When most people retire after a long successful career, their employers and coworkers get them something kind of lame, like a plaque, or an engraved beer stein from Things Remembered. If you are a very famous and successful Major League Baseball player, however, there’s a little more fanfare. You don’t just get a little token present and a farewell party with a big sheet cake. You get an entire “farewell tour.” And at each stop of that farewell tour you get a little ceremony in front of 30,000 fans and a really extravagant gift.
Sounds pretty okay way to go out, doesn’t it?
Last year the biggest retirement in MLB was that of Chipper Jones. This year, of course, it’s the retirement of Mariano Rivera.
So what do you get for the greatest closer in the history of baseball when he retires? Well, that’s obviously some uncharted territory. But so far, 14 teams have taken a stab at it, and today we’re going to show you what they came up with. Sit back and take a look.
On August 6, when making his final ever appearance at the South Side home of the Chicago White Sox (sorry, it's still hard for me to use "U.S. Cellular Field" in a sentence), the home team presented Mariano Rivera with framed scorecards from his first ever game at Comiskey Park (now those I can type) and his first game there after 9/11. They also presented him with an oversized novelty check made out in his name to the Jackie Robinson Foundation for...no, wait, you guess how much.
Yep, that's right: $4,200.
14. Frames Scorecards (White Sox)
On the legendary closer's final trip to Angels Stadium in Anaheim back on June 15, the team presented him with a pretty nice oil painting by Albert Pujols.
Okay, it wasn't really painted by Pujols. But I had you going there for a second, didn't I?
No? Well, sorry.
13. Oil Painting (Angels)
Most teams gave Mariano a personalized memento of some sort as well as a charitable donation in his honor. However, some gave just the memento, and others gave just the donation.
Tied at #10 are the three teams that just made donations. The Mariners and Rockies both made $5,000 contributions to the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Meanwhile, the Royals also contributed to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, but the amount was apparently undisclosed.
The Mariano Rivera Foundation, by the way, is dedicated to restoring and rehabbing churches, which I must say is pretty cool.
Just this past weekend, Rivera paid his last ever visit to the Trop in Tampa. To commemorate the occasion, the Rays gave a couple of thoughtful gifts: a sand sculpture of "The Sandman," plus $50 for every save Rivera ever earned against Tampa donated to the Mariano Rivera Foundation...which, with 63 saves, came to $3,150.
You'd have to think that both Rivera and the Rays are both a little glad he won't be playing there anymore. Rivera because Tropicana Field is awful, and the Rays because the dude absolutely had their number over the years.
9. Sand Sculpture (Rays)
San Diego is a beach town, so they gave Rivera a beach gift when he visited Petco Park for the last time August 2: five custom beach cruiser bicycles—one for each member of his family.
Of course, what made this gift extra special was the fact that it was presented by Trevor Hoffman, the guy Rivera passed at the top of the all-time saves list.
8. Beach Cruiser Bicycles (Padres)
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Oakland?
It's not surfing, is it? Nevertheless, the A's for some reason gave Mariano Rivera a custom surfboard during his final visit to the Oakland Coliseum back in June.
Of course, they made up for the randomness of the surfboard with a sizeable check for $10,042 made out to the Mariano Rivera Foundation.
7. Surf Board (Athletics)
The only logical thing the Rangers could give Rivera: matching cowboy hat and boots. Well, and maybe a gold-plated six-shooter. But that probably would have received negative publicity back in New York, so the Rangers stuck with the hat and boots...plus a $5,000 donation to the closer's foundation.
As you can see, Mariano obviously enjoyed the hat.
6. Cowboy Hat & Boots (Rangers)
So this isn't exactly a retirement gift from a team, but it's pretty great and I don't think you'll mind that I've decided to include it. On July 12, Delta Airlines—the official airline of the New York Yankees—honored Mariano Rivera by naming one of it's Boeing 757s after him. Then they presented him with a model of that plane.
How many jets are named after you?
5. Jet Renaming (Delta Airlines)
Though they hardly ever play each other any more, the Dodgers and Yankees have a profound historical connection dating back to the days when the franchises were both based in New York. Moreover, Rivera himself has his very own connection to the Dodgers, seeing as how he is the last player in Major League Baseball to wear the number 42, which of course was the number worn by Dodgers great Jackie Robinson.
With that kind of historical connection between Rivera and the Dodgers, it's no wonder that the Dodgers went all-out for their Rivera retirement ceremony back on July 31. Living legend Vin Scully introduced Rivera, then Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, appeared on the jumbotron thanking Mariano for wearing her husband's number with such grace and class.
After that, the Dodgers presented Rivera with a gold-plated deep sea fishing real and a $10,000 donation to his foundation.
Well done, Dodgers. Well done.
4. Gold Fishing Reel (Dodgers)
Relief pitchers have long been referred to as "firemen" due to the fact that their job is to come in from the bullpen and put out the metaphorical fires left burning by the starting pitcher. It was only fitting, therefore, that the New York Mets would honor the greatest relief pitcher of them all with a mounted call box and mounted fire hose nozzle. In fact, MLB should probably start some kind of reliever award, make the trophy a fire hose nozzle, and name it after Rivera.
3. Mounted Fire Hose Nosel & Call Box (Mets)
This is one of my personal favorites. Back in 1999, the sound guy at Yankee Stadium started playing Metallica's "Enter Sandman" every time Mariano Rivera entered the game from the bullpen. It was a huge hit, and pretty soon "The Sandman" became Rivera's primary nickname—one of the greatest in pro sports today.
It was very fitting, therefore, that on May 13, the Cleveland Indians would present Rivera with a gold record of the Metallica song after which he was named.
Now the only question is this: will Metallica come play the song live on September 22, the date the Yankees have planned an elaborate Mariano Rivera ceremony? The band is playing New York on September 21. They're available.
Let's hope everyone involved makes this happen.
2. Gold Metallica Sandman Record (Indians)
A rocking chair made out of baseball bats might seem kind of dumb to you if you don't know all that much about Rivera. However, it's actually pretty amazing.
You see, what makes Mariano Rivera unique among pitchers is that almost all his success, all his fame, and all his glory are due to the utter devastation of one pitch: the cutter. It's the pitch he throws the vast majority of the time, and it's so good that, even though batters know it's coming, they still can't hit it. Instead, is just cuts in on them and breaks their bats.
That's why this chair is so special. It's not made of bats. It's made of broken bats.
None of the other gifts given to Rivera symbolize what made him so great.
Nice going, Twins.
1. Rocking Chair of Broken Dreams (Twins)
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