The closer is the ace reliever who specializes in closing out the game without surrendering the lead. Facing a power hitter in the ninth inning with a man on base and no outs takes nerves of steel.
The pressure on the mound is intense. It takes a special breed to hold it together in these situations.
Legendary manager Tony LaRussa said, "Sure, games can get away from you in the seventh and eighth, but those last three outs in the ninth are the toughest."
It wasn't until the creation of "the save," the successful maintenance of a lead by a relief pitcher, in 1960 that the position of closer began to rise in prominence.
Today, closers are seen as some of the most intense athletes in all of sports. Authors Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin explore the unique personalities of major leagues' most prominent relief pitchers from Bruce Sutter (Cubs, Cardinals, and Braves) to Mariano Rivera (Yankees) in "Closer: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game" (Running Press).
"Closer" is an insider's look into the role of the closing pitcher, how the position has evolved, and how legends - Trevor Hoffman, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Mariano Rivera, Brian Fuentes, and many more - coped with the stress on the mound such as when facing the .340 batter in the bottom of the ninth with only a one run lead.
(Running Press publicity)