When Yankees closer Mariano Rivera came up to bat against the Mets last night, even the legendary reliever's teammates were smiling and snickering. For all of Rivera's dominance on the mound, he'd spent his entire 15-year career as an American League relief pitcher, a position that offers few chances to bat. It's not all that surprising, then, that nobody expected much when Rivera picked up a bat for his third career plate appearance against Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez with the bases loaded. When Rivera managed to work a walk, he forced home a valuable insurance run in what had been a tight 3-2 game, but he also got something even more interesting: his first career RBI.
Fifteen years seems like a long time to wait for an RBI, but it's hardly the only long wait we've seen. Take a look at these five streaks of futility that seemed like they'd never end:
1. Yinka Dare Learns to Share
After a rookie campaign in which Dare played just three minutes before suffering a season-ending ACL tear, Dare returned strong for the 1995-96 slate. That season, Dare played in 58 games and racked up 72 turnovers in 626 minutes. Dare did not, however, record a single assist. Granted, this was on a team whose main scoring threats came from the immortal trio of Armen Gilliam, Kenny Anderson, and Kendall Gill, but one would expect Dare to assist on at least one basket.
The futility extended into the 1996-97 season, when Dare was still looking for his first assist well into his third NBA campaign. By this point, Nets fans would mercilessly heckle any player who missed a shot that could have given Dare his first assist. He finally recorded the elusive dime on January 11, 1997, 77 games into his NBA career, when he hit Lloyd Daniels for a three with 47.9 seconds left in a blowout loss to the Raptors. He then went on an assist bender, picking up three more over the course of that season.
2. Jason Tyner Finally Belts One
The moonshot wasn't of the "no doubt about it" variety, either; the 325-foot bomb came so close to dying on the warning track that Tyner sprinted out of the batter's box and didn't realize he'd finally homered until he rounded second base. The dinger wasn't the start of a power binge for Tyner, either; he had 247 more career at-bats without mustering another round-tripper.
3. Caltech Finally Engineers a Win
4. Anthony Young Can't Buy a Victory
Oddly, Young didn't pitch terribly during this streak; he posted ERAs of 4.17 and 3.77 in the two seasons included in his run of losses. He was also versatile as a loser "“ 14 of the losses came as a starter, but the other 13 were when he was working as a reliever. His streak eventually died on July 28, 1993 when he came into a tie game against the Marlins in the top of the ninth inning and promptly gave up a tie-breaking unearned run after a Todd Hundley throwing error. Just when it looked like the streak would continue, Young's teammates squeaked out two runs in the bottom of the ninth to give him the win.
5. Buccaneers Pirate The Win Column
The Bucs didn't exactly fly out of the chute in their second season, either. The team promptly dropped its first 12 games. In week 13, though, they found magic on the road against the New Orleans Saints and managed to end their 26-game losing streak. Bucs QB Gary Huff passed for 96 yards and a touchdown, and defensive back Mike Washington returned an interception of Archie Manning 45 yards for a score as the Bucs went on to a 33-14 romp. The humiliating loss so irked legendary Saints coach Hank Stram that he allegedly burned the game film.