August 15, 2020

While I am not a huge heavy metal fan, Metallica’s Enter Sandmanis one of my favorite songs because it always reminds me of one of my heroes, baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera.

And it’s also a great tune to put on “repeat” 8 times to get through 45 minutes on the treadmill. 🙂

The song was played every time Rivera entered a game—and I think after you learn more about him, you might become at least an occasional heavy metal fan (although he is not)…and maybe a baseball fan too.

I was reminded of Rivera while recently watching a COVID Baseball Game, complete with cardboard cutout fans, a new baseball being put into play every pitch rather than every other pitch and piped in sound noises of a live crowd—and wondering when we will have “real baseball again.”

Also, this time of year is when the Hall of Fame Inductions take place in baseball—not this year—and that also reminded me of Rivera as well (more on that below).

In addition, I began thinking about “The Sandmen” of direct marketing of the past…and who we could nominate as “The Sandmen” of the future.

I’ll get to that after I talk about Rivera a bit explaining the original Sandman.

The literal translation of Rivera as a “sandman” is that he “retired” most batters who faced him (he was a pitcher…more about that below too).

But he was so much more than a pitcher who could dominate you if you hit against him…or even watched him retire batters with ease as a fan of either team.

In fact, when he dominated you or your team, all you felt was respect for the man.

How did he do that?

Or better yet, why “Be Like Mariano Rivera, The Sandman?”

There are many reasons:

1) Competition is coexistence

He epitomized this concept that has ruled my life in business for 40 years–and the lives of the folks I chose to follow in business, mentors and non-mentors alike–that “competition is coexistence.”

He had one unhittable pitch—most pitchers need three or four pitches (e.g. fast ball, curveball, changeup, slider etc.) to get batters out—and Rivera threw that one pitch over 90% of the time.

It was his “cut fastball”—every hitter knew it was coming—and yet they couldn’t hit it anyway.

It looked like a straight fastball, but just when the batter tried to hit it, it dropped straight down, which made it virtually impossible to get the “good part of the bat” on the ball.

If you don’t know baseball, all you need to know is that it’s a good thing.

And the kicker was that he made himself available to anyone who wanted to learn how to throw the pitch—just for the asking.

Why would he do that?

Watch this 8 minute video for the answer…it is a multi-dimensional answer and also a beautiful way to live one’s life, combining fierceness with generosity…a devastating combination.

But please read on before watching the video for more depth about Mariano than I could do in 8 minutes of video.

2) He was really good at what he did

Dare I say he was the best at his position in the history of baseball?

When I wrote about him a year and a half ago, it was to honor this particular achievement, as written in The Washington Post, in January of 2019, which would boost my argument:

Mariano Rivera…became the first player in history elected unanimously to Cooperstown [The Baseball Hall of Fame] on his first try.

Every last one of the 425 votes cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America had Rivera’s box checked, giving him a distinction — unanimity — that every other baseball great, from Babe Ruth to Ted Williams to Ken Griffey Jr., couldn’t manage.

If you know how the Baseball Writers vote for the Hall of Fame, you also know how silly they can be by NOT voting Ruth or Williams in unanimously in the past…not to mention Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle et. al.

But they couldn’t help voting unanimously for Rivera which is very telling.

He shouldn’t have been the first…but he was. It was monumental just the same.

3) He was a man of faith

This is not a reason in itself to put him on a pedestal…but it is instructional as to how he used that faith to fuel him and how he ran his life.

Every off season—and in the seasons since his retirement–he spends an enormous amount of time giving back to his homeland of Panama, with money and deeds, building fields for underprivileged kids and giving the next generation of the youth in Panama to get  a chance to “be like Mariano.”

With no ego of course. He is humble and self-effacing.

And on the Metallica thing…when asked whether he was a heavy metal fan, he smiles and says “no.”

He explains that a more appropriate entrance song would have been a church hymn…but the friendship and warm relationship he developed over the years with Metallica is indicative of who Rivera is.

