by Mario "The Game" Granata
Two titans of baseball. Two men among men. Two players who had all the style and grace that one could only dream of possessing. Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera have left their mark on the game of baseball and more importantly the game of life, so lets take a look of how closely related these two men are.
In preparing to write this article, thoughts flooded my head of the impact that these two men had, not only on the game of baseball, but on the culture and people around them. One of these men will be remembered largely for breaking in, while the other will be remembered for closing out, but the manner for which they exemplified how we should all be as a whole should be what is remembered the most. Both men are role models that extend beyond the diamond, and more importantly, the generation that they represented. Many parents, and grandparents tell stories of Jackie Robinson’s resiliency and strength for young people to feel inspired and proud, and I know I will tell stories of the character and professionalism of Mariano Rivera. While Jackie Robinson had to subdue many of his initial feelings and emotions in a racially charged time, Mariano paralleled him as far as emotions, at least on the field. From Save 1 to Save 652, if you were to show a stream of highlights of all of them, I doubt that you would see much of a difference between them. The quintessential professional, Mariano Rivera received a standing ovation at Fenway Park, which not many Yankees can lay claim to.
Both men have shined in the spotlight, on and off the field, and their humility about their own impact on those around them is a true testament to something everyone should aspire to achieve, not just athletes. When we talk about athletes, and sports, one cannot ignore the numbers involved. As we all know, upon Mariano’s retirement, no other player will wear 42 again, with the exception of Jackie Robinson Day, but did you know that the only season that Mariano missed, was when he was 42 years old? When Mariano became a significant contributor of the Yankees in the 1998 season, this championship took place 42 seasons after Jackie’s last. Did you know that during Rivera’s 13 All Star seasons, he averaged 42 saves a year?
Statistics and numbers aside, over the past seven decades we all had a front row seat to the teachings of these two men, and they taught us all we need to know about sports and humanity. While one man came into the league, opening our eyes to what sports could be, at the beginning of a monumental movement, the other man, the Sandman, showed us what sports should be, closing the book, and exemplifying all the class and respect we as fans could hope for along the way. In baseball, and in life, these men taught us that it’s not enough to begin something, unless you have the strength to finish, and although the book of life, and baseball is far from complete, when it pertains to Chapter 42, Jackie to Mariano is all that has to be said.