Panama is a country known for many things from the political strife it has endured, to it’s contributions to the world of music and sports, to its largest architectural wonder the Panama Canal. However, it has also produced men that have not only paved successful paths in life, but iconic ones. In celebration of the Republic of Panama’s Independence Day, we highlight five Panamanian you’d better know about.
1. Mariano Rivera
It’s impossible to discuss Mariano Rivera without admiring the man he’s been — on and off the field. Since 1995, the smooth Panama-born slinger has been as synonymous with the New York Yankees as any other man to wear the pinstripes. For two decades, Rivera was one of the most feared closers in Major League Baseball. In an industry obsessed with numbers Rivera delivered. He set the record for most career saves still standing at 652; he earned 13 All-Star nods; was a World Series MVP and helped the Yankees win no less than five World Series titles, three in a row from 1998 to 2000.
Yet his off-field reputation is just as remarkable. A well-known philanthropist, his Mariano Rivera Foundation is highly regarded for its contributions to various efforts throughout Panama and for its involvement in the Christian community. You know you are respected when the opposition tips their cap to you. In 2013, his farewell season opposing teams and fans honored Rivera. He received a “Chair of Broken Dreams” from the Minnesota Twins — forged with the splinters of bats Rivera broke with his infamous cutter; the Cleveland Indians honored Mo with a gold record of “Enter Sandman” his eponymous theme song by Metallica — selected for his ability to put opponents to sleep; and even the Boston Red Sox, a bitter Yankees rival, honored Rivera with an elaborate tribute, acknowledging Rivera as “a real gentleman, a fierce competitor and a most worthy opponent.”
However, the highest honors we doled out by the only baseball organization he has ever known. The Yankees named September 22nd – Mariano Rivera Day and retired Rivera’s number 42, making him the last MLB player to wear the number since the league-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson’s sacred “42” in 1997.