Mariano Rivera honors late Yankees pitching coach with touching Hall of Fame tribute

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

One day after becoming baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Fame inductee, Mariano Rivera had a lot of people to thank upon his arrival to Cooperstown. That included Mel Stottlemyre, his longtime pitching coach with the New York Yankees.

Sadly, Rivera won’t be able to share the moment with his respected mentor. It was just 10 days ago we learned the devastating news that Stottlemyre had died at age 77. But Rivera is making sure everyone knows the impact Stottlemyre had on his career.

Touching tribute

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In a touching moment at Wednesday’s Hall of Fame press conference, Rivera honored Stottlemyre by crediting him with helping to shape his career.

Rivera spoke of one session in particular, which he says came right after the Yankees’ World Series championship in 1998, as a foundation moment for what developed into an undeniable Hall of Fame career.

Said Rivera:

“I was blessed that I had one of the best pitching coaches, and that to me was Mel Stottlemyre. I remember after winning the World Series in ’98, we went to an instructional place to throw some pitches to minimize the amount of pitches that I was using. To me, that was one of the best things I did in my career. That helped me. That was one of the reasons I was able to pitch for so long, because I was using less pitches. That helped my longevity in the game. I attribute that to Mel.”

Legendary Yankees pitching Mel Stottlemyre was honored by his star pupil, new Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. (AP)
Legendary Yankees pitching Mel Stottlemyre was honored by his star pupil, new Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. (AP)

Most dominant pitch in MLB history

Rivera took the advice to heart. He became known for his ability to dominate batters despite featuring one main pitch, a mid-90s cut fastball that many argue is the most effective single pitch in MLB history.

Batters knew it was coming, yet they could never make the proper adjustments. Rivera recorded countless outs and broke dozens of bats each season with that one pitch.

There’s still some question over when Rivera discovered his famous cutter. Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi says Rivera had it in his arsenal when he arrived to catch for New York in 1996.

It became Rivera’s most effective pitch in 1997. Some believe he discovered a better feel for the cutter while playing catch with fellow reliever Ramiro Mendoza. Whatever the case, it quickly became an out-getter for Rivera, and a game-changer for the Yankees.  

Rivera knows how important Stottlemyre’s advice was to his development. By suggesting Rivera narrow down his pitch selection, Stottlemyre essentially challenged his young pupil to challenge opposing hitters with his best pitch. 

Aside from throwing the occasional sinker, which helped to keep batters off balance, that’s exactly what Rivera did. In the process, Rivera discovered his best pitch was his ticket to an MLB record 652 saves and the Hall of Fame.   

More Hall of Fame coverage from Yahoo Sports:

Hall of Fame adds four: Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina
Rivera becomes first-ever unanimous Hall selection
Bonds, Clemens, Schilling make progress toward Cooperstown
Jeter headlines star-studded 2020 ballot
The phone rang for Halladay, one of the greats

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