Baseball fans can debate who’s the best hitter, the best pitcher, the best shortstop, the greatest team….and on, and on. But on this there’s no debate — Mariano Rivera, who has announced that this will be his final season, is the greatest closer in the history of baseball.
Rivera is baseball’s all-time saves leader with 608, with 42 more in the post-season. Do the math, that’s four full seasons of getting the last out in a Yankees win.
Arguably the most indispensable Yankee over the past 17 years….heck perhaps the most valuable player in baseball during that time. Rivera is a Hall of Fame lock.
Ever so humble, Rivera told ESPN’s Andrew Marchand: “I don’t feel myself, the greatest of all time. I’m a team player. I would love to be remembered as a player who was always there for others.”
Only one player in baseball, wears #42 — Mariano Rivera. That number was retired in 1997 in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s “color barrier.”
Speaking of River, Jackie’s 90-year old widow Rachel Robinson told Ian O’Connor of ESPN: “He carried himself with dignity and grace, that made carrying the number a tribute to Jack.”
A great player and a great man. The great Rivera. There will never be another like him.
Here are 10 cool facts about Mariano Rivera:
1. Since he became the Yankee closer in 1997 (taking over for the departed John Wetteland), Rivera has been remarkably consistent. He had at least 28 saves for 15 straight seasons before injuring his knee and missing nearly all of 2012.
2. Rivera actually started 10 games in 1995, his rookie year. before the Yankees realized he was born to be a reliever. That year he had a 5-3 record to go with a 5.51 ERA.
3. Since then, Rivera’s ERA has been above 3.00 just once (3.15 in 2007). His career low came in 2005, when he recorded a 1.38 ERA. Overall, he’s 76-58 with a 2.21 ERA.
4. Mo has led the American League in saves three times — 45 (1999), 50 (2001) and a career-high and Yankee best 53 in 2004.
5. Mariano Rivera has never won a Cy Young Award. He did finish second once, third three times, and fifth once in Cy Young balloting. He finished as high as ninth in AL MVP voting in 2004 and 2005.
6. “I save games, they save lives. That’s what real heroes are all about.” — Mariano Rivera, who gave his 2001 Rolaids “Relief Man” award to FDNY.
7. When Jackie Robinson’s #42 was retired in 1997, players who were wearing #42 at that time were allowed to keep it until they retired. Fittingly, Rivera is the only one left. He’s worn it alone since 2003.
8. Mo once claimed his most memorable moment came in 2003, when he pitched three scoreless innings against the Red Sox before Aaron Boone homered to win Game 7 of the ALCS.
9. Rivera’s post-season numbers are off the charts. In addition to his 42 saves, Mariano has an 8-1 record and a microscopic 0.70 ERA in playoff competition, covering 141 innings.
10. Rivera has given up just two post-season home runs in 96 games, neither to a left-hand hitter. Sandy Alomar, Jr, of the Indians (1997) and Jay Payton of the Mets (2000) are the only two players to claim a post-season home run against Rivera.
Yankees without rings. Doesn’t sound right; there’s no ring to it. Yes, it’s a short list. But there are some very good ballplayers who wore the pinstripes and yet missed out on the World Series victories. The list includes a Hall of Fame pitcher, an AL MVP and batting champ, a Rookie of the Year, 20-game winners and 40-home run hittes.
Here are the best Yankees never to win a championship:
1. Don Mattingly — Spent his entire 14-year career with the Yankees, but made his only playoff appearance in the 1995 wild card round (when he hit .417). A .307 lifetime hitter with 222 home runs, Donnie Baseball, right. was a batting champ in 1984, AL MVP in 1985, and a nine-time Gold Glove winner at first base. The captain just missed out on the 1996 championship, the Yanks first in 18 years.
2. Bobby Murcer — Joined the club as a 19-year -old rookie in 1965, the year the Yankee dynasty collapsed. He was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in 1975, but returned four years later after a stint with the Cubs. Some 175 of Murcer’s 252 career home runs came as a Yankee, and he was a .277 lifetime hitter. Murcer made his only World Series appearance in a 1981 loss to the Dodgers.
3. Mel Stottlemyre — Came up as a rookie in August of 1964 and fueled the Yanks run to the World Series, where he started three games against the Cardinals. That was the high point for The Needle, who stands seventh all-time in Yankee wins with 164, included three 20-win seasons. Stott had 40 career shutouts and hit an inside-the-park grand slam against Boston in 1965.
