To say Mariano Rivera has made a huge impact on New York Yankees fans (and sports fans in general) would be an understatement.
He’s simply one of the most respected athletes in the world today, and when he went down with the season-ending knee injury in Kansas City last May, it put a knot in the gut of more than just those who support and sport the Yankees' pinstripes.
One man who took Rivera’s setback particularly hard, though, is indeed a Yankees fan and is also a Bronx resident. His name is Buddy Niederhoffer. He’s a 36-year-old massage therapist. And he wanted to put together something special so that Mariano Rivera would know for sure that fans everywhere, not just New York, were supporting him all the way through his comeback.
“I thought something should be done for him because he has done so much for the Yankees and their fans and baseball in general,” said Niederhoffer. “We’re talking about one of the all-time greats here. To me, Mariano is Picasso in pinstripes, hands down the best ever at what he does, and despite everything that has gone wrong in baseball, everything from collusion to steroids, Mariano remains one of the good guys.”
Very eloquently stated. The Picasso in pinstripes is an especially wonderful description of a pitcher who has painted the strike zone with his cut fastball for nearly two decades. And it also fits with the project he spear-headed, which was to create sketchbook. Once completed, Niedenhoffer hit the road looking for as many signatures, messages and creative well wishes as he could squeeze into it.
Needless to say, it was a rousing success.
Niederhoffer collected handwritten notes for Rivera from, among others, bartenders; hot dog vendors; the former major leaguers Tim Raines, John Franco and Mickey Rivers; the Newark Bears’ team chaplain; police officers; train conductors; Coast Guardsmen; his girlfriend, Karen Rossi; graffiti artists; bocce players; a girls’ softball team; his former sociology professor at Fordham; the Trenton Thunder mascot, Boomer; a dozen poets at the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe; Marc Anthony’s band director, Angel Fernandez; a man in his 90s who said he had seen Babe Ruth hit a home run at Yankee Stadium in 1932; and a homeless man at Lincoln Center.
The Times article also notes that Niedenhoffer landed 15 signatures from Boston Red Sox fans when he made a special trip to Fenway Park last season. He also managed to get Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Brooke Shields to sign.
It's a pretty wild story, and it's about to have a happy ending. The book will delivered to Rivera by a Times writer sometime during spring training, so all of Niedenhoffer's hard work will be rewarded and appreciated.
If you get the opportunity, I'd highly recommend reading the entire Times articles to get a better grasp on the work that was put in. It's lengthy, but it's a highly entertaining piece.
Big BLS H/N: Eye on Baseball
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