CHICAGO | In his farewell tour that took him through U.S. Cellular Field last week, Mariano Rivera has received accolades befitting the best reliever in history and a Hall of Famer five years from now.
Rivera’s trademark cut fastball will book his express ticket to Cooperstown. Yet there’s an even trickier pitch he’s seen, belonging to the runner-up in career saves after his own 643.
“That has to be Trevor Hoffman — his changeup,” Rivera said of the San Diego star who finished with the Brewers and 601 saves in 2010. “You couldn’t hit it for so many years.”
Rivera threw hard breaking in with the Yankees, then quickly mastered the cutter. He did not have to fiddle with the changeup and he threw a slider.
The classy Rivera has hosted fans and ballpark employees at every stadium he visits during his farewell season. One of those invited to see him Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field was head pressbox attendant Bob Shepp of Oak Lawn. Undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer, Shepp unfortunately was not feeling well and did not attend as he had originally hoped.
Wanting a dose of The Hammer: Another all-time record-breaker isn’t as ubiquitous as Rivera.
“Hammering” Hank Aaron, who many believe should be the real career home-run champion after Barry Bonds’ involvement in the PED issue, regularly shows up at Turner Field’s offices in Atlanta. At 79, Aaron is still a Braves senior vice president. However, there’s a desire around the team that he’d drop into the home clubhouse more just to dispense some wisdom and inspiration to the players.
“Anytime a guy has got information of you of that stature — the best player who played the game — obviously you’re going to sit down and listen and take in that information to use for the rest of your career,” said ex-Cub Reed Johnson, now a reserve Braves outfielder.
“Supposedly he’s at the field quite a bit. I think he tries to stay out of the way of the daily activities of the actual baseball team. But it would be kind of nice to have him down there. None of us would mind.”
Aaron has been distracted lately. His Atlanta-area home was recently burglarized with two BMWs stolen and closets ransacked. A suspected was arrested last week.
McClendon on patience: Chesterton’s Lloyd McClendon, coming through Chicago today for the second time this season as Tigers hitting coach, said he’s “a little bit of old school and a little bit of new school” on the concept of patience and working counts.
“I think working counts and on-base percentage is fine,” McClendon said. “But I’d rather have the guy who knocks ‘em in from first base. Give me two or three (Miguel) Cabreras, and I’ll be fine.
“There’s a place for guys like that to work the counts and get on base. The guys who make the big dollars are the ones that drive them in. It’s just that simple.”