4. Dave Righetti — Pitched for the Yankees for 11 years before signing with the Giants as a free agent. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1981 and threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on the Fourth of July in 1983 before being moved to the bullpen. Rags racked up 224 of his 252 career saves as a Yankee, including a then MLB record 46 saves in 1986.
5. Mike Mussina — Signed away from Baltimore as a free agent, Mussina spent eight years in the Bronx and won 123 games (270 total). Moose came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against the Red Sox in 2001, and won 20 games for the first time in 2008, his final season, just missing out on the Yankees 27th championship. He did pitch in the World Series as 2001 and 2003.
6. Hal Chase — One of the Highlanders, Prince Hal, a great fielding first baseman with a corrupt side, recorded a .291 lifetime batting average and 363 stolen bases. He just missed out on a World Series after 1918, when the Reds traded him to the Giants. Chase came up to the majors in 1905, and played his first nine years in New York before being traded to the White Sox in 1913.
7. Tommy John — Pitched and lost to the Yankees in the 1977 and 1978 World Series before taking the if you can’t beat em join em approach and signing as a free agent. In two tours of duty with the Yankees TJ was 91-60, with 21 wins in 1979 and 22 in 1980. Overall John was 288-231 over a 26-year major league career that ended with the Yankees in 1979.
8. Jason Giambi — Signed as a free agent a year after winning the AL MVP with Oakland, he joined the Yankees in 2002 and played for seven years, missing out on the 2009 title run. He hit 41 home runs in each of his first two years in pinstripes, and wound up belting 209 of his 429 career home runs as a Yankee. The Giambino finished his career in Colorado
9. Lindy McDaniel — Joined the Yankees in 1968 and pitched for six years before being traded to the Royals in a move that brought Lou Piniella to the Bronx. McDaniel had 141 wins and 172 saves in a 21-year career. He led the Yanks with 29 saves in 1970, and overall was 38-29 with 58 saves for the Bombers. .
10. Phil Niekro — After spending his first 20 years throwing knuckleballs for the Braves, Knucksie signed with the Yankees in 1984, and recorded back to back 16-win seasons. On the final day of the 1985 season, Niekro, right, shut out the Blue Jays for his 300th win. He then left for the Indians, before winding up back in Atlanta in 1987. Niekro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.
More Lords of the Ringless
Stephen Strasburg’s season is over. Finished. Done. All for the sake of extra innings.
The Nationals are shutting down their best pitcher, a young stud who gives them their best chance to end a Washington championship drought that’s lasted four score and eight years.
The Nats are turning into the Washington Generals. You remember the Generals. Clowns. Foils tor the Harlem Globetrotters for oh so many years.
The Nats are fools. If they knew going in that 160 innings was the limit for Strasburg, the could have done a better job allotting those innings, stretching out his starts to ensure he was available for the playoffs. A start in May is much less important than a start in October.
So now, with a chance to win Washington’s first World Series since 1924, the Nats are waving the white flag for Strasburg. After 159 1/3 innings. Modern baseball. They never did that to Walter Johnson, who pitched the Washington Senators to that 1924 championship.
A better plan
Maybe they should have talked to Strasburg about the shutdown, and together devised a better plan.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to accept it, to be honest,” Strasburg recently told the Washington Post. “It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. That’s not why I play the game. I play the game to be a good teammate and win. You don’t grow up dreaming out playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.”
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels wonders out loud what Washington is doing. “I know you want to prepare for the future, but if this is your one opportunity to win the World Series, you have to go for broke,” Hamels told Sports Illustrated.
The last playoff appearance by any Washington baseball team occurred in 1933. In the midst of the Great Depression, with FDR at the helm, the Senators finished 99-53 to win the American League pennant, a comfortable seven games ahead of the Yankees. That Senator team, managed by Hall of Famer and shortstop Joe Cronin, lost the World Series in five games to the New York Giants.
The final game of that World Series was played at Washington’s Griffth Stadium on October 7, 1933, Mark the date. Do the math. Heck throw out the calculator, that’s a long time ago. Almost 79 years. Well DC has not hosted a playoff game since then.
