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Trump honors Yankees great Mariano Rivera with Medal of Freedom

Trump honors Mariano Rivera
Trump presents Medal of Freedom to baseball legend Mariano Rivera 07:06

President Trump honored Hall of Fame Yankees pitching great Mariano Rivera with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday in a White House East Room ceremony, an honor the president enjoys bestowing on major sports figures. 

The retired 49-year-old Rivera, known simply as "The Closer," spent more than 19 seasons with the New York Yankees, where he became Major League Baseball's all-time leader in saves. He currently holds the record for most career saves with 652.

"He may be the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball," the president said after introducing Rivera by his nickname, The Sandman.

A 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, this summer he added another record to his list of accolades when he became the first player unanimously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. 

President Trump awards the Medal of Freedom to former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. CBS News

When he spoke at his Hall of Fame induction, where nearly 55,000 people celebrated him, the widely-respected icon recalled that baseball was not originally part of his career plans. He left high school to work on his father's fishing boat and planned to become a mechanic in his home country of Panama.

"I was the happiest man in baseball," Rivera said at the White House Monday. Rivera touched on one of the president's favorite topics — immigration.

"Learning English is the first thing that we should do," Rivera said of immigrants. 

Monday's ceremony marked the 12th Medal of Freedom Mr. Trump has bestowed in office, and Rivera is the seventh sports figure to receive the award from Mr. Trump. Previous sportsmen honored by the president include the late Yankees icon Babe Ruth and pro golfer Tiger Woods.

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