When I was a kid in Detroit, Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers was my hometown hero. Kaline was humble and free of scandal, yet seemed overshadowed by more tragically flawed stars like Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, whose charisma seemed to dominate the national psyche. Later, as a transplanted Brooklynite, I found myself first falling in love with the Amazing Mets team of 1986, so colorful and gutsy, but ultimately so troubled — and now I’m finding myself transfixed by the steadily evolving saga of the New York Yankees.
On Mother’s Day, I was intrigued as 39 year old Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte took the mound for his long awaited come back after a year and a half in retirement. He also recently gave testimony again in the perjury trial of his charismatic mentor and longtime teammate Roger Clemens. The soft-spoken Pettitte admitted using steroids in 2008. His latest testimony against his friend backed off from the certainty of his original assertion that Clemens told him he was using steroids as well. Some questioned whether that hesitation would hurt the trial or damage Andy’s image with fans. Yet even though the final score in that Sunday’s emotional game against the Seattle Mariners went against him 6-2, the crowd gave the legendary winner of five world series titles a standing ovation as he left the mound. That sounded like unconditional love to me.
I don’t think Yankee fans will ever forget the stunning Game 6 victory Pettitte gave his team in the 2009 World Series and then his emotional retirement. But now Pettitte is being given the chance to save the Yankees’ suddenly endangered pitching line up this year. In a time of so much uncertainty, I think we need more Andy Pettittes, and not just in baseball. Back in 2008 sports blogger Richard Justice wrote that “Andy is a man of such decency and humility that it’s impossible not to admire the things he has attempted to stand for. He admitted his mistakes and asked for forgiveness. What else can he do?” Let’s hope he continues winning and inspiring us to do the same.