Baseball in Washington
The original Senators never got back to the World Series, and vacated Washington prior to the 1961 season for Minnesota. They were immediately replaced by an expansion Senator team, a club that never made the playoffs before leaving for Texas to become the Rangers in 1972.
Washington went 33 years without a MLB team to call its own before the Expos left Montreal and became the Nationals in 2005. Since then, the Nats have never finished higher than third in the NL East — until this year that is.
And now they’re willing to throw it all away for the sake of a pitch count. Ask Strasburg how his arm feels.
“I feel physically great. That’s the thing,” Strasburg said. “But I think, it’s not just about one player. They want me to be here for many years to come. It’s an unfortunate situation. It’s a lot harder decision because we’ve won this year.
In 1933, the surprising Senators put together a 13-game winning streak in mid-August and easily won the American League pennant, 8 1/2 games over the second-place Yankees.
That year, the Senators hit .287 as a team. Outfielder and eventual Hall of Famer Heinie Manush batted .336 and first baseman Joe Kuhel .322. Playing half their games in massive Griffith Stadium, the Senators hit just 60 home runs as a team. Cronin hit .309 and led the team in RBIs with 118
General Crowder won 24 times and Earl Whitehill 22 and Jack Russell had 13 saves.
In the World Series, the Giants won the first two games at the Polo Grounds, but the Senators won Game Three, 4-0, behind the shutout pitching of Earl Whitehill.
The next day, the Giants, behind ace left-hander Carl Hubbell, won 2-1 in 11 innings. Mel Ott’s 10th inning home run then gave New York a 5-4 win and the World Championship the next day.
Yanks in the tank: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain feel the heat.
The Yankees are on the verge of an epic collapse, the worst regular season meltdown in the storied 110-year history of the franchise.
At the end of play on July 18, the Yankees found themselves 10 games in front of the Orioles and 10 1/2 in front of the Rays in the AL East. They were cranking up the presses to print playoff tickets. Instead, they seem to be cracking under the pressure.
Since that high-water mark, the Bronx Bombers have played more like the Bronx Bumblers, squandering nearly all of that 10-game advantage. Their homer-happy lineup has failed to hit in the clutch, and the pitching staff has coughed up leads on a regular basis. To put in kindly, they’ve been playing a listless brand of ball for two months.
The Yankees have never blown a double digit lead and failed to finish in first place. According to STATS LLC, their biggest cushion in a season in which they failed to finish first was six games in 1933. That year the Yankees led the Washington Senators by six games on June 6, but eventually slipped to second while Washington won the AL flag. Incidentally, that was Washington’s last playoff appearance.
Since divisional play began in 1969, New York has advanced to the postseason each of the last 15 times it has been in first place on September 1. In fact, only five times in their history have the Yankees been in first place anytime in the month of September and failed to make the playoffs.
The Highlanders, as they were known back then, found themselves in first place after beating the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) 3-2 on October 7. The next day, Boston swept a doubleheader from the Highlanders to capture the lead with two games left in the season. After an off-day Sunday (Sunday baseball was not permitted in New York at that time) Jack Chesbro’s wild pitch gave the American’s a 3-2 win and the American League pennant. Chesbro won 41 games for the Highlanders that year, still a major league record, but will forever be remembered for that fateful wild pitch.
The Yanks were tied with Cleveland with 12 games to play, but lost to the White Sox next day while Cleveland beat Washington. The Indians went on to their first World Championship, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920 World Series
Tied for first as late in mid-September with eight games remaining, the Yankees lost to Detroit the next day. Washington won its first and only title, beating the New York Giants in seven games in a dramatic World Series.
With seven games left in the season, the Yankees found themselves in a three-way tie with Cleveland and Boston. The Indians eventually beat the Red Sox in the American League’s first playoff, and then knocked off the Boston Braves for their second — and last — World Championship.
Playing their home games at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being refurbished, the Yankees were in first place with eight games remaining. However the red-hot Baltimore Orioles overtook the Yankees to win the AL East.
In 2010, the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays battled down the stretch for the AL East crown. The two clubs were tied going into the final day of the season. That day the Yanks lost to Boston 8-4 while Tampa beat Kansas City 3-2 in 12 innings. However both teams were already assured playoff spots. So even though they failed to win the division, the Yankees still earned the wild card.
