By now, most of you can tell I like baseball. One of the many reasons I love our Nation’s Pastime is the way we can compare one ballplayer today to another from yesterday.
Sure, things like steroids or racial segregation make these comparisons inexact. But there really is no other sport where you could imagine a player from yesteryear being able to compete today.
Can you imagine what a 1950’s basketball player, outside of a handful of exceptions, might look like in today’s NBA?
For all his amazing ability, Joe Montana was only 6’2″ and 200 pounds. While not small, that sort of size would make it difficult to survive for him today. Today’s 49er QB is 6’4″ and 240lbs. A handful of vintage NFL players might have survived today’s game, but the use of science good and bad has made the NFL an entirely different game.
The same is true in most sports. Hockey, soccer, track and field. But not baseball. You could make a case that Joe DiMaggio or babe Ruth could hit Tim Lincecum’s fastball. You could probably find a spot for Joe Morgan on any club’s roster. Pete Rose? Sand Koufax? By its geometry and rules, baseball allows for multi-generational comparisons.
That is what made seeing Mariano Rivera’s final few appearances last week so special. Today it is rare for a player to spend his entire career with one club. But “Mo” was and always will be a Yankee.
A 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is MLB’s career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). His accolades include five American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards. Simply the most dominant relief pitcher that ever was.
Our trip to Boston and New York included many highlights. But seeing Mo’s last game in Fenway and then one of his last in Yankee Stadium is something this baseball fan won’t soon forget.