All New York Yankees fans can remember the night of November 4, 2001. That Sunday night when the nearly impossible occurred: seeing Mariano Rivera blow a lead in the bottom of the ninth by surrendering two runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Game Seven of the World Series and watch Arizona go crazy with delight. Little did anyone that night know that it would save the life of one of Rivera’s own teammates.
Enrique Wilson was a backup infielder whom the Yankees acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates during the season. He watched from the dugout as the whole thing developed.
Anticipating a Yankee win and subsequent parade, Wilson booked a flight back to his native Dominican Republic a week or so later. When the ninth inning went as it did, Wilson decided to take an earlier flight and canceled the original one. What a decision that turned out to be.
Wilson and his family were scheduled to fly on American Airlines Flight 587 leaving New York for the Dominican Republic. That plane crashed in Belle Harbor in Queens, a borough of New York, just after takeoff. All 265 people on board perished.
When Wilson told Rivera the story, the veteran closer was shaken, but at the same time grateful. He may have blown a World Series, but in losing the 2001 World Series he allowed a teammate to live. That just might be the biggest save of Mariano Rivera’s life.