All this week, ESPN New York is celebrating the career of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with an oral history of baseball's all-time saves leader through the words of his teammates and opponents, as told to Mike Mazzeo, Matt Ehalt, Andrew Marchand and ESPN The Magazine's Louise Cornetta.
On more than one occasion, according to his teammates, Mariano Rivera has served as a Kangaroo Court judge.
CC Sabathia (Rivera's teammate since 2009): "My favorite story since I’ve been here? I guess he was a judge for Kangaroo Court, so that was pretty funny. He was just taking forever to make judgments. He ended up fining everybody the max fine. He was a pretty good judge, though. It was fun. We did it for a couple years. If anybody is gonna be the judge of Kangaroo Court, it should be him."
We picked him as judge because he’s the oldest. Probably just because it was most fitting and I think he looked best in the wig. He had a robe, a gavel and everything.
”-- Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira (Rivera's teammate since 2009): “We picked him as judge because he’s the oldest. Probably just because it was most fitting and I think he looked best in the wig. He had a robe, a gavel and everything. We did it in the conference/media room.”
Joba Chamberlain (Rivera's teammate since 2007 and one-time heir apparent): “Yeah, he was the judge. I mean, he played a great part, but he was just so long-winded, man, we couldn’t get through all the cases because he’d want to talk about them so much. So we had to cut him off.
“I can’t really talk about specific cases, it was just fun watching Mo try to get through them all. And all of us were just like, ‘Mo, just hurry up and get this over with.’ But yeah, he wore the wig great. I mean, he did a good job.
“[A fine could be doled out to] somebody passing gas while getting stretched by somebody. I think it was like a hundred bucks. The max was like $500. You get that when you get caught by more than one person, get brought up more than once in court. Or just be really embarrassing to where you can’t even argue the fact that you’re going to get the max fine cause that’s terrible.”
Sabathia: “[You] could [be fined] for anything. Something that happened at the hotel, most of the time it’s nothing that happens on the field. It’s not performance, it’s a guy missing stretch or different things like that, they get written up, so it’s pretty funny. It could be a hundred bucks, max fine could maybe be a hundred bucks. And then it goes to the team, to have a party or do whatever.”
Mariano Rivera, prankster? That's right. He may have ice in his veins, but Mr. Automatic has a sense of humor, too.
He takes a piece of gum that he’d been chewing on for a while, and tosses it at me, and manages to stick it directly in my ear, like right in the side of my ear. So like a 20-foot throw, just lands perfectly.
”-- David Robertson
Robinson Cano (Rivera's teammate since 2005): “He’s always like trying to have fun in the clubhouse. If someone does something bad he’s always joking around about what they did and laughing. When he’s in the game, that’s a different story. We say he has a game face, but in here, he’s a different guy. In here, we love him.”
David Huff (new to the Yankees in 2013, on Mo's sense of humor): "Pregame stuff. Whether he's throwing gum under someone's shoe. As soon as the game starts, he's locked in."
Chamberlain: “He’s always playing jokes on everybody, just throwing gum at people. Just doing stuff like that. Everybody sees the baseball side of things, but they don’t get to spend the time in [the bullpen] with him and joke and stuff, so I think just watching him play jokes on people and throw gum ... he’s really good at throwing gum, too. Shocker, I know, but yeah, he always finds a way to keep guys loose.”
David Robertson (Rivera's setup man and possible replacement in 2014): “I tell you what: people don’t realize Mo’s gum-throwing skills. He’s exceptional at it. He has great aim. I want to say maybe it was 2009 and we were sitting in the bullpen here in New York, just watching the game. I think it was in September. I was sitting on one side of the bullpen and he was sitting on the other side at this point. And he takes a piece of gum that he’d been chewing on for a while, and tosses it at me, and manages to stick it directly in my ear, like right in the side of my ear.
"So like a 20-foot throw, just lands perfectly. [The gum] is all nasty and gooey and in my earhole and I couldn’t believe he did it. Of course he was laughing, and I was laughing because I couldn’t believe he actually made that shot, but it was hysterical. It’s funny, when I think of Mo, I think of him throwing gum at me all the time. And now I throw it back at him all the time, so it’s a constant war.
“[My teammates in the bullpen] were like, ‘No way you could throw that again!’ And he was like, ‘I was aiming for it! I was aiming for it!’ He’ll tell you now to this day, ‘I was aiming for it!’"
Chamberlain: “He’s good. He’s always there to talk to about certain situations, certain counts. He always keeps it fun in the bullpen. I think it’s a good way to keep us relaxed but also keep us in the game when we start talking about at-bats and certain situations. The way he keeps things fun is he’s always laughing and joking. People have no idea this side of him. If they had only seen half the stuff that I can’t talk about. But that’s the fun part for us is seeing that side, the human side, because when he pitches he’s really not human. So it’s fun for us to see that.”
Robertson: “He’s not too bad [of a prankster]. He’s a quiet prankster, though. You don’t realize it’s coming, and next thing you know he’s putting gum in your pocket, or he’s tying your belt. He’s always doing something that tricks you, and he’s just quiet about it. He’s not too outgoing about it, but it’s funny when he gets you.”
Chamberlain (on the Rivera story he’ll tell his kids one day): “Probably in spring training when he threw a rosin bag at our bullpen coach on the head and it exploded. Why did he do it? I don’t know. He was just being Mo, I guess. It wasn’t a mean thing. It was funny, actually. He was just tossing it and it happened to hit him and explode. It was pretty fun. It was pretty cool. Not something you see every day. Obviously my kid is going to know who he is. So he’s going to know the baseball side, that’s irrelevant. The life side is more fun than the baseball side I think.”