Tough Saying Goodbye
February 3, 2011
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There’s social unrest in Cairo, Egypt. The United States is in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I go back to class next month and haven’t finished registering for classes. Hell, today is the three-year anniversary of the Giants’ improbable Super Bowl XLII upset. And here I am dreading Andy Pettitte’s retirement like there was a death in the family.
It says a lot about my life priorities.
It also says a lot about how much he meant to my Yankee fanhood.
I first watched a Yankee game on TV in 1995, the same year that Andy made his major league debut. But it was his 1996 campaign that brought his talent to my attention. He was only 24 at the time, but he routinely exhibited the poise and determination that would define his career. As you know Pettitte went on to win 21 games that year, but I will always remember his terrific season for the 8 1/3 shutout innings he threw in Game 5 of the World Series against the Braves. Watching this young hurler from Louisiana mow down the defending champs made me believe that he would be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
As a fan I’ve seen Andy pitch three times, the most of any starting pitcher since I began attending games in 1996. He won all three times and was downright dominant in two of those starts. No matter the circumstance, I never thought he would fail. That includes the stretch in 1999 when he was seemingly pitching his way out of the Bronx. It was around this time that I had started religiously reading the newspaper, and I distinctly remember all the rumors surrounding Pettitte and that late owner George Steinbrenner had lost confidence in him. (In case you forgot, here’s a reminder from River Ave. Blues.) I remember praying for days on end that Brian Cashman wouldn’t trade our homegrown left-hander and feeling responsible for his remaining in pinstripes.
Like Tino Martinez before him, I was heartbroken when Andy wasn’t brought back as a free agent after the 2003 season. I couldn’t take the sight of him in that Astros jersey and counted down the days until his contract ended. In fact I was the one person in our Yankees group on Facebook pushing for his return when everyone else wanted to sign Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito and Daisuke Matsuzaka while trading A-Rod for Dontrelle Willis (and Miguel Cabrera). Needless to say, Andy has had a better 2007-10 than any of these pitchers.
Out of everything about Andrew Eugene Pettitte as a player and a person, I’ll miss his poise and his class the most. Nothing seemed to phase him; all he did was go out and pitch every 5th day as often as possible. The trade swirls from ’99 were nothing to him. The injury concerns late in his career? He brushed them off. Even the HGH controversy couldn’t hold him down: there was no charade to the admission. Andy just came out and confessed to what he did, admitted he was wrong and went about his business on the mound. He was everything you could have asked for in a New York Yankee. And in 20 years, I’ll be able to tell my kids that I saw one of the great pitchers in Yankee history take the hill and mow down the best players in the game.
Thank you for 13 terrific seasons in the navy blue pinstripes, Andy. Hope retirement treats you well.