I remember watching Andy Pettitte pitch this summer against the Blue Jays. It was July 3, 2010 and unbeknownst to me at the moment, it would be the last time I saw Andy take the mound in person. It was a beautiful summer day and fans were still living off the high of the 2009 season as Andy pitched to his tenth win – a solid two weeks before the All-Star break. Everything was perfect. There was no way I could have known walking out of the stadium that day that I’d never sit in the stands and watch Andy pitch live again. If I had, I certainly would have taken a moment to take it all in – to watch Pettitte and smile, knowing that pitchers like him are few and far between.
When the rumors of Andy’s impending retirement were confirmed today, I instantly regretted not seeing him pitch live one more time. Or twenty more times. In fact, when the news broke, I immediately got irrationally annoyed with myself for not personally witnessing every single pitch that Andy Pettitte has ever made. But as I’ve had time to calm down and drag myself off the ledge, I have come to realize that this game on July 3, 2010 was the perfect ending to my Andy Pettitte story because the game embodied everything that made Andy so great.
I remember it being a beautiful day for a game. I was excited to be at Yankee Stadium -- something my schedule does not allow as much as I would like -- and even more excited that I was seeing Andy pitch for the first time that year. Decked out in my Pettitte jersey, I took the elevator all the way up to Section 420 and got ready for a great afternoon of baseball. However, my great afternoon took a slight detour in the top of the first inning.
Play by play:
- Nick Green singles, none out.
- Alex Gonzalez pops up to second, one out.
- Jose Bautista homers (21), Nick Green scores, one out.
- Vernon Wells walks, one out.
- (Coaching visit to mound)
- John Buck singles, Vernon Wells to second, one out.
- Aaron Hill flies out, Vernon Wells to third, two out.
- Lyle Overbay pops out, three out.
I remember my friend wondering what was wrong with Andy during the inning. Was he tired? Hurting? Just didn’t have it today? I considered these questions too. He was having such a terrific start to the season, so he was “due” a bad game, as they say. If anyone else was on the mound, I would have been concerned that I was in for a long afternoon. But it was Andy Pettitte. I think only Yankee fans can know what that means. You never got too nervous with Andy on the mound. Sure, he had his bad days – He *is* human (I think). But Andy always, always battled. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff, he always competed. As fans, that was all we could ever ask for.
As I mentioned earlier, Andy ended up pitching to his tenth win of the season that day. After a shaky first inning, he settled down nicely, not allowing another earned run until the sixth inning. By that time, the game was out of hand – The Yankees had knocked Ricky Romero off the mound with an 11-run third inning. But lost in big hits and theatrics of the third inning was the fact that Andy had battled yet again. When he came out in the second inning, you would have had no idea how bad he looked in the first if you hadn’t been watching. He actually pitched 4 innings of no-hit ball before surrendering one earned run on two hits in the sixth. His turnaround was nothing short of remarkable, but it was also expected. That was Andy Pettitte.
The thing I will miss most about having Andy on the mound is the sense of security he gave me. I knew that he’d show up and get it done, no matter what he had with him that day. I’ll never forget his interview with Kimberly Jones after Game 6 of the 2009 World Series. Kim congratulated Andy to which Andy proceeded to tell her he was glad that he got through the game because he didn’t have anything. I remember laughing out loud as Andy was telling Kim how “bad” he was that game. He was being modest, of course, but he was certainly exhausted and running on empty. It was the first time Andy had pitched on 3-days rest since 2006, and many critics questioned Girardi’s decision to even go to Pettitte on short rest. But it was Andy Pettitte. His coaches and teammates knew that he would battle and give them a chance to win, as did his fans. It’s what he always did.
So, as much as it pains me to write this, I must say goodbye to Andy Pettitte. It’s the end of an era. It was a wild ride and I’m beyond grateful that I was a part of it in my small way. Andy has absolutely no idea who I am and yet I am so indebted to him. In a sports world sometimes tainted with greed, selfishness, and flashiness, Andy taught me to be gritty and to always give my 100% even when I didn’t have my best stuff. He’s a class act, a team player, and a true New York Yankee. To say he will be missed is a tremendous understatement.
Thank you, #46. We love you.