Results tagged ‘ Andy Pettitte ’
Following the path of last year’s honoring of Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park, the Yankees in the coming season will do likewise for Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Willie Randolph. Joining Torre, whose No. 6 was retired last year, the uniform numbers of Williams (51), Posada (20) and Pettitte (46) will be put away for good.
Williams will be honored Sunday, May 24, before the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers. Randolph will be feted during Old-Timers’ Day festivities Saturday, June 20, prior to the Yankees’ 7:15 p.m. game against the Tigers. Posada will take his place in Monument Park Aug. 22 and Pettitte Aug. 23.
Williams played his entire 16-season major league career with the Yankees (1991-2006) and batted .297. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits, sixth in games played (2,076) and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the AL batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000), Williams is the Yanks’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series MVP after batting .474 with six runs, two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series victory over the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning, game-winning home run.
Posada also spent his whole major-league career – 17 seasons – with the Yankees from 1995-2011 and batted .273 with 900 runs, 379 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 1,829 games. As a player on five World Series title teams (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘09), Posada finished his career among baseball’s all-time postseason leaders in games played (second, 125), doubles (third, 23) and hits (fourth, 103). His 119 postseason games behind the plate are the most all time. In 2011, the Puerto Rico native became the first big leaguer to catch at least one game with the same team in 17 straight seasons (1995-2011) since the Reds’ Johnny Bench did so over the same stretch of seasons from 1967-83.
A five-time AL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner (each in 2000-03, ’07), Posada twice finished in the top 10 in AL Most Valuable Player balloting (third in 2003 and sixth in 2007). He is one of eight players to appear in at least one game with the Yankees in each of 17 different seasons, along with Derek Jeter (20), Mariano Rivera (19), Yogi Berra (18), Mickey Mantle (18), Frankie Crosetti (17), Bill Dickey (17) and Lou Gehrig (17). Along with Jeter and Rivera, Posada is part of the first trio of teammates in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history to appear in a game together in each of 17 straight seasons, a feat they accomplished from 1995-2011.
Pettitte was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft and pitched in 15 seasons with the club (1995-2003, ‘07-10 and ‘12-13). As a Yankee, Pettitte posted a 219-127 record with a 3.94 ERA and 2,020 strikeouts in 447 games (438 starts). The lefthander, who is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,020), is tied with Whitey Ford for most games started and trails in victories and innings pitched only to Ford (236; 3,171) and Red Ruffing (231; 3,168) in club history. Pettitte made at least one start in each of his 15 seasons with the Yankees, tying Ruffing for second-most all-time in franchise history behind Ford (16 seasons). The three-time AL All-Star (1996, 2001 and ‘10) is the only pitcher drafted by the Yankees to win 200 games in the majors. Pettitte was the runner-up to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award in 1996.
In 40 postseason starts for the Yankees, Pettitte was 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA and is the club’s all-time playoff leader in victories, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts (167). He appeared in eight World Series (seven with the Yankees and one with the Astros) and earned clinching victories in Game 4 at San Diego in 1998 and Game 6 against the Phillies in 2009. He was also on Yankees staffs that won World Series championships in 1996, ‘99 and 2000. In 2001, Pettitte was ALCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against the Mariners.
Randolph played in 13 seasons for the Yankees from 1976-88 and hit .275 with 1,027 runs, 259 doubles, 58 triples, 48 home runs, 549 RBI and 251stolen bases in 1,694 games. He appeared in 1,688 games at second base with the team, more than any other player at the position in Yankees history, and ranks third on the organization’s all-time list in steals. The five-time AL All-Star (1976-77, ‘80-81 and ‘87) was also the 1980 AL Silver Slugger winner in the award’s inaugural season. Randolph played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1977-81 and hit a game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. He and Ron Guidry were named co-captains of the Yankees March 4, 1986.
In addition to his 13 playing seasons with the Yankees, Randolph spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization. He was the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004.
So it turned out what Derek Jeter needed most in his final game at Yankee Stadium was Mariano Rivera. Then again, if Mo had been available to close out Thursday night’s game, it might not have had the dramatic finish it did.
