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Mariano Rivera: Saying Goodbye To #42

(originally written 3/17/13)

As an organization, I think about as highly of the New York Yankees as Jim Everett does of Jim Rome.

Matching levels of contempt envelops yours truly, whether New York is winning a World Series championship or taking a 2nd-inning lead in a Grapefruit League split-squader.

You know how some like to come down on the likes of J-Wow, Paris Hilton, Honey Boo-Boo, etc. for representing the deterioration of society—even though they are not the reason society's priorities are screwed up; they're just benefiting from it the most?

That's kind of how it is with me and the Yankees. They're not the reason the MLB's financial system is screwy, but they benefit from it like no other.

Until said screwiness is addressed, my feelings are unlikely to change.

Fortunately, unlike some irrational fans, I can compartmentalize my feelings towards the organization and those it employs.

I've always been a Derek Jeter fan, for example. He's a unique player's player—he does it all, he does it all well, and he does what can and cannot be appreciated by scanning the back of his Topps card. 

Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams, and David Wells also place on my regarded Yankee list.

However, few players (Yankee or otherwise) exist who I've respected more than Mariano Rivera. He came from Panama over 20 years ago knowing not a word of English; today he is more articulate than many native Americans.

While humble, he is honest and candid, having yet to give a canned response during any interview I've ever heard—unlike so many other athletes whose comments are often rehearsed (or idiotic).

I mean, his awkward reaction to breaking the all-time saves record tells all one needs to know about Mo—if Jose Valverde had been the record-breaker, for example, Valverde would have hammed it up all the way to the following Spring Training. The game could never have too many like Rivera representing it.

Now, #42 is leaving the game, meaning #42 is leaving the game. Jackie Robinson's uniform #42 was retired throughout MLB in 1997 (Rivera's second full season), and only those wearing it at the time were allowed to ever wear it again. While many players gave it up immediately, others carried on.

This article will take a look back at the final #42's in Major League Baseball, including Rivera, the very final.

Dennis Cook, Marlins
1 OF 13

Cook, a durable lefty middle relief pitcher for numerous teams between 1988 to 2002 and a member of three pennant winners—and traded from two others—only began to wear #42 upon joining the Texas Rangers in 1995.

He'd continue to wear it through the 1997 season (when he earned his first of two World Series rings), but never again over his final five seasons.

Tom Goodwin, Royals
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Goodwin, a very fleet outfielder predominantly with the Dodgers, Royals and Rangers from 1991 to 2004, only sported #42 during his Kansas City career, which spanned parts of four seasons (1994-97, although he wore #47 in '94).

He switched to #24 upon his July '97 trade to the Rangers and never wore #42 again.

Buddy Groom, Athletics
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A very durable lefty reliever, Groom's career began with parts of four seasons with the Tigers (1992-95), all spent wearing #42.

He retained the number upon joining the A's for 1996 but switched to #24 and later #29 after its' 1997 league-wide retirement.

For the rest of his career (which ended in 2005) he never again wore #42.

Butch Huskey, Mets
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Huskey was a corner infielder and outfielder for eight years, most notably with the New York Mets.

For most of his five-season Mets tenure (1993-98), a 1999 Mariners stint, and a 2000 Twins stint, #42 was on his back. 

Huskey also wore #44 with the 1999 Red Sox (who apparently were against re-issuing the recently-departed Mo Vaughn's old #42) and #35 with the 2000 Rockies. His MLB career ended in 2000.

Mike Jackson, Indians
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Next to Mo Vaughn, Jackson was the most established, recognized player wearing #42 at the time of its' retirement (remember, Mariano Rivera was only in his second full season and first as closer).

Jackson, whose career began in 1986, had worn that number since joining the Giants in 1992 and continued to wear it through the conclusion of his three-year Indians career in 1999.

He wore #42 again with the 2002 Twins—one of the very last to do so.

Scott Karl, Brewers
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Karl was the Brewers' ace starter in the late-'90's—roughly the equivalent of starring in the CW's highest-rated sitcom. But he was decent, and he wore #42 his entire Milwaukee career (1995-99).

Sent to Colorado in the Jeff Cirillo trade prior to the 2000 season—his last, thanks to a genetic condition affecting his velocity—Karl left the number at County Stadium, donning #33 and #19 for the Rockies and Angels, respectively.

Jose Lima, Astros
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Few pitchers' fortunes rose and fell as dramatically as the late Jose Lima in such a short time— in the 1997 season, his first of five with the Astros, he was still a year away from kicking off "Lima Time", working instead as a long man.

Lima employed #42 throughout his entire Astro tenure as well as his second Tigers stint (2001-02).

He bounced through several different numbers over his final four MLB seasons (2003-06).

Mariano Rivera, Yankees
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0.70 ERA, 0.76 WHIP. 42 saves over 96 career postseason games. 608 career regular-season saves, 2.21 ERA in the regular season.

12 All-Star Games. Four Rolaids Relief Man of the Year awards.

What else needs to be said?

Kirk Rueter, Giants
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Rueter burst on the scene with an 8-0 rookie season with the 1993 Expos, but by 1996 found himself in the Orange and Black, with whom he'd finish his career in 2005.

Rueter (pronounced "Reeter") wore #42 from the beginning of his career until the number's retirement, after which he switched to #45, then #46.

Marc Sagmoen, Rangers
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Trivia: Sagmoen made his MLB debut on April 15, 1997 wearing #42.

The outfielder closed his one-season MLB career wearing #37, however.

Jason Schmidt, Pirates
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At the time an unestablished youngster, Schmidt only wore #42 for his first season-and-a-half with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1996-97), later switching to #22.

He became better affiliated with the #29, his number as ace starter for the 2001-06 San Francisco Giants.

Mo Vaughn, Red Sox
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1995 A.L. MVP Mo Vaughn was the most prominent wearer of #42 at the time of its' retirement, the only (then-active) player besides Mariano Rivera who wore it exclusively for his entire career, and the final player besides Rivera to wear it full-time.

Once among the game's most dangerous hitters, Vaughn's career ended after the 2003 season (though he remained on the disabled list for the final year of his contract in 2004).

Lenny Webster, Orioles
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A journeyman backup catcher and member of the infamous 1994 Expos, Webster only wore #42 during his two-plus seasons with the Orioles.

Cut by the O's in 1999, he never again wore the number over his final year-plus in the major leagues (with Boston and Montreal again).

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