Andy Pettitte always seemed to be a family man first and a big league pitcher second. His career began with an impatient desire to support his young wife and five month old son, and now, with word that he will officially retire tomorrow during a press conference at Yankee Stadium, it concludes in large part because of his ever growing desire to return to the home he provided.
Andy Pettitte has a 5-month-old son and a wife living with his in-laws in Deer Park, Tex. He would love to buy his own house so Josh could have a backyard and Laura could have a picket fence. First, Pettitte must build a pitching career with the Yankees. – Jack Curry, New York Times, April 11, 1995
Although there will be some speculation that Petttitte’s announcement is related to Roger Clemens’ recent decision to waive the conflict of interest issue in his pending court trial, it seems as if the Yankees’ ace lefty could simply no longer resist the lure of spending more time with his family. By retiring, however, Pettitte is leaving behind another family of sorts, so you can bet the decision wasn’t easy, which probably explains why it was so long in coming.
Besides the obvious hole that Pettitte’s departure leaves in the team’s 2011 rotation, one of the biggest regrets resulting from the decision is Yankees’ fans weren’t able to bid him a proper farewell. There was no “Andy” serenade like Paul O’Neill received during the 2001 World Series, nor were there the daily standing ovations that greeted Bernie Williams before his final at bats (the fans seemed to realize Williams was nearing retirement even before the centerfielder did). Instead, there was just one more solid postseason start from a man who had developed a reputation for reliability. When Pettitte walked off the mound on October 18, 2010, after throwing seven innings of two-run, five-hit ball in game 3 of the ALCS, all eyes were on Cliff Lee. Ironically, on that night, the winningest pitcher in postseason history ended his career with an October loss. Instead of fanfare, there was anonymity. Although hardly a fitting end to a great career, being relegated to an afterthought probably suited Andy just fine.
Over the next few months, there will be plenty of opportunities to look back at the value of Pettitte’s career as well as look forward to what his absence means to the Yankees’ rotation. For now, however, the most appropriate reaction seems to be appreciation. Although hundreds of great players have worn the pinstripes, this recent generation of Yankees’ legends has still managed to stand out. Among them all, Pettitte has been front and center…not only as a great Yankee, but also as a good man.
Pettitte’s Place in Yankees History