Before Mariano Rivera became an integral piece of the Yankees dynasty, he was nearly traded to the Detroit Tigers for David Wells in the summer of 1995.
In an excerpt from Bill Pennington's book, "Chump to Champs," then-Yankees GM Gene Michael was "leaning" toward trading the 25-year-old right-hander, who recently struggled when called up to the majors, but stalled.
Rivera had just been sent back down to the minors and was on the disabled list. The Tigers wanted to make sure the injury was not serious before going forward with a deal, either, but in Rivera's first start back something happened that may have changed the course of Yankees history.
Rivera threw five perfect innings before a rainstorm ended his day, but the right-hander's velocity jumped from around 91 mph to 95-96 mph.
"They said the ball was flying out of Mariano's hands," Michael said, retelling the story in 2017 before he passed away that September. "But, you know, this was 1995. The radar guns weren't as sophisticated. They could be wrong. Or something odd might have happened. I said to myself: 'It's one reading. I need another reading from that game.'"
Michael called the Yankees' minor-league affiliate Columbus Clippers to verify the report and then called Jerry Walker, the St. Louis Cardinals' director of player personnel whom Michael knew when they were both scouts.
The Cardinals were also interested in Rivera so Michael called Walker and asked about a variety of players before bringing up Rivera. Walker then confirmed all the other reports on Rivera.
"The next person I called was [then-Yankees manager] Buck Showalter," Michael said. "I told him, 'We're recalling Rivera to New York right now. I don't know how he did it, but he's throwing 95 in Columbus.'
"Then I called [Tigers GM] Joe Klein and told him the deal was off."
Rivera tossed eight shutout innings and struck out 11 in his next start and while he never fully panned out as a starter, the rest was still history as he stuck with the Bombers and had a Hall of Fame career.
Rivera credited it God's work but Michael did not care how it happened, other than it happened.
"Who knows how Mariano found that extra five miles an hour," he said. "But I'll tell you what. At the time, we didn't give a s--t about how it happened. We were just going to get him out on that mound as often as we could."