Look on the bright side Yankee fans. Nothing could be worse than 2004, when the arch-rival Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS — the only time in baseball history that’s ever happened . Yep, Boston snapped the Curse of the Bambino and their 86-year championship drought, while the Yankees were left to ponder their fate.
Between 1964 and 1976 the New York Yankees endured one of the longest dry spells in team history, 12 years without an American League pennant after winning five in a row and 14 flags in 16 years.
Those years, sometimes compared to the decline of the Roman Empire, became known as the “Horace Clarke Era.” But although Horace Clarke will never be favorably compared to other Yankee second baseman, like Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph and Robinson Cano, he was a steady leadoff hitter and decent ballplayer on some lousy Yankee clubs.
And although he was often criticized for his defensive play, especially turning the double play, Clarke led American League second baseman in assists for six straight years (1968-71) and putouts four years in a row (1968-71).
For many years, he ran a baseball program for youngsters in the Virgin Islands. Now 72, he is retired and living in St. Croix.
Wanna hear more about Horace Clarke. Keep on reading:
1. Born in Frederiksted, St. Croix, in 1940, Horace was the fifth of 10 men from the U.S. Virgin Islands to make the major leagues.
2. At home he was the youngest of six children, and was called Harry.
3. His father, Dennis, was a cricketeer and also played the violin.
4. Clarke was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees in 1958, and made his debut in 1965.
5. He became the Yankees regular second baseman in 1967 when Bobby Richardson retired.
6. Clarke hit only 27 home runs during his career, but his first two (1965 and 1966) were grand slams. He remains the only major leaguer to ever accomplish that feat.
7. Clarke’s best season came in 1969, when he hit a career-high .285 with 33 stolen bases.
8. The following season he broke up three possible no-hitters in the ninth inning — within a month. Hoss victimized Jim Rooker on June 4, Sonny Siebert on June 19 and Joe Niekro on July 2, 1970.
9. Clarke was sold to the San Diego Padres in 1974, for $25,000. He retired at the end of the 1974 season with a .256 lifetime average, 27 home runs, and 151 stolen bases.
10. He led the American League in at bats in both 1969 and 1970, and in singles in 1967 and 1971. And Clarke had the lowest at bat/strikeout ratio in 1970, one K for every 19.6 ABs.
Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Sure, Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop in baseball history. But who alive saw old Hans play. After all, Wagner last played 95 years ago, when Woodrow Wilson was President, World War I was being waged and Babe Ruth was still pitching.
Wagner won eight National League batting titles, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and swiped 722 bases before retiring. In 1917. His career numbers are awesome.
But moving on to shortstops who actually played after the Teapot Dome scandal, the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, Jeter is the best.
With apologies to Joe Cronin, Luke Appling, Arky Vaughn, Ozzie Smith, Pee Wee and the Scooter, Jeter beats out Cal Ripken for the title of best shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Let’s compare Jeter and Ripken:
Batting – Jeter has a .313 lifetime batting average, well ahead of Ripken’s .276. Advantage Jeter
Power — Ripken 431 hit career home runs, nearly 200 more than Jeter’s 246. Advantage Ripken
Run Production — Ripken’s 1,695 RBIs beat out Jeter’s 1,216. Advantage Ripken
Speed — No contest. Jeter has 344 stolen bases, Ripken 36. And Jeter has scored 1,799 runs, well ahead of Ripken’s 1,647. Advantage Jeter
Awards — Both Ripken and Jeter won Rookie of the Year honors. However Ripken was voted AL MVP in both 1983 and 1991. Advantage Ripken
Fielding — Jeter won five Gold Gloves at shortstop, Ripken two, and his .972 lifetime fielding average bests Ripken’s .969. Advantage Jeter
Championships — Jeter was a member of five Yankee World Series winners. Ripken won one World Series with the Orioles. Advantage Jeter
Durability – Jeter has been amazingly durable through his career. But Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record and played in 2,632 consecutive games. He’s the Iron Man. Advantage Ripken
Hits — The tiebreaker. Ripken is 13th on the all-time list with 3,184 hits. Jeter trails him by less than 20, and stands to challenge some of the all-time leaders. Moreover, Jeter is already the all-time hit leader as a shortstop. Wagner is fifth all-time with 3,415 hits, but played a lot in the outfield and at first base and third base. And Ripken was a third baseman in his final six season. Advantage Jeter
So that’s it. Of these nine key categories, Jeter wins five and Ripken four. That makes Jeter the best shortstop of the modern era.