Likable man is an understatement.

4) He was “THE Closer”

I mentioned that he was a pitcher…but his specific role was that of a “closer”—the last pitcher to enter the game when his team is ahead in the last inning–to get the final three outs.

While it’s arguable that Rivera is the best pitcher of all time, he is absolutely the best closer of all time.

There is no argument there and no one even comes close.

Getting the three toughest outs and doing it better than anyone (i.e. getting the most “saves” in history—652—the statistic that measures this phenomena) puts it in numbers that even baseball mathematicians can comprehend.

And in a figurative way, he was the ultimate closer in that no one else ever (very rarely) followed him in the game once he entered a game.

The game ended one way or another based on what he did—no one else would be requested or needed.

Most entrepreneurs live their life this way as well, don’t they?

The buck stops with them…as it did for “THE Closer.”

5) He was (appropriately) the last player to wear the number “42” in all of baseball

The painting below, which sits behind me in my office (and has been on over 200 podcasts!)  is Mariano Rivera running onto the field to save a game…and if you put your ear up to this picture(i.e. your computer, tablet or phone), can’t you  (almost) hear Enter Sandman playing in the background?  If you can’t, just click here and listen. 🙂

Why is he the last to wear the number 42?

In 1997, the number 42 was “retired” throughout the entire sport of baseball (i.e. no one could ever wear that number again).

This was to honor, for eternity, Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball with courage, integrity and honor in 1947…and he wore the number 42.

Robinson was a role model to Rivera (and to everyone who plays the game today).

The dozen players who were wearing number 42 in 1997 were grandfathered and allowed to keep that number until they retired.

It’s appropriate that Rivera was the last of those 12 players to wear the number.

Not just because he was such an amazing talent, but that he was the most caring and benevolent player the sport has ever seen this side of Jackie Robinson.

Sandmen of the past (direct marketing edition)

Thinking about the past, in terms of direct marketing, who do you think had these “Rivera traits” which led to their success?

1) Belief that competition is coexistence and teaching your best stuff to everyone is the ultimate gift you can give

2) Skills that surpassed all others—in something that they could do better than anyone or knew everything about—and to be emulated and celebrated for that something while acknowledging others in the process

3) Faith—religious or otherwise—that enabled them to be a giver, a coach, and a great friend to all—with no ego

4) To take ultimate responsibility when the game is on the line…with expert decision making (and skills of course), usually ending with a win.

5) To have emulated others that came before them so they were paying it forward despite all they had to offer themselves—and then encouraging the next generation to do the same.

There are many marketers I can think of who have fit the bill…and I will stick with folks who are no longer with us so I don’t insult anyone who can get mad at me:

Gene Schwartz, Martin Edelston, Clayton Makepeace, Gary Halbert, Joan Throckmorton, Dick Benson, Gordon Grossman, Fred Catona, Lee Epstein, Jim Rutz, Bill Jayme…and of course there are many others.

Those are a few that touched my life.

Now here’s the part where you can contribute:

Do you have special people from your career, no longer with us, who would “qualify” as being Mariano Rivera-like?

They don’t have to be perfect…just stellar in the categories above.

If I get enough participation, I will publish a full list of everyone’s nominations that you send me (in a future post).

Just email me with the names of your “Riveras.” Put “My Riveras” in the subject line.

Remember the quote from the movie Coco” when you send me your nominations:

“When there is no one left in the living world who remembers you, you disappear from this [the nonliving world]. We call it the final death.”

Here’s your chance to keep the legends and mentors from your career alive.

Sandmen of the future


That could be any one of you.

I encourage you to live by the principles above—and whatever else that works for you in the same spirit.

If you do that, I am assuming you will be voted (unanimously) into the appropriate Hall of Fame in whatever endeavor you participate in regularly.

I will also encourage you to be the world’s best at something–developing that “one pitch” that differentiates you from everyone else.

