How Did Mariano Rivera Make History at the Baseball Hall of Fame?

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As the Yankees’ most prominent pitcher for close to two decades, Mariano Rivera is as close to a household name as 21st century baseball players get (well, besides Rivera’s own Yankees teammate, Derek Jeter). He’s literally the picture for the Wikipedia article on closing pitchers — his prominence can’t be understated, even in his retirement. Although he stopped pitching just about six years ago, his impact still reverberates throughout the baseball community.

Yesterday, something amazing happened at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rivera is now the first Major League Baseball player to have been unanimously elected to the elite club. If this at first sounds like a minor accomplishment, think about this: 425 people submitted ballots to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. This means that all 425 people who decide which baseball players get to go to the Hall of Fame agreed that Mariano Rivera deserves a spot there. This is far more than a “majority rules” situation — everyone wanted him there (a 75% yes vote is required for induction).

It gets crazier: even Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, perhaps the two names most immediately associated with the history of American baseball, weren’t unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps Rivera was such a universal pick because he holds the all-time MLB record for saves — this means he preserved his team’s lead during the final innings of games more often than any other pitchers in baseball history. Rivera is also the picture for Wikipedia’s saves article, to go along with the theme of wider cultural impact.

Congratulations to Mariano Rivera for making history with yesterday’s Hall of Fame vote!

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