Appropriate is the key word to describe the finish of the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over the Orioles in the Captain’s last appearance in the home pinstripes. All week long Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked what gesture he was contemplating for Jeter’s farewell. The skipper kept saying he would consult with Jeter, who did the one thing he has always done over 20 seasons in the major leagues — play the game until the last out.
Who else was better to win Jeter’s Stadium finale than Jeter? He fought back emotion in the last two innings after the Yankees had grabbed a three-run lead but reverted to the cool demeanor that has defined him to be in place to get the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was achieved with his familiar inside-out swing, a single to right field that delivered pinch runner Antoan Richardson to the plate to end as astonishing an evening as there ever has been at either Yankee Stadium.
David Robertson, who succeeded Rivera as the Yankees’ closer, had a nightmare of a ninth inning by giving up a two-run home run to Adam Jones and a solo shot with two out to Steve Pearce that tied the score and threatened to ruin the night for Jeter. Rivera as well as other old teammates Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Gerald Williams and former manager Joe Torre were in attendance as well as Derek’s parents and his sister and nephew among a crowd of 48,613, the largest this year at the Stadium.
The blown save actually created the possibility that Jeter could be the hero. He had already contributed to the Yankees’ attack with a run-scoring double in the first inning and an RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh when the Yankees went up by a 5-2 score.
Imagine if Girardi had sent Brendan Ryan out to play shortstop in the top of the ninth to let Jeter get a standing ovation leaving the field? What a revolting development that would have been.
Two minor-league call-ups helped frame the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees. Jose Pirela led off with a single past third base. Richardson ran for Pirela and was sacrificed to second by Brett Gardner. I will not use the phrase “those remaining in the crowd” because I doubt anyone left the game before it ended. Up came Jeter to another crescendo of cheers. That was nothing compared to what came next. Jeter’s single was worth the price of every expensive ticket, the hottest one all year in New York.
His current teammates mobbed Jeter on the base path between first while his former comrades looked on approvingly. Hugs and high fives abounded. Jeter walked around the infield waving his cap in acknowledging the fans in every section of the Stadium.
He then walked slowly to the shortstop position, the only one he has ever played on a major-league diamond, and squatted in an almost religious gesture. He said afterward that he will not play shortstop again. He will go to Boston for the Yankees’ final three games of the season and out of respect for Red Sox fans plans to play but as a designated hitter only.
Jeter’s last season was nowhere near his best, but at 40 playing one of the game’s most demanding positions he stayed healthy and made it through 143 of the team’s 159 games. His hit gave the Yankees victory No. 82, guaranteeing them a winning season for the 22nd consecutive year. Jeter never had a losing season in the majors. The Captain also saved his best for last. In his final home stand, Jeter batted .353 with five runs, four doubles, one home run and nine RBI in 34 at-bats.
His Stadium numbers are also impressive. Jeter played in 1,390 regular-season games in the Bronx — 1,004 at the old Stadium and 386 at the current Stadium. He combined to hit .313 with 1,012 runs, 273 doubles, 30 triples, 138 home runs, 666 RBI and 193 stolen bases in 5,514 at-bats.
It is hard to believe that this tremendous career has come to an end. I was able to get a quiet moment with DJ before the game. I am not going to Boston and wanted to say my goodbyes and tell him how much I enjoyed watching him play and thank him for his cooperation over the years.
It was also the end of an era. Jeter, Posada, Pettite, Rivera and Bernie Williams are the only players I have covered in a 40-year career as a baseball writer from their first day of spring training to their last game at Yankee Stadium. They are the Core Four Plus One. Jeter’s retirement ends all that. But what an ending!
Masahiro Tanaka and Jon Lester, who were paired against each other Saturday night at Yankees Stadium, first hooked up April 22 at Fenway Park. At the time, Tanaka was still an unknown quantity although he had already opened plenty of eyes. But in the tense atmosphere of Boston’s old yard, the Japanese righthander was going to face some strong scrutiny.
