In the summer of 1999 the Yankees production staff picked a haunting and hard driving rock song from the heavy metal band Metallica to be played whenever Mariano Rivera was called in to close a game. Enter Sandman had been released in the early 1990’s and was the band’s signature song of the decade. The song stuck and quickly became a fan favorite in New York.
The bull pen door far in the outfield would open late in a game with the Yankees leading. The music would start blaring. Tens of thousands of heads would turn and look but they knew what was coming. With those first pounding notes you could literally see the defeated looks on the faces of everyone in the Visitor’s dugout. “The Sandman” was coming in and bringing with him a nightmare cut fastball that was impossible to hit. Pack up your children, finish your peanuts, and head for the parking lot if you were rooting the opposing team because the GAME WAS OVER. But more on that later.
We don’t have to rehash the stats, but why not mention a few. Greatest closer of all time with over 600 saves. Will be elected into the baseball Hall of Fame exactly 5 years after he retires and on the first ballot once eligible. One of the most feared pitchers for almost 20 years in Major League Baseball. Owns every post season record for relievers and was on the mound for the final out of 4 different World Series series clinching victories – 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009 – also a record.
Mariano Rivera will forever be remembered as one of the greatest of all time to play the game of baseball. And we are not talking about just one of the best Yankees of all time. That alone would be more then enough for most great players of any era. But in Rivera’s case his legacy and career is bigger then even the famed Yankees franchise.
An obvious freak of nature Rivera’s performances have remained amazingly consistent and strong over two decades. Long past the age when most other players typically retire Rivera at 43 years old just keeps closing games and sitting down batters. Who knew in 1990 when the Yankees signed a young thin player for $3000 who could not speak a word of English that he would become one of the best ever. He had not even been a pitcher in his entire career until he was 19 years old. Think about that and how incredible that is by itself. He was not even a full time pitcher until he was almost 20 years old!
In 1992 Rivera had surgery on his pitching arm. The same year he was left unprotected by the Yankees. There still was doubt about his future as a long term big league player. Luckily for the Yankees no one picked up the young Rivera when they could have. That would have been a disaster. Even luckier was how his fastball gained 5 miles per hour (90mph to 95pmh) in the year after the surgery leading to his eventual call up to the majors in 1995.
In 1996 I was living in New York City and can still remember vividly when Rivera would come in to set up then closer John Wetteland. The duo shut down everyone. It was a 1-2 punch that spelled lights out for the rest of the league. The Yankees would win the World Series that year and no one on any opposing team could get a hit after the 7th inning. It was a magical run and the October 29 championship parade down the Canyon of Heroes in NYC is something I will never forget. I can still see see the monsoon of confetti raining down on the hundreds of thousands of cheering fans as the team drove by.
Rivera was the dominant middle relief pitcher in all of baseball that year and the obvious closer-in-waiting for the Yankees. He would not have to wait long as Wetteland made the stupidest move of his career leaving the Yankees and their young core of new players (Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Williams) for the Rangers in free agency. With Rivera as the team’s closer the Yankees would experience decades of unparallelled excellence.
Back to the song. Back to the music that strikes fear in opposing locker rooms. Back to the Sandman.
The first aggressive notes are heard. The melodic strumming on an electric guitar, only to be quickly followed and joined by a maniacal hard driving drum beat. The song builds. The song intimidates. The Sandman growls. The song IS PURE ENERGY. And when it comes on in Yankee stadium it means only one thing. The best closer in the world is coming in to destroy the hopes, dreams, and rallies of any opposing team. There is no hope and only strike outs.
The tradition and association of Enter Sandman with Mariano Rivera has become legend in baseball. This is not some current and trendy Top 40 hit and is fashionable to play now but will be forgotten a few months later. This is one single song that has been played hundreds and hundreds of times for one specific player when he has entered the ballgame. Other teams should not be able to play Enter Sandman at any time after Rivera has retired. Rivera’s number 42 has already been retired throughout baseball to honor Jackie Robinson and the Yankees retired it again for Rivera. The song should be retired at the same time. It is Mariano’s song plain and simple.
From 1996 through today Rivera has been the best of the best. Year in and year out the best closer in the game. You will be missed Mo. There will never be another like you.
Some of Rivera’s great entrances to Enter Sandman:
About The Author: There's a lot about the world I love. And at the same time there is an equal amount of useless matter that drives me completely nuts. The only way to avoid becoming like Christian Bale in American Psycho and singing Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis and the News all day long is to regurgitate the passion and sometimes madness that boils inside me. I am no better then you. I am no different then you. I am a Normal Guy just trying to fight my way through today and make it to tomorrow.....
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