Fans will get their annual chance to glimpse the galaxy of Yankees stars — big and small — on Sunday as the club holds its 72nd Old-Timers’ Day before the 2:05 p.m. series finale against the Rays. This year, the organization is adding one of its biggest stars to that constellation in Andy Pettitte. With his number 46 already retired, the lefthander — who turned 46 on Friday — will be at the yearly retrospective.
Pettitte isn’t the only newcomer to the celebration of Yankees history. Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, Dion James and current manager Aaron Boone will be first-time participants.
Goose Gossage was not invited; he wasn’t brought back as a spring training instructor after several critical public comments, and his relationship with the organization remains fractured.
Yankees lefthander CC Sabathia played with Pettitte during four seasons, considers him a close friend and has been mentored by him while remaking himself as a pitcher. Sabathia is looking forward to watching Pettitte get back on the field and hopes the two of them can pose for a photo with another pair of great Yankees southpaws — Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry.
“I’m interested in all lefties,” Sabathia said. “A picture with Whitey, Guidry and Pettitte? I think that would be cool for me to have. I already have all their jerseys.”
Pettitte is in his first season of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, which comes with arguments on both sides.
“He’s a Hall of Famer, 100 percent,” Sabathia said. “I don’t think an argument needs to be made for him. I think his resume speaks for itself.”
All right, but for the sake of argument . . .
The pros: Pettitte was 256-153 in his career, won a major league-record 19 postseason games and pitched for five World Series champions. He had a pair of 20-win seasons and finished in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting four times.
The cons? His 3.85 career ERA would be the second highest in the Hall of Fame, he was an All-Star in only three of 18 seasons and he was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report on the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Pettitte admitted to and apologized for using human growth hormone to recover from a 2002 elbow injury. That occurred in December 2007, three days after Pettitte’s name appeared in the report. Baseball didn’t ban HGH until 2005.
Asked if he believes election to the Hall is important to Pettitte, Sabathia answered, “I think it is, but I don’t think it will make or break his post-career life.
“You want to be recognized for what you did on the field, and he did amazing things in an organization and added to its great history. Even when he went to Houston, he took them to the World Series. I think it’s inevitable he will end up in the Hall of Fame.”
Sabathia said that when he gets his Old-Timers’ Day invitation someday, he will be certain to come, “especially to see my old teammates and hang out with the guys again.”
“Once you put on this uniform and play here, you come to understand what it’s like to be a Yankee,” he said. “When you’re a Yankee, you want to come back and you want to be in front of the fans and see your old teammates. It’s a privilege to put on this uniform, so you want to be a part of it.”
The Yankees suggest that fans be seated at 11:30 a.m. for introductions before the traditional game between the former Yankees. Boone’s responsibilities will keep him busy during the game, but he will be at introductions and said, “I might throw them some batting practice before their game.”