He passed with flying colors. Tanaka pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs and seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in improving his record to 3-0. The Yankees pounded Lester for 11 hits and eight runs, although five were not earned due to errors by catcher A.J. Pierzynski and first baseman Mike Napoli.
Tanaka’s record was up to 11-2 entering play Saturday night. The Elias Sports Bureau put together some interesting information on the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year candidate.
Tanaka has pitched at least six innings and allowed three runs or fewer in each of his 15 starts. In the past 103 seasons since earned runs became an official statistis in 1912, he is one of only two pitchers to produce such an outing in each of his first 15 major-league games. The other was the Expos’ Steve Rogers, who did so in each of his first 16 games for Montreal in 1973).
Tanaka is the only pitcher to produce such an outing in each of his first 15 starts with the Yankees and one of only three Yankees pitchers to produce such a start in 15 consecutive starts at any point in their careers. The others were CC Sabathia (16 games) in 2010 from June 3 to Aug. 22 and Ron Guidry (15 games) in 1978 from April 8 to June 22.
No pitcher has recorded a longer such streak since the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong had 16 consecutive quality starts in 2012 from May 3 to July 29.
Elias also pointed out that Friday night’s 6-0 victory over the Red Sox marked the first time in franchise history that two non-pitchers each age 40 or older started a game together for the Yankees in shortstop Derek Jeter and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. The last pair of 40-year-olds to start for the Yankees prior to Friday was pitcher Andy Pettitte and outfielder Raul Ibanez in 2012.
Yankees fans should take note that the rainout makeup game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City will be at 7:10 p.m. Aug. 25.
Thursday night’s finale of the 2014 Subway Series at Citi Field featured the unusual pairing of pitchers making their major-league debuts against each other, the Yankees’ Chase Whitley, who was called up from Triple A Scranton, and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, a Triple A Las Vegas call-up.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the previous time that both pitchers made their big-league debuts was Sept. 7, 2010 when the Mets’ Dillon Gee opposed the Nationals’ Yunesky Maya at Washington. deGrom followed the major-league debut of teammate Rafael Montero, Thursday night’s losing pitcher. The previous major-league team that had starting pitchers make their debuts in consecutive games was the Brewers in 2002 (Ben Diggins Sept. 2 in the second game of a doubleheader and Dave Pember Sept. 3). The last time it happened before rosters expand in September was in 2001 by the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano Aug. 20 in the second game of a twin bill and Juan Cruz Aug. 21.
The last time the Yankees were involved in a game in which both starters made their big league debuts was all the way back to Oct. 6, 1908 at Boston when the Highlanders’ Andy O’Connor was paired with the Red Sox’s Doc McMahon at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.
Elias also uncovered some gems concerning Masahiro Tanaka’s first complete-game shutout Thursday night, a 4-0 four-hitter. The Japanese righthander joined Andy Pettitte as the second Yankees starter with a complete-game shutout over the Mets, joining Andy Pettitte in an 8-0 victory June 30, 2002. Tanaka has a 6-0 record and 66 strikeouts in his first eight career games with the Yankees. No other pitcher to debut since 1900 has had at least 60 strikeouts while earning at least six victories in his first eight appearances in the majors.
Tanaka is also the first pitcher since 1900 to strike out at least 60 hitters while allowing fewer than 10 walks in his first eight career games. He is the second Yankees pitcher to be undefeated with at least six victories through eight games in the majors. The other was Vic Raschi, who started 7-0 for the Yanks over the 1946 and ’47 seasons. The only other active pitcher who was 6-0 or better through his first eight career games is the Angels’ Jered Weaver (7-0 in 2006). Tanaka is also the first pitcher to win his first six decisions as a starter with the Yankees since Aaron Small went 8-0 in his first nine starts with the club in 2005. Small played for five teams before joining the Yankees.
Both clubs placed key players on the disabled list before the game. The Yankees disabled right fielder Carlos Beltran, who has bone spurs in his right elbow. Mets catcher Travis d’Arnau, who was struck in the helmet by Alfonso Soriano’s backswing earlier in the week, was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.