A piece of this kid’s childhood and a link to the glorious Yankee teams of the 50s and early 60s died today with the passing of former first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron.
More than 50 years ago, my father took me to my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Although the White Sox won the game, the Moose homered for the only Yankee run. Instantly, I became a Bill Skowron fan.
Soon I began imitating Skowron’s batting stance. I got a Bill Skowron first baseman’s mitt for my birthday. My uncle, the late Allan Melvin of Sam the Butcher fame, started called me the Moose Skowron of White Plains.
Skowron joined the Yankees in 1954 and hit .300 in each of his first four seasons. Moose won four championships with the Yankees, and hit a huge three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1958 World Series to cinch a win over the Milwaukee Braves.
Following the 1962 season, the Yankees sent Skowron to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams. It was a devastating trade, not only for the Moose but also for an 11-year-old kid living in the New York suburbs.
Skowron’s Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, when Moose slugged a home run and batted .385. Always a clutch batter, he hit. .293 in eight World Series with eight home runs, seventh all time. Skowron and Yogi Berra are the only players to hit three Game 7 home runs in the World Series.
Moose played out his 14-year career with the Senators, White Sox and Angels. He had a .282 lifetime batting average with 211 home runs.
Skowron was plagued by injuries throughout his career, which was ironic considering a conversation he once had (and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News recounted) with another Yankee first baseman, Wally Pipp.
“I met Pipp at an Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium,” Skowron recalled, “and he told me: ‘Don’t ever get a headache or catch a cold. I got a headache once and took a day off and never played again. A guy named Lou Gehrig took my place.’ I made sure from that day on to do everything I could to remain healthy.”
“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Berra told the Associated Press. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too.”
When Philip Humber pitched the 21st perfect game in major league history last week, he became the seventh pitcher to throw a no-hitter after wearing a Met uniform. Humber joins Nolan Ryan, right, Tom Seaver, Mike Scott, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Hideo Nomo on that list
Of note, Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters. Gooden and Cone each pitched no-hitters for the Yankees; Cone’s was a perfect game. Nomo had no-hitters both before (Dodgers) and after (Red Sox) joining the Mets.
Eight other pitchers recorded no-hitters before joining the Mets. Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, and Don Cardwell, Dean Chance, Dock Ellis, John Candelaria, Bret Saberhagen, Scott Erickson, and Kenny Rogers (perfect game) are members of that club.
(Of note, former Met Alejandro Pena was part of a three-man no-hitter for Atlanta in 1991 after pitching for the Mets. And Billy Wagner (Houston) and Ricardo Rincon (Pittsburgh) were part of multi-pitcher no-hitters before they joined the Mets.)
Related Blog: SportsLifer first blogged about the Mets no-hit history (or lack thereof) in 2008 with a piece headlined “Yes, That’s Correct, No No-Nos for Mets.”
If Kentucky wins the NCAAs, you can count on a Yankee parade down Broadway this fall.
The last six times Kentucky has won the NCAA men’s basketball title, the Yankees have gone on to win the World Series.
The Wildcats have won seven titles overall, second only to UCLA’s 11 and by far the most of any team in this year’s Final Four. Kansas has taken three, Louisville two and Ohio State one.
Kentucky won its first championship in 1948, the year the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Braves to win their last World Series.
Kentucky repeated in 1949, beating Oklahoma State in the final, under the tutelage of immortal coach Adolph Rupp, the “Baron of the Bluegrass.”
Rupp, fourth all-time with 876 victories, would go on to win in 1951 (against Kansas State) and 1958 (against Seattle) for a total of four championships.
Meanwhile the Yankees were winning five World Series in a row between 1949 and 1953 under another legendary leader, Casey Stengel. In 1958, the Yankees rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves.
It took Kentucky 20 years to return to the mountaintop, when coach Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats defeated Duke for the 1978 national championship. That fall, the Yankees rallied to knock off the Red Sox on Bucky Dent’s home run, then repeated against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rick Pitino, now the head coach at Louisville (which meets Kentucky in a Final Four intra-state rivalry on Saturday), coached the Wildcats to the NCAA title in 1996. Two years later, coach Tubby Smith guided Kentucky to its last championship, against Utah.
