Andy Pettitte Is King of The Hill in Playoffs

Andy Pettitte is this generation’s Whitey Ford. Both are pinstriped left-handers, big game pitchers and post-season marvels.

Ford, a Hall of Famer, won a record 10 World Series games in his storied career, and once pitched 33 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, another Series record.

He holds the Yankee career record for victories with 236, and at .690 boasts the highest winning percentage in history for pitchers with more than 200 wins.

Ford, below right, was known as the Chairman of the Board.

Perhaps they ought to call Pettitte the King of the Hill.

When Pettitte knocked off the Minnesota Twins the other night in Game Two of the American League Divisional Series, he earned his 19th post-season win, a major league record.

Overall, Pettitte is 19-9 in the playoffs with a 3.87 ERA. Breaking it down, he’s 6-3 in the ALDS, 1-0 in the ALDS, 7-1 in the ALCS, 0-1 in the NLCS and 5-4 in the World Series.

Among Pettitte’s 19 wins are a 1-0 masterpiece against Atlanta’s John Smoltz, another big-game pitcher, in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series; a 3-0 win over the Padres that helped the Yankees sweep the Padres in 1998; and two wins over a Mariners team that earned him MVP honors in the 2001 ALCS. That Seattle team won an American League record 116 games during the regular season.

In 2003, Pettitte won the second game in all three playoff rounds after the Yankees lost the opener. And last year, he won the clincher in all three rounds as the Yankees won their 27th World Championship.

You’ve got to wonder if the Yankees might have avoided the worst playoff collapse in baseball history, losing a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, if Pettitte wasn’t pitching for Houston that year.

Is Pettitte a Hall of Famer? That remains to be seen, but he certainly warrants strong consideration. On top of his post-season pedigree, Pettitte has a 240-138 record, and no pitcher with a career record 100 games over .500 has ever been denied entry into Cooperstown. A two-time 20-game winner, Pettitte has never finished a season under .500 in his 16-year career.

Pettitte’s admission that he used steroids won’t help his cause, but you can make a strong argument that the King of the Hill should be a Hall of Famer.

Sorry T.S., April Is Best Month for Sports

T.S. Eliot knew how to write, but sports wasn’t his strong suit.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. “

— T.S Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922

Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot, the American-British poet, playwright and critic, may have been a member of the Literature Hall of Fame, but he didn’t know sports.

With apologies to old T.S., April is America’s best month for sports.

April, the rites of passage, the season of rebirth, where Opening Day signals the start of another baseball season.

April has the pageantry of the Masters, from Augusta National, the most beautiful golf course in the world.

Both the NBA and NHL playoffs begin in April, the second season for 32 basketball and hockey teams.

The NCAA Tournament may be heralded as March Madness, but the Final Four is an April event.

And finally there’s the NFL draft, one of the most popular dates on the NFL calendar outside of the Super Bowl.

What other months challenge April?

June has the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Belmont Stakes, last leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown.

October has the World Series, and peak activity in college and pro football to go with Fall foliage.

And February has the Super Bowl, the single biggest day in American sports, and the Daytona 500.

Give me April every time.

Best Post-Season Moments at Yankee Stadium

As Yankee Stadium closes its doors, this is the final of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.

Top 10 post-season baseball moments at Yankee Stadium (chronological order)

1. Babe Ruth homers and the Yankees score the winning run on a wild pitch in the ninth inning to sweep the Pirates to clinch their first World Series at Yankee Stadium, 1927

Other Yankee home clinchers at the Stadium: 1938, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1977, 1996 and 1999.

2. Tommy Henrich hits a ninth inning, walk-off home run against Don Newcombe as the Yankees beat the Dodgers, 1-0, in Game 1 of the World Series, 1949

Other Yankee World Series walk-offs: Mickey Mantle in 1964, Chad Curtis in 1999, Derek Jeter in 2001.

3. Billy Martin singles home Hank Bauer with the winning run in the ninth inning as the Yankees beat Brooklyn in six games and win their fifth straight World Series, 1953

4. Don Larsen, left, throws the only no-hitter in post-season baseball history, a perfect game, as the Yankees defeat the Dodgers, 2-0, in Game 5 of the World Series, 1956

5. Chris Chambliss hits a walk-off home run in the ninth inning as the Yankees beat Kansas City, 7-6, to win the American League pennant and head to the World Series, 1976

Other Yankee playoff walk-offs: Bernie Williams in 1996 and 1999, Alfonso Soriano in 2001,  Aaron Boone in 2003.

