The Hammer of God


Nicknames have always been part of baseball.  Some of the better known and the players they refer to are:  “The Sultan of Swat” (Babe Ruth); “The Splendid Splinter” (a young, thin Ted Williams); “The Say Hey Kid” (Willie Mays); “The Big Train” (Walter Johnson); “The Great One” (Roberto Clemente); “Big 6” (Christy Mathewson); “The Georgia Peach” (Ty Cobb); “The Flying Dutchman” (Honus Wagner); “The Iron Horse” (Lou Gehrig).  Notice: the first 5 players inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame are included in this list.  But who is known as “The Hammer of God” according to a baseball writer?  Hint: none of those mentioned.  Answer = Mariano Rivera (see above).

Rivera was just voted into the Hall of Fame by Baseball Sportswriters.  He was the first player to be mentioned as worthy of entrance into the Hall by every sportswriter who voted.  That’s 425 out of 425.  Of course, any player who’s faced Rivera would agree.  But why the nickname?

He usually comes into a game in the ninth inning to preserve a win.  Every player knows that.  Every player knows he only throws one pitch: a cut fastball.  They know where the pitch will go, generally: inside to a left-handed batter, outside to a right-handed batter.  And they know he will succeed.

Unlike many relievers, he has no music playing when he comes in from the bullpen.  For example, Trevor Hoffman (who has the 2ndhighest career Save total) enters a game with AC/DC’s Hells Bells announcing his coming. The outcome is certain.  Since Rivera has the Highest career Save total, the outcome is even more certain.  Thus, he is:  The Hammer of God.  Everyone (batter, catcher,  all members of both teams, fans, sports writers) knows what will happen.  No one is successful versus Rivera.

Any statistical evidence to substantiate  the nickname and Rivera’s success?  He pitched 19 years for the New York Yankees, 18 as a reliever.  In his regular season work, he had a record 652 saves, an ERA of 2.21, and a WHIP of 1.00.  He was even better in post-season work: 42 saves, an ERA of 0.70, and a WHIP of 0.759. No wonder every sportswriter gave him a vote and the outcome of his every game is certain,  and the nickname could be very appropriate.


About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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