Today was a big day for the New York Yankees, the team dropped a tightly contested battle with the Cleveland Indians 4-3 and with a Toronto Blue Jays win the Yankees dropped out of first place in the AL East. On top of that SP C.C. Sabathia left in the third inning with knee pain, an area that has been bothering him all season. Yet, for a lifelong Yankee fan, today was a day of celebration. That is because the Yankees retired the number of Andy Pettitte, a Yankee legend.
There is no shortage of praise that can be heaped on the left-hander. He ranks first in playoffs wins, starts, and innings pitched, mainly a product of being a part of five World Series Championships and a number of other postseason runs. Pettitte was armed with one of the best pickoff moves in history, and early in his career a devastating sweeping breaking ball. He ranks 38th all time in career strikeouts and 42nd all time in career wins. No matter how you look at it Pettitte had a historic career.
His career was not with controversy as he was accused of using HGH in the early 2000s. Pettitte, immediately admitted using the performance enhancing drug, claiming he used it in order to recover quickly from an injury. Despite what you personally may think about that excuse, many fans accepted and in some sense celebrated Pettitte for his honesty. While players who denied such as Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez has been vilified in the media and by fans, Pettitte’s mistakes have seemingly been forgiven. While this huge mistake could likely cost him a Hall of Fame candidacy it it hard to argue against his career as worthy of such a distinction.
Today, however, for me a relatively young baseball fan, (I just turned 21) today was a day of remembering an idol. I grew up watching Pettitte dominate hitters and as a fellow left-hander wanted to emulate him. When I took the mound I lowered the brim of my hat and glared just over the top of my glove. I pitched with the fire and the intensity that Pettitte showed every time he took the mound. I wanted to be just like him, like Pettitte who always seemed to want the ball when it mattered most. I will never forget as a child going to Game Two of the 2003 World Series and watching my idol defeat the Florida Marlins. While there are a number of factors that have lead to my love of the game, I think that watching Pettitte as a young baseball fan and player helped to lead me to where I am in the game today. No matter what Pettitte never seemed to take his success for granted and always wanted more.
So as a fan and a player who grew up wanting to be just like you, thank you Andy Pettitte for the greatness and the memories!