And then contribute to everyone else by sharing it and teaching it.

And finally, use it as a connection to everyone else.

And…remember…you can do all of this by still making your one pitch unhittable.



P.S. Below is the 8 minute video that was my first crack a few years ago at “Competition is coexistence.”

Today’s post expanded on that concept a bit further to expose much more why Rivera is my favorite player despite playing for the Yankees (I am a Mets fan).

Note that in New York you cannot root for both teams—it’s sort of a mortal sin–but I made up a new rule that individual players can cross the line. I’ll stick to that.

Specifically, watch this for the answer to the question, “Why did Mariano Rivera teach his one (best) pitch to everyone without fear of losing anything?”

P.P.S Because Breakthrough Advertising is so much in demand these days, I’m confident that Gene Schwartz will not experience a “final death”…ever.

I have had to hire a “takedown service” to scan the Internet every day to make sure pirates aren’t illegally selling this book (at a much higher price than I sell it for)–and this service also takes down others who try to pawn off ugly PDF’s of this masterpiece as the real deal. 

It’s a game of “whack-a-mole” that I don’t like playing…but that’s the price of admission for keeping Gene and his masterpiece alive. And it’s a game I want to play.

There was some good news from my Takedown Service however when I was directed to a site they thought could be a thief.

The ghoulish site in question was making an offer for the book at “only $150” (which is only a little more than I sell it for—most others are selling for $300 and above). I figured it was a PDF or worse.

I was curious (but still suspicious) when it was accompanied with this picture: 

I knew that this picture was the original book cover from 1966…and I had never owned an original despite having the exclusive rights.

Not even Gene Schwartz’s wife (my partner) owns one as far as I know. 

So I sent the $150 and fantasized that this might actually be legit. 

If not, I would find out it was just another pirate and I would have my service take them down. 

No downside except for the $150 I guess. 

Lo and behold, it was the real deal…and the irony is that this seller could have probably sold that copy for thousands of dollars…don’t tell them!

I probably would have still been his buyer if that was the case anyway. 🙂

When I gently placed this “first edition” in a prominent position on my bookshelf (with other copies of the book from editions I have published in the past)  I found an Amazon listing I had saved from September 18, 2003 where I first saw a used copy of Breakthrough Advertising for $997:

I recalled that it was that day over 17 years ago that I knew I had to keep the book in print. Not just because it was so rare and so valuable—I wanted to make it affordable to a new generation of marketers, copywriters and entrepreneurs. But first I just wanted to print it up and give it away to all of my colleagues in the direct marketing community.

At that time in 2003, I did a limited run of maybe 250 copies with very little fanfare and gave those copies away to marketing friends—little did I know what was to come.

Years later, I realized I wanted to make it more widely available and that’s the version I sell today, with a new afterword I wrote myself plus samples of Gene’s greatest ads. 

Today’s “Titans Edition” is word-for-word exactly as Gene penned it in 1966…it is still 100% relevant…and of course the first thing I did when I received my “original” pictured above was to confirm that. 

If for some reason you don’t know about this masterpiece (no reason to be embarrassed), and would like more background (other than how much people like to rip me and Gene off), please read: 

“Genius…passion…and building larger mice…” 

If you would like to order a copy, please do so at:

P.P.P.S. By the way…Gene loved baseball and would have loved Mariano Rivera’s life philosophy as I described it. 

I guess he invented it before Mariano was born? 🙂

Most of Gene’s “competitors” in copywriting were mere mortals (like most other pitchers not named Mariano Rivera) yet Gene shared his secrets freely with anyone who asked, both personally and through his writing.

Not only with Breakthrough Advertising but with The Brilliance Breakthrough, (which is Gene’s book on how to “write like Gene”).

Click on either title or both above and you will see how Gene wanted to teach his “best pitches” (and yes, he had many more than one).  

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Title Goes Here

Get this Free E-Book

Use this bottom section to nudge your visitors.