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Mariano Rivera: the last man to wear 42

Apr 15, 2010, 8:46 AM EDT

Surprisingly, some of you thought I was being serious yesterday when I made that crack about no one giving hell to Mariano Rivera for not changing his number on Jackie Robinson Day. Of course I know that he wears 42, the last player allowed to do so by virtue of being the last active player who was wearing it when Major League Baseball retired it in 1997.

There’s no way it ever could have been predicted back in 1997 that he
would be the last man to wear the number, but I’m struggling to think of
anyone more worthy of it than Rivera. The guy just oozes grace and professionalism. Indeed, it’s hard to point out anyone who played in between Jackie Robinson’s retirement and Rivera’s debut who ranks higher in these categories than Mo does.  

The New York Times has a nice piece about Rivera and 42 this morning.  Worth a read on one of baseball’s most special days.

  1. ochocinco - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:58 AM


  2. DiamondDuq - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    If MLB chose to retire the number for some significant reason, I get that, but let’s not act like Jackie Robinson is even in the top 10 second basemen of all-time. Why isn’t the first Jewish player’s number retired? How about Asian player? Hispanic player anyone? Why isn’t the number of the greatest baseball player of all-time retired? That’s Babe Ruth’s number 3 by the way and second place isn’t even close. The man doesn’t even have his own reward, ie Cy Young, at least name the MVP the Babe Ruth Award or something. That being said, Mo is the perfect representative of the number 42 and should rightfully be the last to wear it, if of course you agree it should have been retired in the first place, I mean, Hank Aaron suffered no less hardship breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record, which by the way took him over 3000 more AB’s, than did Jackie Robinson for showing up to the ballpark but 44 is not retired.

  3. ditmars1929 - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Nice comment, Diamond. Go to the previous post regarding Jackie Robinson Day, see my comment, and let me know what you think.

  4. Jonny5 - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Jackie Robinson was the first step in fixing a huge “wrong” that was being implemented in American society. His number isn’t retired out of ability to play ball alone, his number was retired out of respect that is rightfully bestowed on a Great American ballplayer who proved he had the right to play for an American major league team. It is afterall his country he helped as well as the game. His number is retired as a thank you for what he endured to be the American baseball player he deserved to be.

  5. Roger Moore - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    If you don’t think Jackie Robinson was a great player, you need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with his playing record. He hit .311 with good power and drew a bunch of walks. He was a great base runner and base stealer, and by statistical measures played good to great defense wherever he got moved on the field. For what it’s worth, in the New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James rated Robinson the 4th best second baseman in history, and that’s based purely on his numbers.
    If his career numbers aren’t that impressive, maybe it has something to do with the color line keeping him from playing in the majors until he was 28 years old.

  6. IdahoMariner - Apr 15, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    “If MLB chose to retire the number for some significant reason, I get that”
    wow, your complete lack of understanding of history, the difficulties that the players in the Negro Leagues faced, the outright hatred that Jackie Robinson faced simply by being the first and only, …everything…. it’s breathtaking. And depressing. Hank Aaron himself would tell you … he had it hard, very hard, but Jackie was the first. Totally different. As was the experience of Latin players and Jewish players and Asian players.
    I am totally entertained, by the way, Craig, at how many people didn’t get your joke yesterday.
    Also, the guy who was mad that everyone “has” to wear 42 today totally whiffed it as well.

  7. IdahoMariner - Apr 15, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    also worth a read, especially in light of the above comments, is Jos Posnanski’s piece on hsi blog today:

  8. Old Gator - Apr 15, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    I suspect that Mariano made a Faustian bargain to keep that number.

  9. Rays fan - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:46 AM

    1) I agree with you that Babe Ruth is inarguably the greatest MLB player ever–at least until someone else comes along that totally rewrites the record book for hitters, causes changes in how the game’s played and ballparks are designed, and at the same time would have been a Hall of Fame pitcher had he stayed one. But that’s all I agree with.
    2) There IS a Babe Ruth Award, and has been for over 60 years–it’s awarded by the BBWAA to the most outstanding player in the World Series.
    3) What Jackie Robinson endured is in no way comparable to what the first Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, or any other minority player did. None of them ere ever barred from MLB just because of who they were. We’ll never know just how great Josh Gibson really was because he never as allowed to play in the majors. Satchell Paige should have had 15+ years in the majors before his “rookie” season. Robinson faced death threats regularly. The Dodgers had to change hotels at times because he was not allowed to stay in them because of the color of his skin. I recommend you read some books about the history of the civil rights movement, and understand that Robinson was not just a great ballplayer, or even just a pioneer against injstice in baseball–he was an eye-opener to many in this country, helping to pave the way for desegregation in all walks of life.

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