By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 20- Two days before the official Yankees salute to retiring Mariano Rivera at Yankee Stadium, Andy Pettitte announced he would retire at the end of the 2013 season.
Pettitte previously retired at the conclusion of the 2010 season, but re-signed with the Yankees on March 16, 2012.
It was expected that the veteran lefty, the oldest starting pitcher in the majors at the age of 41, would retire at the end of the year, but the timing was a surprise.
Pettitte, who is scheduled to make his last start in Yankee Stadium on Sunday, explained his reasoning, “This was to be it and nothing that happened during the season changed my mind. I really just planned on announcing it the day after the season ended in a conference call. [But] I want all our fans to know now-while I’m still in uniform-how grateful I am for their support throughout my career. I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees special.”
The only controversy arose because Mariano Rivera is to be honored for his lengthy, outstanding and unique career with the Yankees prior to Sunday’s game. Pettitte was aware of the feelings of the fans towards the renowned Yankee closer and stated the following, “I’ve been blessed being around him all these years. We’ve had a great run. It [Sunday] is his day. He means so much to me and has meant so much to my career that I would just hate to somehow take the attention away from him.”
He also explained to reporters on Friday that Rivera encouraged him to announce the retirement and told him it only makes his [Rivera’s] day better.
Another connection between the two great Yankees hurlers is that in combination they share the win/save major league mark with 72.
Pettitte’s career alone is also worthy of honor. His 10-10 record this year has raised his lifetime won/loss mark to 255-152. He ranks 39th in major league history in number of career wins. He only follows Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing in victories as a Yankee with 218. The left-hander was an American League All-Star in 1996, 2001 and 2010.
The recognition of Pettitte as a pitcher any team would want on the mound in a crucial contest was earned in post-season play. He has the most starts in the post-season with 44 and the most victories with 19. Pettitte was an integral member of the most recent World Championship teams of the Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. With two wins in two starts, Pettitte was chosen the MVP if the 2001 American League Championship Series (ALCS) in 2001 against Seattle.
At a press conference on Friday, Pettitte explained why he is ending his career now, “The family thing is obviously a big part of this decision, but the biggest thing is I’m done, mentally and physically.”
Explaining why he is looking forward to his retirement, he remarked, “I’ve been retired, so I know what I’ll do, be with the kids, sharing my faith in Jesus Christ, getting involved with my church and travel.”
Strangely, Pettitte’s final start will come in Houston, his hometown during the final weekend of the regular season.