6. Reggie Jackson hits three home runs as the Yankees beat the Dodgers in six games to win the World Series for the first time in 15 years, 1977

7. Jim Leyrtiz hits a two-run homer in the 15th inning as the Yankees beat Seattle, 9-7, in Game 2 of the American League divisional series, 1995

8. Jeffrey Maier, right, a 12-year-old fan, interferes with Derek Jeter’s fly ball home run as the Yankees beat  the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALCS, 1996.

9. Deja vu all over again: Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hit game-tying, two-out, two-run homers on successive nights against Arizona in the World Series, 2001.

10. Aaron Boone completes a comeback with an 11th-inning home run as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 6-5, in Game 7 of the ALCS, 2003


Don Mattingly hits his only post-season home run against Seattle, 1995

Roger Clemens throws splintered bat at Mets’ Mike Piazza, 2000

Yankee Sours

St. Louis pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander emerges from bullpen and shuts down the Yankees to give the Cardinals their first World Series, 1926.

Other opposing championships won at the Stadium: 1942 Cardinals,  1955 Dodgers, 1957 Braves, 1976 Reds, 1981 Dodgers, and 2003 Marlins

Brooklyn outfielder Al Glonfriddo robs Joe DiMaggio of a possible home run in Game 6 of the World Series. 1947

Southpaw Johnny Podres shuts out the Yankees, 2-0, to give Brooklyn its first and only championship, Game 7, 1955

Los Angeles left-hander Sandy Koufax, left, sets a World Series record by striking out 15 Yankees in Game 1, 1963

George Brett homers against Goose Gossage to give the Royals the 1980 American League pennant, 1980

The Red Sox become the first baseball team to overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit and  beat Yankees to win the ALCS, 2004

The SportLlifer Yankee Stadium retrospective series:

Part I :The Best: Everything but baseball

Part II: The Best: Baseball regular season

Who’s on Third

The Last Time

Bidding Adieu

Empty Seats at Yankee Stadium

My first baseball game

It’s Over for the Yankees

The season got off to a bad start when the Yankee Stadium opener was rained out.

The off-season has already begun for the New York Yankees.

Oh sure,  they still have 20 some odd games to play, and they’re not mathematically eliminated….yet.

But the numbers don’t lie, When it’s over, it’s over. When you dodge the ultimate futility of having a pitcher nearly throw a no-hitter against you in his first major league start, it’s over

Yeah, and you know it’s over when A-Rod goes on a tear. Now that the pressure is off, he’s gonna have a blockbuster September.

Where did it all go wrong? When did the Yankees begin the death spiral towards the team’s worst finish in more than 15 years?

Pitching Woes
Start with the pitching. Somewhere along the line, the Yankee brain misplaced the knack for finding good pitchers.

So instead of bringing in guys like Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells, El Duque, Mike Mussina and yes, even Roger Clemens, Yankee fans were subjected to the likes of Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa. And now they have Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano in their rotation.

A familiar sight: Joe Girardi makes another pitching change.

The Yankees had the opportunity to right some of those wrongs this past off-season, the chance to get Johan Santana, one of the premier pitchers in the game. They didn’t want to give up Melky Cabrera, who lost his center-field job and was banished to the minors, or two young pitchers, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who have combined to win zero games for the Yankees this year.

They passed on Santana. With him, they might still be alive in the American League chase. Instead, he’s cross-town trying to lead the Mets to the World Series.

Of course, pitching isn’t the only reason the Yankees are fast-fading out of the playoff picture. The starting lineup, supposedly the strength of the team, has been inconsistent at best, and pathetically inept with runners in scoring position.

Showing Their Age
The Yankees began to show their age in certain spots, and the younger players did not develop as expected.  Injuries have hurt, particularly the losses of Chien-Ming Wang and Jorge Posada for most of the year.

And then, the Yankees are facing the odds — nobody makes the playoffs every year. Heck, there are college kids today who weren’t old enough to remember the last time that happened.

“It’s certainly something that is hard to watch,” said general manage Brian Cashman, the team’s chief architect. “We’re losing right now and we’re better than this. At some point, you are what your record is until you prove otherwise.”

The Cash-man, with unlimited resources at his disposal, may take the fall for these underachieving 2008 Yankees.

Whoever is in charge will face the task of rebuilding this team quickly. Next year, the Yankees move into the new Yankee Stadium, and Hank Steinbrenner, above, and company will be hell-bent to bring a winner to the Bronx. The pitching needs to be improved, the team needs to become more athletic.

The off-season has already begun for the Yankees, and it promises to be a busy one.