As you’ve no doubt heard by now if you’re A: a baseball fan like me or B: a Yankees fan freaking out about the back end of their rotation this coming season, Andy Pettitte retired last week. It wasn’t all that surprising since Pettitte had been playing for the better part of 20 years and his play had declined just enough over the past three years or so that it was time for him to hang it up.
Still it feels very weird seeing one of the last players who was dominant when I first started following sports finally retire. It’s certainly nothing new seeing players retire or leave my favorite teams. To this very day, there is still a Giants poster somewhere in my room at home with Kerry Collins, Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey along with the Statue of Liberty in the background. About 10 years after I bought the poster, the Statue’s the only one of the four who’s still there and as obnoxious a player as he was and as much as the Giants improved when he left for New Orleans, I still felt kind of sad about it simply because he was the last player left from that poster.
Especially in today’s sports world where free agency has ensured that teams never retain the exact same players from year to year, we’re mostly used to rooting for the jersey and not the number on the back of the jersey. We watch the drafts having read as many mock drafts as possible to make up our minds about exactly which players our teams should take, we root for those teams to do well in free agency and at the trade deadline. We watch TV broadcasts knowing that most of the commentators were once players or coaches themselves, often the best in the game.
But it’s still no less jarring when you turn on Fox’s NFL coverage one day and right there besides Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long et al is Michael Strahan. It really doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was standing in Autograph Alley at Giants training camp in Albany getting Strahan’s autograph as he trod off the field; the fact that he’s on that Fox set and in Subway commercials instead of scaring the living daylights out of Donovan McNabb just seems bizarre to me personally.
And now Andy Pettitte, the pitcher who, HGH or no HGH, always seemed to show up on my TV screen every year since just before I turned five, is making that jump from being one of those figures you read about and watch every day or at least every week to being someone whose name you hear from time to time and remark “oh yeah, I forgot about him.” I wish him well but it’s going to be weird not seeing him on TV, just as I still subconsciously expect to see Joe Torre’s droopy face staring back at me whenever the TV camera at a baseball game pans to the dugout.