Meanwhile, Joe Torre piloted the Yankees to World Series wins in 1996 (vs. the Braves) and 1998 (vs. the Padres).
Of the other Final Four finalists, Kansas won its first championship in 1952, followed by a Yankee win over the Dodgers. Ohio State’s only title occurred in 1960, the year the Yankees lost the Series to Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates. And although the Yankees didn’t win the World Series following Louisville’s 1986 title run, the Mets did.
Kentucky is heavily favored to cut down the nets Monday night. And if they do, the Yankees can start planning a parade down Broadway
Jeremy Lin made a huge jump, graduating from Harvard to achieve NBA celebrity status.
In less than two weeks, Jeremy Lin has gone from the Erie BayHawks in the D-League to LIN-finity and beyond.
He’s burst upon the scene like a supernova, eclipsing out-of-the-box scoring records legends like Bird, Magic, Jordan, Kobe and others in the process. Jeremy is a LIN-ternational celebrity.
This kind of breakthrough is extremely rare in professional sports, where prospects are pampered, primed and projected before they’re old enough to shave.
Very few athletes slip through the cracks and become household names as quickly as Jeremy Lin.
And no, Tim Tebow doesn’t qualify. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida, a football powerhouse. That’s a lot different than undrafted Jeremy Lin from Harvard.
Another invalid compare is Steve Nash, the veteran 16-year point guard for the Phoenix Suns. Nash, like Lin, thrived in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. But unlike Lin, he was a first round pick in the NBA draft.
Here are some other rising sports starts through the years, LIN-instant hits so to speak. Some went on to long and glorious careers, others flamed out as suddenly as they appeared.
John Starks bagged groceries for a time after high school and played for three junior colleges. He went undrafted out of Oklahoma State, and like Lin spent one year at Golden State before signing with the Knicks in 1990,
Starks, right, broke his arm in practice attempting to dunk over Patrick Ewing. Eventually he became a starter at shooting guard and made the NBA All-Star team in 1994.
That year, the Knicks made the NBA Finals, where they lost Game 7 to the Houston Rockets when Starks shot 2-for-18.
Long-time Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan, who recently announced he is retiring following the London Olympics, compared Lin to Billy Ray Bates.
A third-round pick from Kentucky State in the 1978 NBA draft, Bates was cut by the Rockets, but emerged two years later with the Portland Trailblazers.
Bates went on to have two solid seasons with Portland, but by 1983 his career was finished.
Considered one of the best undrafted players of all time, Kurt Warner was cut by the Packers in 1994 and wound up stocking grocery shelves for $5.50 an hour in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Warner also played Arena League football and was a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, before joining the St. Louis Rams in 1998.
One year later, Warner passed for a record 414 yards and was named Super Bowl MVP when the Rams beat the Tennessee Titans.
Warner was a two-time NFL MVP (1999 and 2001) and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. He still holds the top three passing yardage records for the Super Bowl.
Several pitchers achieved instant star status, including Mark “The Bird” Fidrych of the 1976 Tigers and Fernando Valenzuela of the 1981 Dodgers. Valenzuela won both the National League Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards, and finished his career in 1997, 173 victories later.
Fidrych, left, won 19 games and was named American League Rookie of the Year. He would win just 10 more times before he career ended in 1980.
That same year, Joe Charboneau broke in with the Cleveland Indians, and was voted AL Rookie of the Year after belting 23 home runs and batting .289. He wound up playing just 70 more games in the majors, his career finished in 1982 before his 27th birthday.
Kevin Mass made a big splash with the Yankees in 1990 when he hit 10 homers in his first 72 at bats, the best start in baseball history. Clearly a one-hit wonder, Maas was shuffling between the majors and minors two years later, and wound up playing in Japan.
Another Yankee outfielder, Shane Spencer, “The Home Run Dispenser,” had a brilliant September in 1998 for a World Championship team. However, Spencer never lived up to the promise of that meteoric start.
Bob “Hurricane” Hazle had an amazing start with the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, hitting .403 as a late call-up to help his club win the National League pennant. A year later, he was out of baseball.
Don Murdoch scored eight goals for the Rangers in his first three games, including five in one game. He was on a pace to set the single-season rookie goal-scoring record when an ankle injury ended his year. During the off-season he was busted for cocaine possession, and suspended by the NHL.
Murdoch played 320 career games, but never came close to living up to the promise of his first season,