Friday, February 4, 2011

Top 10 Andy Pettitte Moments

UPDATE: Pettitte did not announce his retirement. Instead, he announced that he was sitting out the 2011 season. He came back for 2012 and '13, and then retired for good.

3-2! We beat The Scum 3-2! We beat The Scum 3-2! We beat The Scum 3-2!

Devils 3, Rangers 2 at The Garden last night. And yet, I can't celebrate too hard, because, for a Yankee Fan, even if you are also a Devils fan, this is a sad day.

There is no pitcher who has thrown more pitches with me actually in the ballpark than Andrew Eugene Pettitte of Deer Park, Texas. Except for Mariano Rivera, there is no pitcher who has appeared in more games with me on hand. And no pitcher has more postseason wins.

As I write this, we are a few minutes away from the press conference at which, we have been led to believe, he will announce his retirement.

Time to salute this important figure in Yankee History – recent and overall.

Top 10 Andy Pettitte Moments

10. August 2, 1999. This one is personal, so I put it at Number 10. It was the 20th Anniversary of the death of Thurman Munson, and I felt that I had to be at Yankee Stadium (the original) on the night. The Yanks played the Toronto Blue Jays. Diana Munson threw out the first ball.

Andy was making his 1st start since the trading deadline, when Joe Torre convinced George Steinbrenner not to trade him, and George said we'd "find out what kind of man he is." Pitching for the Jays was David Wells, a tough opponent no matter what uniform he was bursting out of. Andy proved his point, and Joe's, and mine and that of anyone else who wanted to keep him. Yanks 3, Jays 1. Andy goes 8, and so does Boomer, but a Derek Jeter homer in the top of the 8th settled it.

9. October 9, 2003, ALCS Game 2. The Boston Red Sox had won Game 1 at Yankee Stadium I, so, as had so often happened, the Yankees needed Andy to turn things around. He did, holding the Sox off long enough for the bats to kick in. Yankees 6, Red Sox 2. The series was tied, and the Yanks went on to win the Pennant on Aaron Boone’s home run.

8. September 18, 1996. Beats the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium I, for his 20th win of the season. He wins a 21st on September 28, 4-2 over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. This made him the youngest Yankee pitcher to win 20 (or 21) games in a season since Jim Bouton in 1963. In other words, the youngest in my lifetime.

7. September 21, 2008. There was only one man – well, only one man left, anyway – who could start the last game at the old Yankee Stadium. Andy held off the Orioles long enough for the bullpen to take over, and the Yankees won, 7-3.

6. October 21, 1998, World Series Game 4. The Yanks already led the San Diego Padres 3 games to 0, and baseball teams don’t blow such leads in the postseason. (Unless the other team cheats.) Andy went 7 innings at Jack Murphy Stadium (or whatever it was being called then), and Jeff Nelson and Rivera finished up. Yanks 3, Padres 0, and the 24th World Championship was won.

5. October 17, 1999, ALCS Game 4. The day before, the Yanks had gotten clobbered by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, 13-1, and they needed to stop The Scum’s momentum. Andy did the job, bending but not breaking. The score was 3-2 Yankees when Mariano relieved Andy in the 8th. A Boston pitching and fielding meltdown in the 9th led to 6 runs and a final score of 9-2, as the Red Sox fans – as usual, blaming the umpires for their team’s failures – threw loads of garbage onto the field.

The Yanks won the Pennant the next day, and the Game 3 loss turned out to be the only game they lost in that postseason, going 11-1 and taking their 25th World Championship.

4. October 26, 2000, World Series Game 5. In Game 1 of the only real Subway Series since 1956, Andy had been outpitched by the Mets' Al Leiter, but the Yanks won anyway. This time, the same 2 pitchers went at it, and when Leiter finally tired in the 9th, the Yanks won, 4-2, to clinch their 26th World Championship.

Andy pitched well for 7 innings, although he was not the winning pitcher – that was Mike Stanton. But Andy kept the Mets at bay long enough for the Yankee bats to win it, giving them a World Series triumph they absolutely had to have. If we had lost a World Series to the Mets, nothing in the Yankees' past would have meant anything. But since we did beat the Mets in a World Series, there's nothing any Met fan can say anymore that has any meaning. Andy was a big part of making that happen.

3. October 13, 1996, ALCS Game 5. Pitches 8 innings as the Yankees beat the Orioles, 6-4 at Camden Yards, to clinch their first Pennant in 15 years.

2. November 4, 2009, World Series Game 6. Outpitches Pedro Martinez and shuts down the potent lineup of the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees win, 7-3 – interestingly enough, the same score as in the last game at Yankee Stadium I – and win their 27th World Championship, their first at Yankee Stadium II.

In so doing, Andy became the 1st pitcher ever to start and win the clinching games of all 3 postseason series in one season. (Derek Lowe had won all 3 clinchers for the 2004* Red Sox, but didn't start all 3.)

1. October 24, 1996, World Series, Game 5. He already got rocked by the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 at The Stadium, but the Yanks managed to tie the Series anyway. In the last game that would ever be played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (win or lose), if he doesn't get this right, most of the others don't happen.

He gets it right, getting out of a big jam in the 5th but fielding 2 grounders: One, he throws to 3rd base to get the lead runner; the other, he throws to 2nd base to start an inning-ending double play. He pitches 8 innings of 5-hit shutout ball, and the Yankees beat the Braves, 1-0.

Two days later, the Yankees win their 23rd World Championship, their 1st in 18 years. Andy was only 24 years old, but had won a bigger game than most pitchers will ever get into.

There would be more big games for Andy Pettitte. Now, there will still be big games, but he will not be a part of them, save as a spectator.

Andy, you're one of us now. I wish I could say that was a good thing.

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