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Mariano Rivera on cover of Sept. 23 issue of Sports Illustrated

Mariano Rivera, Yankees Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated

Mariano Rivera has been celebrated across baseball all season long and now as his spectacular career winds down, he has earned one more honor: landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the fourth time.

Plenty has been written about Rivera's on-field brilliance -- and with an MLB-record 651 saves and a legacy of postseason dominance that includes being an integral part of five world championship teams, he deserves every bit of it -- so this week, SI senior writer Tom Verducci took a different approach when writing about the Yankees' closer. Verducci tells the story of Rivera's career in an oral history, talking with several of the pitcher's teammates, coaches and managers from his 24 seasons in professional baseball. Verducci also discovers some of the many stories of Rivera's kindness both on and off the field, such as his advice for struggling pitchers on other teams and the ways he has reached out to families in need.

Rivera has been meeting with stadium employees and fans in every opposing city he's visited this season and those teams have responded by presenting him with gifts commemorating his record-setting career. He has been known best for his consistency, both with his one dominating pitch -- his cut fastball -- that has helped him rack up saves and broken bats and for the classy and dignified manner with which he's carried himself. If New York doesn't make the playoffs, Rivera's career will come to an end on Sunday, Sept. 29 in Houston and his last game at Yankee Stadium will be Thursday, Sept. 26 vs. the Rays. The Yankees will honor Rivera before Sunday's home game against the Giants.

Rivera's on-field excellence and off-field personality have combined to make him one of the most respected athletes in the country for almost two decades. "This is what I would tell people about Mariano," the Yankees' CC Sabathia told Verducci. "Believe everything you hear about him, because it's all true....If you want to be a better player or a better person, you watch him."

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