Mo's Road to the Hall Starts At Rivera Avenue
New Yankee Stadium might be the House that Jeter Built, but to get there, you still have to go through Mo.
The greatest closer of all time got the ultimate tribute from his city on Monday, when New York City officially renamed the street outside the stadium Rivera Avenue in honor of Mariano Rivera. Between old and new Yankee Stadium, the corner of 161st and River has seen 27 championships and countless iconic moments, and it's only fitting that the site of all future victories should bear the name of the man who gave us so many of those moments over the past 19 years.
The photo below is from the last of those moments, taken on September 23, 2013 -- Rivera's final game in pinstripes. Some intrepid Yankee fans were way ahead of the curve on this one, fashioning a makeshift adjustment to the street sign and possibly inspiring lawmakers to make the change permanent.
Actually, the idea came weeks before. According to a piece by Mike Vaccaro petitioning for the renaming, it was the brainchild of a fan named Tom Ferrara, who runs a financial services company in Westchester. The New York Historical Society stipulates the requirements for renaming a street:
Once two prerequisites are met — the honoree must be dead and have had a significant connection to the local community — a petition signed by seventy-five percent of the local residents goes to the community board. The next stop is the Parks Committee of the City Council, then a vote in the full City Council. The last stop is the mayor's office, for approval or veto.
The idea received nearly unanimous support from city officials, including the endorsement of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg himself (he's also the majority owner of Bloomberg LP). In December, the City Council voted 47-0 in favor of Rivera Avenue. It's only the second time a NYC street has been renamed in tribute to a baseball player who's still living -- last year, a street in Harlem was changed to Willie Mays Drive in honor of the New York Giants legend.
Like Mays, Rivera has become a local folk hero not just to the city, but to the neighborhood that houses his eponymous street. The South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the nation and boasts a significant Hispanic population. The Panama-born closer is well-known for his philanthropic work through the Mariano Rivera Foundation, both in his home country and in the local community.
Rivera Avenue is the latest street to be dedicated to a sports figure. The Green Bay Packers' Lambeau Field is famously situated on Lombardi Avenue, bolstered by the nearby Holmgren Way, Reggie White Way, Bart Starr Road and the cleverly named Tony Canadeo Run. Larry Bird, Muhammad Ali and Roberto Clemente are just a few of the many athletes who have had similar dedications in their hometowns. The practice hasn't been without controversy: Fenway Park is located on Yawkey Way, named after the former owner of the Boston Red Sox. Recently, fans and writers have been pushing to rename the street given the extraordinary racism that is an inescapable part of Tom Yawkey's legacy.
Rivera Avenue should see no such controversy, named after a figure universally adored and respected -- even by the enemy. The street will serve as a reminder to future generations of a greatness we'll never see again, and an era of Yankee dominance that is likely bygone. And unlike Joe DiMaggio Highway on Manhattan's West Side -- seriously, who calls it that? -- Rivera Avenue feels right at home outside the stadium where the son of a fisherman became the Sandman.
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