Panama's Mariano Rivera, the best closer in baseball history, ends his 19-year career

On Sunday, Mariano Rivera concluded his 19-season career with an Major League Baseball record 652 regular-season saves and 42 playoff saves, all with the Yankees. Born in Panama City in 1969, Rivera – thanks to his signature cut fastball – finished his career as one of the game’s all-time greats.

Rivera did not pitch in the final weekend series against Houston, instead choosing to end his time as a pro with one final appearance in Yankees Stadium on Thursday. During that game, Rivera walked off to a standing ovation after securing the penultimate out. Long-time teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to remove Rivera, the three Yankees stars sharing tearful hugs before the 43-year-old Panamanian ace’s final curtain call.

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Rivera ranks second all-time with a 2.21 earned-run average and fourth on the career list with 1,115 games pitched.

The previous Sunday the Yankees honored ace closer Mariano Rivera, with a pre-game ceremony and the retiring of his number. The festivities included a performance by Los Angeles heavy metal band “Metallica,” who played Rivera’s entrance song “Enter Sandman” as Rivera walked onto the field from the pitchers’ bullpen to a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

“I appreciate you guys,” Rivera said. “I thank you guys, I love you guys. You are special.”

Former teammates in attendance included David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and John Wetteland. Rivera replaced Wetteland as the Yankees’ closing pitcher.

New York also retired Rivera’s number 42.

Number 42 had already been retired throughout baseball in honor of groundbreaking black player Jackie Robinson, but those who were wearing it were allowed to keep it until the end of their careers.

“Even though I never met him, he has been a hero and an inspiration for me,” said Rivera about Robinson, whose widow and daughter were also present.

While Rivera had expressed an interest to play in center field for an inning against the Astros, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided against it, concerned about Rivera’s right knee that underwent surgery last year.

“If it would have been a few years earlier, I would have done it,” Rivera said. “Now my knee is not cooperating.

“I’m not going to make a fool of myself out there. I respect the game too much for me to do something that I’m not supposed to be doing.”

The Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week, and the team won their final game of the season 5-1 in 14 innings against the Astros, baseball’s worst team. This will be only the second time in 19 years that Rivera’s Yankees aren’t participating in the postseason.