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.