Enter Mariano

Each Saturday, El Profe digs into moments in baseball history captured by a camera lens. These Iconic Images stir the soul, capturing more than a moment in a game. This weekend, as we all prepare for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s election announcement on Tuesday, feel free to click here and crank it up to 11 as El Profe comes out of the pen to close the week.

Anticipation builds as a manager heads to the mound in the ninth inning. Fans contemplate whether he will come with the hook and make a pitching change. They look to the bullpen to determine whether the closer is ready.

Then comes the signal from the mound, the call to the ‘pen has been made. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” reverberates throughout Yankee Stadium as the bullpen gate swings open. Here comes Mariano Rivera.

The closer’s entrance has become a stylized part of the entertainment provided for baseball fans. These photos captured the ritual that played out hundreds of times from 1999 to 2013 in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium buzzed with excitement with the fans’ raucous response to Rivera’s entrance. With the game on the line there was no one else Yankees fans wanted to see close a game more than Rivera, the last player to wear No. 42 as his regular uniform number.

The ritual that developed from Rivera’s entrance became a familiar one. The door would open, and then the first chord of ‘Enter Sandman’ would play. The slender Panamanian would walk through the door and then take his first paces onto the field.

As the music blared through the stadium speakers, Rivera would break into a trot through the outfield grass headed toward the mound. That was his domain, the space from which he dominated opposing hitters over seventeen seasons as the Yankees closer.

The soaring notes of Rivera’s walk-up music couldn’t have been more different than Rivera’s unassuming personality. Away from the field, whether in the clubhouse or in the public, he didn’t seek to draw attention to himself by being loud, wearing stylish clothes or sharing a hot take about issues in sports or society. Once the bullpen door opened, however, he was coming to slam down the opposing offense. Once on the mound, you couldn’t keep your eyes off him. Rivera was determined and dominating. Every batter he faced knew a cutter was coming. There was little they could do against Rivera. It’s what made him the greatest closer in the history of the game.

Rivera’s “Enter Sandman” walk-up ritual reportedly started in 1999. From that point until he retired in 2013, I witnessed Rivera’s entrance numerous times as a fan in the Bronx stands.

I gained a different perspective of the ritual during the Yankees’ last homestand at the old Yankee Stadium. On Sept.19, 2008, I attended the Yankees game versus the Baltimore Orioles as credentialed media. As Enter Sandman played after Rivera was summoned from the bullpen in the ninth inning, the pressbox shook from the crowd’s noise at Rivera’s entrance.

No Yankees fan left the stadium displeased that night. Rivera shut down the Orioles to secure the victory. It was his last save at the House that Ruth built.

Featured Image: Rob Tringali / Major League Baseball

Inset Image 1: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport

Inset Image 2: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport