That Mariano Rivera would be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer was fait accompli the second he announced his retirement. But in getting elected, he did something no one before him had done: he got 100 percent of the vote.
The Yankees legend, with his name checked off on all ballots cast, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, along with Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, and fellow Yankees teammate Mike Mussina.
Due to Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame ballot tracker, it had been known that Rivera's name had been checked off on all ballots that had been shared in public. What wasn't known was whether the ballots that were submitted but not in the tracker would have any that knocked Rivera off the 100 percent pace. They did not.
"Mariano was a fierce competitor and a humble champion, which has made him such a beloved baseball legend," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in an official statement. "Success and stardom never changed Mariano, and his respect for the game, the Pinstripes and for his teammates and opponents alike makes this day such a celebration of his legacy. There will be many more great and talented relief pitchers, but there will never be another like him. This is another incredible achievement for Mariano, and a day like today brings me great pride knowing he wore the Pinstripes for each and every game of his remarkable career."
The 49-year-old Rivera, who retired after the 2013 season, finished his career with a major league record 652 saves during his 19 seasons. But more impressive than Rivera's save totals were the otherworldly numbers he put up while getting there.
Rivera had a 2.21 ERA (2.76 FIP) and 1.00 WHIP while striking out 1,173 batters in 1,283.2 regular season innings. And his postseason numbers were somehow even better.
Over the span of 16 postseasons, during which the Yankees won five World Series titles, Rivera had a 0.70 ERA and 0.759 WHIP in 141 innings (96 games over 32 postseason series). He allowed a grand total of two postseason home runs -- one in 1997 and one in 2000, and was named World Series MVP in 1999 against the Braves and ALCS MVP in 2003 against the Red Sox.
"After my career, I was thinking I had a good shot to be a Hall-of-Famer," Rivera said on a conference call Tuesday. "But this was just beyond my imagination. Just to be considered a Hall-of-Famer is quite an honor, but being unanimous -- it's amazing."
"Mariano was simply the best ever at closing out games," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said in a statement. "He had the perfect combination of confidence and humility, and it was a thrill to play alongside him."
Jorge Posada, who caught most of Rivera's final outs over his career, added: "Mariano is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime pitcher, and the greatest closer to ever play the game of baseball. There was such a humility and grace to the way he did his job -- day after day and year after year. I'm so proud of everything he has accomplished, and I'm ecstatic that he and his family can celebrate this ultimate honor."
Rivera is also one of the few Hall-of-Famers to spend his entire career with one team, with him having signed with the Yankees after a tryout in Panama City on Feb. 17, 1990 for just $2,000.
He becomes just the second Panamanian-born player to reach the Hall of Fame, joining Rob Carew.
"I hope the people of Panama are celebrating the way that we are celebrating now," Rivera said. "Just being the second player that reached that plateau, I'm grateful because the Lord allowed me to be born in that beautiful country that I love and respect and represent."
Rivera will take his place in Cooperstown among the immortals when Induction Day takes place on Sunday, July 21.