Andy Pettitte is retiring. That's it, end of story.
Only not really. You see, Andy is one of those borderline players who were never considered "stars," but at the same time, put up arguably better numbers than most of those he pitched against.
For example, in the 2000's, no pitcher has more wins. Not Pedro Martinez, not Randy Johnson, not even Carl Pavano. It's Andy Pettitte. Even in his injury-shortened season in 2010, he went 11-3. Not many pitchers of recent memory end their story with that kind of record. He could still pitch, and it was clear.
And the postseason? Come on, do I have to even mention it? He has the most starts (42) and most wins (19) out of any pitcher in playoff history. Sure, he was slightly aided by the Yankees constantly making the playoffs, but how did they make it all those years? Their starting pitching anchored by Pettitte. Even when the Yankees hired aces such as David Wells, Roger Clemens, or David Cone to be the "ace," it was always Pettitte who was relied on to put in an amazing effort during times of crisis.
I don't care about those stats though. They're fun to read off when arguing with others, but they're just stats. The important thing is what you take from someone.
When I began watching baseball as a kid, the Yankees were beginning what is known as the 90's Dynasty. I liked all the players. I liked Tino, Brosius, Paul O'Neill, and certainly David Cone, but I LOVED Andy Pettitte.
We have the same first name and we're both left handed!
Seriously! That's the coolest thing in the world! We had so much in common right there, that I almost felt like we were related in some way. Sure, David Cone went through a lot of stuff, and Paul O'Neill would sacrifice his limbs, fists, and the team's Gatorade coolers to do his job, but Andy had that sort of bond you don't get with many others.
And it was always fun going to games growing up because there was always a running joke that every game I went to Pettitte would seem to be the pitcher. And it was true, too. From my first game in 2000 until a game in July 2009, every game I went to while Pettitte was in pinstripes was a game started by he.
And it just got weird too. Even in 2009, when a cousin and I went to the second exhibition game against the Cubs at the new Stadium, we weren't sure who was going to start. Then they announced the starting lineups, and sure enough, it was Andy. We both started laughing and said, "of course, it HAD to be him." I have more stories like that.
I saw Andy pitch the home opener in 2010, the same day he recieved his fifth WS Championship ring. I saw him pitch in 2003, the day after Roger Clemens got his 300th win, where the only runs he gave up were two home runs to Tino Martinez. Or in 2008 when he started the last game I ever saw at the old Stadium. Hell, he pitched a complete game two-hitter in the first game I ever attended!
Those are all proud moments for me, and I've openly described them throughout the years. It always seemed like he stood above the rest when it came to be there when I'm there.
But that's not my proudest moment.
My proudest moment was sitting in section 236 during Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS. Andy Pettitte struggled early, but turned it up late, providing a valiant 7 innings and 2 runs against Cliff Lee. He got pulled after the 7th, but after the 6th, when he was near 100 pitches, he received a standing ovation from the crowd after striking out Vlad Guerrero to end the inning.
Having just looked at my pictures from the game, I realize that the last two pictures I have of him are him against Benjie Molina. One was him in his infamous gaze towards Jorge Posada (you know, from my view, basically meaning you have to imagine what the gaze would look like if you had $5,000 to spend on a ticket behind home plate), while the next was him in motion throwing a pitch. Benjie grounded out to end the 7th.
So I now have in my collection two pictures that could represent a) his last hitter, and b) possibly his last pitch ever. Again, that's not even what I take out of here.
What I do take out of it is that when I took my first ever walk into a ballpark, Andy Pettitte, my favorite player, was on the mound doing what he did best.
Over 10 years later, in what would become the last time he would ever walk to a mound in uniform, I was there.
After having the type of mindset I did with Andy, from going to so many games being pitched by him to almost HOPING that there was a rain out one July just so Pettitte could pitch at the game I was at and not break the streak, it just feels right that I was there for his final moment of glory.
Let me end this by saying that it doesn't matter how many games you went to where he was on the mound; if you were a Yankee fan, you know what he meant to you. He meant a lot to me, not just at The Stadium, but at home, too, during times of triumph and grief.
Loss is hard to take. Right now, it's Andy Pettitte, but next it will be Mariano Rivera. Let's just remember how awesome these people have been to us and how meaningful what they do is to us, when, in reality, it doesn't seem like a baseball game should matter that much. But it does matter.
Thank you Andy for putting your heart into your career, and thanks for letting me enjoy your final moment in the sun.