Baseball’s greatest relief pitcher reflects on his just-concluded surefire Hall of Fame career.
When a modern-day ballplayer insists he doesn’t play for money, that personal statistics don’t matter, or that he’s never cheated, heads will shake and eyes will likely roll. It’s a measure of the esteem in which he’s held that Rivera tends to be believed. Over his 19-year career with the Yankees, Rivera became the all-time saves leader and won five World Series. Along the way, he conducted himself with such humility that he earned the love of his teammates, the deep respect of opponents and the admiration of fans. This memoir demonstrates why. With the help of Coffey (co-author, with R.A. Dickey: Wherever I Wind Up, 2012, etc.), Rivera recounts his childhood in Panama, his progress as “a bottom-of-the-barrel” prospect to and through the major leagues, and his inviolable game-day routine. He touches on his many, thrilling career highlights, but he spends as much time on those occasions where, as the most reliable closer in the game, he failed. It’s no surprise to read his admiring, affectionate assessments of teammates—Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and especially Derek Jeter—and of his respect for opponents like Edgar Martinez and Dustin Pedroia, but Rivera makes a place for less-glittering names as well: his mentor Chico Heron, his saintly wife, Clara, Yankee trainer Gene Monahan and minor league teammate Tim Cooper. Rivera mildly criticizes his high school math teacher, an anonymous Westchester County homeowner, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano but otherwise saves any harsh remarks for himself, “an imperfect man on an imperfect journey.” The author’s preternatural calm clearly stems from a deep religious faith some nonbelievers will find disquieting, explaining his devastating cut fastball as a gift from God, his belief in miracles and his conviction that the Holy Spirit once spoke to him on the mound.
Will be devoured by Yankees loyalists and happily sampled by all baseball fans.