hoffman for the most by anybody since the statistic was invented in 1969.

The ageless and unfailingly humble Rivera -- he's actually 41 -- has done all this without a swelled head or even a hint of scandal. After his historic achievement yesterday, he selflessly -- and characteristically -- deflected praise in order to thank practically everyone else, including his teammates, his fans, his family and his God.

It's great when a local star makes it into the record books so history can notch what we in New York knew was inevitable. It's even better when, like Mariano Rivera, the star is one so worthy of our admiration.