Return of a Hero

October 2, 2011 – Game 2 of the ALDS has just begun, and the pitcher with the most postseason wins in history took the hill for the Yankees.

Andy Pettitte, who won 19 games in October (and November) brought the sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd to a roar when he jogged to the mound to throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch.

Jorge Posada got to the plate and began to dust off the infield dirt that barely was out of place, only so the crowd would have a few more minutes to applaud the home-grown Yankees hero.

Although fans were still filing into the ballpark when Pettitte made the pitch, I can honestly say that it was the loudest ovation I’ve heard for a former player or for a ceremonial first pitch in my decade with the organization.

Pettitte was the perfect selection to start today’s festivities. It gave Yankees fans their first chance to celebrate the career of one of the greatest Yankees of all-time. In addition to winning 240 regular season games, Pettitte won crucial playoff games in each of the five World Series championship runs he was a part of.

In 2009, the lefty won the clinching games of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series. I only witnessed the championship teams of the late ’90s and 2000 from a far, but I’m sure Pettitte’s role on those clubs was much like the one he played on the 2009 team, which I was around from start to finish.

Pettitte led through his gritty example — he pitched well when he had his best stuff and he pitched kept the Yankees in games when he didn’t. He led by consistently encouraging his teammates. He led by treating fans and the media with the utmost respect.

And, of course, he led by winning a lot of big games.

So, on a perfect 60 degree fall day, under giant white clouds and a bright blue sky, this great man returned to the place where he is completely relevant, and as he did so many times before, Pettitte threw a fastball to Posada for a strike.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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