Quintessential Mo-Ments No 6: The "Heir Apparent" seizes the throne

08/25/2013 9:04 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

April 5, 1997, isn't a milestone date, per se, but is one that will live in Mariano Rivera's mind forever.(AP)
Sure, Mariano Rivera had five saves during the stellar 1996 season in which he served as John Wetteland's set-up man, but as almost any closer might tell you, it's a lot different feeling to close a game when you know that you are "the" guy.

Rivera took that closer's mantle in 1997 when Wetteland left as a free agent, and it took him just four games to notch his first save as "the man." Entering with a three-run lead and two outs in the eighth on April 5, 1997, Rivera got Oakland's Geronimo Berroa to fly out to end the inning...and then in the ninth, he showcased something that would be a calling card of his for the next two decades.

"The Sandman" allowed back-to-back singles to open the ninth but got out of the jam by striking out the side, fanning Scott Spiezio, George Williams, and Tony Batista to begin his official 16-year run as Yankees closer began with a bang.

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