MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees

Former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, shown during last month’s Yankees Old Timers’ Day game at Yankee Stadium, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today as the first-ever unanimous selection.

HAVING LEFT the Boston Herald baseball beat (for 10 years of covering BC football and basketball) in 1995, my dealings with Mariano Rivera were limited. You always heard what a pleasure he was to deal with and how he just went about the business of being the best closer ever to wear a uniform.

But a decade ago, Triumph Books hired me to do a bio on Don Mattingly, so, naturally there were teammates to interview. Rivera was one and, if I recall, I had to go back to him a second time.

On both occasions, Rivera thanked me for talking to him.

Today, the first unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame officially enters Cooperstown. But, as he celebrates, reportedly (by Jack Curry of the YES Network) with other Core Four guys Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, I will think of how he reacted to a total stranger asking him about Don Mattingly (yes, you can still find “Donnie Baseball” out there).

Class. All class. The last No. 42 was all class.

Red Sox fans, of course will remember Rivera for giving it up in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS – an event that started the change in Boston’s baseball culture. There was also that home run by Bill Mueller to walk off the game that was interrupted by the Jason Varitek-Alex Rodriguez brawl.

The latter was July 24, 2004 – and I was in Cooperstown covering that year’s induction of Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor.

Today, it’s Rivera – and Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith and Harold Baines. Superb writer Jayson Stark will also be honored (the Spink Award is likely to go to my pal the late Nick Cafardo next year).

After getting word of the unanimous vote, Rivera said, “I told someone, it feels like when you just won the championship? – the World Series. That level of intensity. I still am honored ... It won’t change my life, but it’s something that you know that you were the first one. That is special.”

So is he.

Some random stats on the guys going in:

…Rivera was 13-7 with 58 of his 652 career saves against the Red Sox in the regular season and 2-0 with six saves in the playoffs.

…Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA lifetime, but went just 14-15 with a 4.39 against the Red Sox, 6-9 with a 4.09 at Fenway.

…Martinez, a career .312 hitter with 309 homers, 1,261 RBIs and a .933 OPS, hit .289 with an .870 OPS against the Red Sox, .299 with an .864 at Fenway.

…Mussina was 270-153 in his career, 21-17 against the Red Sox, 11-8 at Fenway, where he once came within a single strike of pitching a perfect game.

…Smith saved 478 games, 58 of them with the Red Sox from 1988-90.

…Baines, a controversial added selection who wasn’t supported by the writers in our vote, hit .289 with 384 homers, 1,628 RBIs and an .820 OPS in his career. He batted .283 with a .787 OPS against the Red Sox, .279 with a .752 at Fenway.

Looking around

The Yankees commemorated Saturday’s 50th anniversary of the moon landing by having astronaut Mike Massimino, who said the moon landing led him to a career in space, throw out the first pitch Saturday. Massimino was the first astronaut to tweet from space. He threw the pitch to Jack Aker, who was on the mound at Yankee Stadium when fabled PA voice Bob Sheppard interrupted the game to announce we’d landed on the moon. …

Just came across a couple of preseason publications my friend Jonny Miller sent to me. Sports Illustrated touted the Phillies with “All the Phils,” while Alex Cora adorned USA Today’s special edition with the words “Back For More.” As this was being written, both rather disappointing teams were in the middle of a wild card scramble. …

ESPN’s Adam Schefter on the Patriots and Tom Brady as they get set to open training camp: “Patriots have won 50 games over the last four seasons and have had overlapping streaks of at least 50 wins over a 4-season span since 2013. Since 1990, only teams who won 50 games over a 4-season span were Pats, Colts, Broncos — teams that had Tom Brady or Peyton Manning at QB. …

It’s tough, but not impossible, to imagine the Red Sox in the postseason as long as there are games like the egg laid in Baltimore Friday night. …

Don’t really want to go into the details of the sickening Tyreek Hill case, but Brady got four games for allegedly ordering the deflation of footballs; and Hill will NOT be suspended by the NFL. …

Dan Le Batard, the son of Cuban parents, went against the new ESPN policy of not sliding into the political and attacked the current president for last weekend’s racist comments. “It is so wrong, what the president of our country is doing, trying to get re-elected by dividing the masses, at a time when the old white man, the old rich white man, feels oppressed, being attacked, by minorities. This isn’t about politics; it’s about race,” he said. …

The Giants’ sudden hot streak leaves management in a tough situation. The team, playing its final season under manager Bruce Bochy, has many useful trade parts that could both help contenders and start a rebuild of a roster that needs to get younger. But how do you turn your back on a team that’s winning – with three-time champion players guiding the turnaround? …

From Alex Speier of the Boston Globe: “Rafael Devers hit his 50th career HR in his 273rd career game Thursday. Other Sox to do that: Tony C, Nomar, Williams, Fisk.” …

Charles Barkley says a former Celtic was the toughest player he had to go against –- and it was NOT fellow Dream Teamer Larry Bird. It was Kevin McHale. “He’s one of the greatest basketball players ever, and I actually work with him now on television,” Barkley said at a Boys and Girls Clubs benefit in Tennessee. “He’s the best player I ever played against and had to guard.” …

Received the following message from former Herald pal Professor Dave Cataneo: “Hey Shales, know where we were 30 years ago now? In a Holiday Inn in Oneonta (N.Y.) to cover the Yaz induction. Yikes!” Now, 30 years later, Mike Yastrzemski, Carl’s grandson, was about to be shipped back to the minors last weekend, then went 9-for-20 with two homers in a series in Denver and stuck with the Giants. …