Thursday also marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of former Yankees publicist Bob Fishel, who led the department from 1954-73, a tenure that spanned three different ownership groups (Dan Topping/Del Webb, CBS and George M. Steinbrenner). He worked with managers Casey Stengel, Ralph Houk, Yogi Berra and Johnny Keane. Fishel left the Yankees after the 1973 season to become the PR director of the American League. The annual award presented by Major League Baseball to the PR director of the year is named in Bob’s honor.
All the positive vibes from the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Orioles in Monday’s home opener were tainted somewhat by a singular does of bad news. David Robertson, who has been anointed this year as the success to Mariano Rivera as the Yankees’ closer, is headed for the disabled list because of a Grade 1 groin pull. But there was no truth to the rumor that the Yanks would not let Mo leave the building.
Rivera was on hand with “Core Four” partners Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada to help make Derek Jeter’s final home opener a cozy afternoon. Jeter missed the 2013 opener while recovering from ankle surgery, so he was really looking forward to this day. The Captain had his share of ups and downs, but the 4-2 final was all he cared about.
“I’ll take the win,” Jeter said.
The victory would have to come without Robertson’s input. When the ninth inning arrived, Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to Shawn Kelley instead. He came through with a 1-2-3 inning to record his first career save in what was also his first ninth-inning save opportunity as a major leaguer.
Robertson apparently hurt his groin during Sunday’s game at Toronto when he picked up his second save of the season but did not say anything to the staff until he came to Yankee Stadium Monday and complained of soreness. An MRI test revealed the strain. Girardi said he would likely mix and match with the closer role, but Kelley the hardest thrower in the bullpen could be the first choice during the period D-Rob is down.
As he did all day, Jeter tried to put a positive spin on the news.
“It’s better to have it happen at the beginning of the season rather than at the middle or at the end,” he said. “I’m sure he’s disappointed, but from what I understand he’ll be fine.”
Jeter’s day was one of mixed results. He struck out twice and grounded into a double play, although a run did score on the twin killing. No RBI, but to DJ a run is a run. His only hit, a double to left leading off the fifth inning, contained its share of drama as well as the Captain jogged a bit going down the first-base line before he had to step it up and leg out a double on a close play at second base.
“I thought it was a home run at first and then that it might go foul because the wind was tricky,” Jeter said with a sly grin. “I knew then I had to pick up the pace. Hey, I was safe. It would have been really embarrassing if I was out. Some guys got on me until they hit some balls into that wind.”
Jeter was also amused that fans near the dugout cheered him right after he hit into that double play. “I guess they appreciated that I hustled,” he said, “and we got a run.”
It always comes back to that for Jeter; what his play means to the team. For the sellout crowd of 48,142 at Yankee Stadium, it was a treat to be able to cheer for the Captain once more as a new season at home got underway.
“It felt like my first home opener,” Jeter said.
Although he was not part of the Opening Day festivities, Yogi Berra was not going to let Derek Jeter’s final home opener go by without coming to Yankee Stadium to wish the captain good luck in his farewell season.
The Hall of Famer and three-time American League Most Valuable Player, who has thrown out many a ceremonial first pitch at the Stadium, is confined to a wheelchair these days, but the 87-year-old legend was in good spirits as he entered the hallway to the Yankees’ clubhouse just as Jeter was heading out to the field for batting practice.
“Hey, kid, you ready for one more big year?” Yogi asked Jeter.
“I hope so,” DJ said. “Thanks for coming. It means a lot to us. I’ve got to go stretch now. You want to come with me?”
Yogi’s pre-game stretching days are well behind him, but as Jeter pointed out his presence is greatly appreciated by Yankees players. Yogi lost his lifetime partner, Carmen, last month to a long illness, so it was good to see him out and about in the venue that continues to embrace him.
Berra was among several popular former Yankees on the scene for the first home game against the Orioles. Jeter and best pal Jorge Posada did the duty of catching the ceremonial first pitches tossed by the other half of the “Core Four,” Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
Even before the game, it was a home opener to remember.
The “Core Four” will get the Yankees’ home schedule started Monday at the 112th home opener.
