Joe Girardi's father, Jerry, passes away
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It had been only five days since his father died and 17 hours since one of his greatest managerial triumphs. So it was understandable that the Joe Girardi who addressed reporters Thursday was a jumble of emotions.
But even as he fought back tears before Game 4 of the ALDS, the Yankees' manager remained resolute that he had and would continue to remain focused on the job at hand, as Jerry Girardi would have wished.
The younger Girardi learned Saturday, on the bus en route to Penn Station for the team train to Baltimore, that his father had died in Metamora, Ill. He was 81 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years.
But the manager did not inform his players, hoping to keep the secret until he left them for the funeral Monday in Peoria, Ill., on what is scheduled as an off day of the ALCS.
"My thought process was my dad would want me to do everything that we could do to go win a World Series,'' he said, explaining his decision to carry on.
When a Peoria newspaper published an obituary Thursday, Girardi was forced to address the issue publicly, hours after his decision to have Raul Ibañez pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in Game 3 of the ALDS.
What might his father have thought of that decision, which led to Ibañez's tying and winning home runs? "He would have been extremely proud and probably told all his buddies,'' Girardi said, smiling.
He said he did not tell his players so they would not have to deal with something that could alter their focus. When the news finally broke, Derek Jeter said, "I feel bad. My thoughts and prayers go to him and his family.''
Robinson Cano said, "I know he's a family guy. You always see his kids and his wife around. He always says family comes first. I know this has to be tough on him right now."
The Yankees held a memorial moment of silence before Thursday night's game.
Jerry Girardi and his wife, Angela, who died in 1984, had five children, of whom Joe is second youngest. Jerry, a Korean War veteran who later worked in construction sales and as a bartender and bricklayer, left six grandchildren.
It is unlikely that Jerry understood when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, Joe Girardi said. But he had played a huge role in his son's baseball life. Joe recalled attending Cubs games with him and playing catch in the backyard.
The younger Girardi also tagged along on bricklaying jobs. At 7, he earned a $100 bill after emerging covered in black mortar from a four-day job installing a fireplace.
"Wherever he went, I went,'' Joe said. "When he stopped, I ran into him.''
He gave his first World Series ring, from 1996, to his father, whom he last saw in August.
Girardi said focusing on Game 4 would not be difficult, having lived with the news for nearly a week and knowing how his parents would have instructed him to approach the assignment.
"When I think about it, it's the first time in over 28 years that my mom and dad have seen a game together again,'' he said. "So they'll be watching, and they'll be mad if I'm not doing my job, I know that.''