The New York Rangers signed Jacob Trouba to a seven-year, $56 million contract Friday. What does that mean for the Bruins’ Torey Krug and the Bruins? We’ll see. …

Next year, Jeter will become the second unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame. …

There are no Bruins ranked in the Top 25 of current NHL players listed by newarena.com – the rankings released during last season. Hey, Patrice Bergeron belongs in there somewhere. …

Old pal Ryan Lavarnway returned to the majors Friday with a double, two homers and six RBIs for the Reds. The club has special home run celebrations, but Lavarnway, who had last hit an MLB homer in 2015, said, “I’ve been up and down so many times, you never know when it’s going to be the last time. Early in my career, I didn’t let myself really enjoy the highs. I tried to be stoic. I tried to be Jason Varitek, but I’m a human being. I just enjoyed it tonight. I had a lot of fun.” …

From MassLive’s Chris Smith: “Chris Sale: ‘I’ve been as bad as I’ve ever been in my career and I’ve also had the best games I’ve ever had in my career this year. So it’s just one of those things that it’s more confusing than anything.’ He cited 17 K’s vs. Rockies, complete-game shutout vs. Kansas City as two of best games.” …

Hard to believe, but Buster Posey struck out four times in a game for the first time in his career Friday night. …

Savage attack: Bret Boone called his Yankees “savages” at the plate – twice – during his ejection for lambasting rookie umpire Brennan Miller the other night. Boone earned a one-game suspension, but a T-shirt with the manager’s rant was already available after the game. …

The Celtics are crying tampering for the Sixers poaching Al Horford, but the NBA tampering is running rampant and something has to be done league-wide. There’s no way a $109 million deal was struck in minutes after the start of free agency. …

Sale says he got some encouragement from Luis Tiant. “I got some words of wisdom from Luis,” he said. “So that never hurts.” Asked what those words were, Sale said, “I can’t spill my beans. I can’t give up my secrets.” …

Chris Kelly, a thinking person’s hockey player, is the Bruins’ new coordinator of player development. Sounds like a quality hire. …

Lou Piniella missed by one vote of being able to join Martinez as Cooperstown inductees, but Piniella has to get there as well. Piniella was set to attend the ceremony, telling Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. You have to swallow some disappointments at times. I can’t wait to be there for Edgar.” …

From @BostonSptsNews: “The top NFL teams by record the last 10 years: 1. New England (123-37-0); 2. Pittsburgh (103-56-1); 3. Green Bay (100-58-2); 4. New Orleans (100-60-0); 5. Seattle (94-65-1); 6. Baltimore (93-67-0); 7. Atlanta (91-69-0); 8. Denver (90-70-0)” …

Aaron Judge hit his 11th homer of his injury interrupted season Friday night. None of the 11 was pulled to left field. …

The line of the week goes to new Celtics big man Enes Kanter. Taking a shot at Kyrie Irving, he said he took No. 11 because, “It was my old jersey number and I want to be the reason no one else will.” The latter part of the quote cited Irving’s quote during a Nike commercial. …

Technically, the Red Sox are 24-25 at home this season. But it’s actually 24-23 – the two losses in London were home games. Still, 24-23 is nothing to write home about. …

Shaquille O’Neal, who played on his share of talented teams (Kobe Bryant, etc.), told Jimmy Kimmel: “I’m from the era where guys wanted to compete and beat each other. So I would wait to see who’s teaming up and doing that and I would go on a team that needs a superstar and I would teach those guys how to beat the superteams.” …

The Atlantic League is experimenting with batters being able to “steal first” on any pitch that eludes the catcher. Sorry, don’t count me in!

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who passed away this week at 99, was 12 years old and was at the game at Wrigley Field when Babe Ruth called his 1932 World Series home run by pointing to the bleachers. “Very definitely. He pointed his bat,” Stevens once told the Associated Press. By the way, then-New York governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also at the game. …

Classy move: Michael Nylander, who is changing his Maple Leafs number from 29 to 88, will pay for his fans to have the jersey number changed. He tweeted: “I’ve got you covered Leafs Nation, go to @realsportstoronto to have your jersey recrested on me.” …

Eduardo Nunez, released by the Red Sox yesterday after being DFA’d, took to Twitter earlier in the week to say, “Thank you to Red Sox Nation and my teammates for your support over the past few years. I’m honored to share the experience of being a World Series Champion with you and to have created friendships that will last a lifetime. To the best fans in baseball, thank you!” …

Byron “Book” Washington, Ty Law‘s childhood friend, will present Law at the Football Hall of Fame induction Aug. 1-4. …

Aroldis Chapman reportedly told a friend he’s “one million percent” opting out of the final two years ($30 million) of his Yankees contract. Later the same day, the lefty shot that down, saying the report is “completely false.” But the report came from Fox’s Ken Rosenthal, who gets a lot right. …

From old pal Mark Divver, a hockey maven ex of the Providence Journal: “Ryan Spooner signs with Switzerland’s Lugano, per team release.” …

Texas football coach Tom Herman on college players getting compensated for use of their likeness or image: “There’s a strong case for it. This big-time college football model would be shaken to its core. I’m a bit torn but organizations are making hundreds of millions of dollars off them, so there ought to be a way these guys can benefit” …

Finally, ESPN’s Mike Reiss says Brady is “as excited as ever” about the coming season. You shocked? …

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.