COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The greatest closer in history is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As he took the podium Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown as the final inductee, Mariano Rivera joked, "Why do I always have to go last?"
The legendary New York Yankees reliever had to wait for the chants of his name to stop before he began a speech that included a brief thank you to his native Panama and the more than 70,000 fans that flocked to the tiny New York town to witness his induction.
Rivera, the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, pitched 19 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Yankees, and retired as the all-time saves leader with 652.
A 13-time All-Star, Rivera helped the Yankees win five World Series titles and seven American League pennants. He led the AL in saves three times and finished with at least 40 nine times, a record he shares with Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.
"You're special for me," Rivera told the fans. "Thank you for your help. Latin American fans, thank you. Thank you for loving me. I'm so humbled and blessed to receive this incredible honor. God bless you all."
Rivera's fellow members of the Yankees' fabled "Core Four" -- Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada -- were in the audience, along with several other former teammates, including former Yankees star Bernie Williams. The center fielder-turned-guitarist performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and then "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" before the closer's speech.
Rivera, 49, joins Rod Carew as the only Panamanians in the Hall of Fame. Rivera spoke about how he left home at age 20 in 1990, not knowing what lay ahead.
"I don't know what I was expecting, but God guided me through," Rivera said.
Among those he thanked were his parents, his wife, Marla, and their four children, the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who made Rivera his closer in 1997.
"That's what I wanted to hear and my career took off," Rivera said.
Rivera would help lead the Yankees to five World Series titles from 1996-2009. He was at his best in the postseason, posting 42 saves and a mind-boggling 0.70 ERA over 16 postseasons, including 11 saves in the World Series.
"I tried to carry the pinstripes as best that I could. I think I did all right with that," the legendary closer said.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.