Yankee Stadium gates will open to fans for the 1:05 p.m. game against the Orioles beginning at 11 a.m. Festivities are slated to start at approximately 12:30 p.m. with the introduction of both teams on the baselines. The Yankees ask their fans to please budget ample time when planning their trip to the Stadium and urge their fans to use public transportation.
Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will throw the Opening Day ceremonial first pitches to Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Pettitte and Rivera, who each will also be honored with the “Pride of the Yankees Award” at the 35th Annual Homecoming Dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown following the game, will become the 13th and 14th former Yankees player to receive the Opening Day honor. Posada threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Yankees’ 2012 home opener.
Jeter, of course, will continue to work when the game begins as he continues his 20th and final season as a player. The Captain batted .250 with one RBI on the six-game trip through Houston and Toronto.
Kelli O’Hara, a Tony Award nominee and co-star of the Broadway musical The Bridges of Madison County, will sing the national anthem. In addition, a giant American flag will be unfurled by 75 West Point Cadets.
During the seventh-inning stretch, James Moye of the Broadway hit Bullets Over Broadway will perform “God Bless America.”
Following Opening Day, the Yankees will continue their nine-game homestand with two more games against the Orioles, a four-game against the Red Sox (April 10-13) and a two-game, inter-league series against the Cubs (April 15-16). The homestand will feature special pregame ceremonies and giveaways, as well as unique events:
Thursday, April 10 – Yankees vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m.
Mark Rivera, longtime Billy Joel band mate and music director for Ringo Starr, will sing the national anthem.
Friday, April 11 – Yankees vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m.
Magnetic Schedule Night, presented by AT&T, to all guests in attendance.
Saturday, April 12 & Sunday, April 13 – Yankees vs. Red Sox (1:05 p.m. and 8:05 p.m., respectively)
Calendar Day/Night, presented by Subway, to all guests in attendance.
Monday, April 14 – Tuesday, April 15
The Yankees and Major League Baseball will co-host the third annual MLB Diversity Business Summit, an event that provides attendees with unique access to executives from MLB, all 30 MLB clubs, as well as those from MLB media entities.
Tuesday, April 15 – Yankees vs. Cubs, 7:05 p.m.
As part of the Jackie Robinson Day pregame ceremonies, Nelson Mandela will be honored with a plaque in Monument Park.
Wednesday, April 16 – Yankees vs. Cubs, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Peeps Collectible Night (Yankee Stadium Exclusive), presented by Peeps Brands, to first 10,000 Guests 14 and younger.
For information on parking and public transportation options to the Stadium, please visit yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.
Derek Jeter’s farewell tour officially began Wednesday night at Houston before the Yankees-Astros game. Former Yankees teammates Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Mike Stanton took part in the pre-game ceremony with Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton to present the Captain with a pair of pinstriped cowboy boots with his No. 2 painted on the sides, a Stetson hat and a pair of golf clubs.
The Astros even showed Jeter the ultimate respect by standing on the top step of the dugout and applauding him during his first-inning at-bat that triggered a standing ovation from the crowd at Minute Maid Park, an unsual sight that he acknowledged with a tip of his helmet.
Mariano Rivera reveled in the attention last year when he embarked on a farewell tour. I suspected that Jeter might be uncomfortable with going through something similar, but his trademark wide smile was evident throughout the short ceremony, so maybe he will have fun with it after all.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte may be leaving the Yankees but not Derek Jeter. The captain signed a one-year contract for $12 million Friday and intends to be healthy for the 2014 season.
Jeter, 39, is a career .312 hitter with the ninth highest total of hits (3,316), among which are 525 doubles, 65 triples and 256 home runs. DJ has scored 1,876 runs, driven in 1,261 and stolen 348 bases in 2,602 games over 19 major-league seasons, all with the Yankees (1995-2013). A five-time World Series champion (1996, 1998-2000, ’09), 13-time All-Star (1998-2002, ’04, ’06-12) and five-time Gold Glove Award winner (2004-06, ’09-10), Jeter will become the longest-tenured player in franchise history with his first game played in 2014, breaking the record he currently shares with Rivera.
