As you are no doubt aware, the universally beloved (or at least universally respected) Mariano Rivera is, at the age of 43, battling his way back from a knee injury that threatened to end his superlative career. It's hard to remember an injury that so roused a fan base -- and this can be said even as Derek Jeter mends from his own serious injury.
Nothing, though, puts a finer point on fans' emotional investment in Rivera quite like this excellent piece by Vincent M. Mallozzi of The New York Times. Mallozzi tells the story of one Buddy Niederhoffer, a Bronx man who carries with him a blue sketchbook, and in that sketchbook he gathers well wishes for Rivera -- well wishes from everyone whom he meets. Mallozzi writes:
The quest took him to barrooms and ballparks, movie theaters and spas, restaurants and concerts, clothing stores and banks, and subway cars and parks. Niederhoffer collected handwritten notes for Rivera from, among others, bartenders; hot dog vendors; the former major leaguers Tim Raines, John Franco and Mickey Rivers; the Newark Bears' team chaplain; police officers; train conductors; Coast Guardsmen; his girlfriend, Karen Rossi; graffiti artists; bocce players; a girls' softball team; his former sociology professor at Fordham; the Trenton Thunder mascot, Boomer; a dozen poets at the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe; Marc Anthony's band director, Angel Fernandez; a man in his 90s who said he had seen Babe Ruth hit a home run at Yankee Stadium in 1932; and a homeless man at Lincoln Center.
Oh, and Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden also signed it. Here, courtesy of The Times, is a sampling of Mr. Niederhoffer's toils:
Please do give the whole thing a read (especially for the story of the Mister Softee man). It says much about the cultural power of a player like Rivera.
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