Some games at the time don’t seem that special, but they just stay with you. This was one of those times. It was cold. And there was a steady drizzle that would not go away. I’m not sure I could handle such a game today but I was twenty years younger and my thirteen game plan said, “This is the night,” so off I went to the Yards.
Yankees vs. Orioles. This was the first time I saw Derek Jeter. I knew he was considered something specials and Retrosheet tells me he had a couple of hits but to be honest I don’t really remember him. Everyone had hits that night.
Andy Pettitte was the starting pitcher for the Yankees. It was the first of many times I would see Pettitte over his distinguished career. That night he surrendered eight earned runs in less than two innings. Like I said; everyone hit that night.
The game slogged on. The Yankees scored some runs to tie it. Then they scored some more runs to go ahead. Then just when the Orioles got some men on base, the drizzle turned into a rain. Tarp goes on the field. Fans shiver. More rain. More chills. Finally it stops. The Yankees bring in a new pitcher. By this time I had been shivering in my seat, going on four hours, and seen various pitchers on both sides get smacked around.
The new pitcher took the mound for the Yanks. I watched as he threw his warm-ups. Now I am by no means a baseball scout. But I can still recall his easy fluid delivery. The way the ball seemed to have special zip to it as it landed into the catcher’s mitt. I recall distinctly saying to myself,
“This guy is good.”
He quickly disposed of the Birds’ hitters for the next two innings. The Yankees won the game 13-10.
His name was Mariano Rivera. The following year he became the Yankee closer. He was still their closer when he retired after the 2013 baseball season. He is universally regarded as the greatest relief pitcher the game has ever seen. Over the years I saw him many times, but the image of Mariano Rivera that remains fixed in my mind is from that cold April night.
Like I said. Some games just stay with you.