In 2013, Jeter batted .190 with eight runs, one double, one home run and seven RBI in 17 games (13 starts at shortstop, four at designated hitter) and 63 at-bats. He missed 145 games during four stints on the disabled list. Prior to last season, he had been on the DL only five times and missed just 82 games.
Jeter is a five-time Silver Slugger Award recipient (2006-09, ’12) with eight career 200-hit seasons, including a majors-leading 216 hits in 2012. Prior to last season, Jeter had a 17-season streak (1996-2012) of at least 150 hits per season, matching Hank Aaron (1955-71) for the longest such stretch in major-league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Jeter, who was named the 11th captain in team history June 3, 2003, is the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, games, stolen bases, at-bats, singles (2,470) and hit by pitches (164). He also ranks second in doubles (Lou Gehrig-534), third in runs (Babe Ruth -1,959, Gehrig-1,888) and ninth in homers. No active player has appeared in more games for his current team than DJ, who is 10th all-time in games played among big leaguers who have spent their entire careers with one club.
Additionally, Jeter is one of just two players in Major League history, along with Willie Mays, to record at least 3,000 hits, 250 home runs, 300 stolen bases and 1,200 RBI in their careers.
Born in Pequannock, N.J., and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., Jeter was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft (sixth pick overall). In 1996, he established the “Turn 2” Foundation to create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and “Turn 2″ healthy lifestyles. As a result of Turn 2’s programs and his other good works off the field, Jeter was honored by Major League Baseball with the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.
What a way for Andy Pettitte to end his major-league career. The lefthander gave Yankees fans one more brilliant performance before a crowd of 37,199 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, some 20 miles from his hometown of Deer Park, Texas. Pettitte completed his 18-season career with a complete game, his first in seven years.
The 2-1 victory over the Astros brought Pettitte’s season record to 11-11, which means that he never had a losing record, the first pitcher to do so in a career of 15 years or more. Andy had one other .500 season – 2008 when he was 14-14 – otherwise it was nothing but winning campaigns.
“It’s a shame you have to grow old,” Pettitte said immediately after the game.
Yes, it happens to all players, even his teammate, Mariano Rivera, who is also finally stepping away from the game at season’s end. Pettitte hated walking away from the game so much once before that he came back out of retirement to pitch another two years for the Yankees.
The finish was a momentous way to go out. It reminded me of how it all began. The day I arrived at what was the last spring training camp the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”
He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.
Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”
“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”
“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.
Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.
Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.
The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.
With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought the deeply-religious Pettitte was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games and ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.
Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta in the last game played at Fulton County Stadium, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.
Pettitte pitched that night with the authority he showed during his 21-8 regular season as well as Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Baltimore that clinched the Yankees’ first World Series appearance in 15 years. The key inning for Pettitte in Game of the ’96 Series was the sixth when he got himself in and out of trouble.
He gave up singles to opposing pitcher John Smoltz and center field Marquis Grissom, whose fourth-inning error accounted for the game’s only run. Pettitte pounced on a sacrifice attempt by Mark Lemke and forced Smoltz at third base, which prompted Braves manager Bobby Cox to say later, “He was a cat on that bunt; it took a lot of guts to throw that ball to third base.”
On Pettitte’s next pitch, Chipper Jones hit a one-hopper to the mound. Pettitte was a cat again, starting an inning-ending double play.
“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that,” Torre recalled. “What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a standup guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.
“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990’s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.
“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”
For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week.
That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 (seven runs, six hits in 2 1/3 innings) remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything needed from a pitcher.
He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 ALCS when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.
Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. In 2010, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. That sent him into his first retirement, but he was lured back in 2012. Pettitte dealt with health issues each of the past two seasons yet was no less competitive
“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”
“It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years,” Jeter said. “The Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 256-153, a postseason-record 19 victories and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.85) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.
His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.
“I don’t think about the Hall of Fame unless I’m asked about it,” Pettitte said. “I feel blessed that people will bring my name into that conversation. Have I been a pitcher who dominated? Every game has been a grind for me. I’d continue to pitch if [the Hall of Fame] was a desire of mine. I wouldn’t have retired in the first place.”
The writers who vote will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.