NEW YORK (AP) — Back on the Yankee Stadium mound for the first time in five years, Andy Pettitte looked completely in control as he warmed up, throwing fastballs, curves and sliders. Then he grooved a pitch down the middle, resulting in a grounder that was misplayed by at first base by Jason Giambi.
Welcome to Old-Timers’ Day, Gramps!
Now a grandfather at age 46 — matching his number retired by the Yankees — Pettitte was joined by Giambi, Nick Swisher, Dion James and current New York manager Aaron Boone in their debuts at the annual event.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend,” Pettitte said Sunday, two days after celebratig his birthday with his family in New York.
Sunday was the 72nd edition of the festive day, featuring Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Reggie Jackson, plus the always popular Mickey Rivers, Ron Guidry, Johnny Damon and Paul O’Neill.
Swisher was a big hit, too, connecting for a home run during a playful game between the participants.
Also on hand was 93-year-old Bobby Brown, the third baseman who hit .439 in helping the Yankees win four World Series championships. He was a rookie when the Yankees held this event for the first time in 1947, when Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were in attendance.
“It’s a changing of the guard,” remarked 1960s pitcher Al Downing about the “younger” Old-Timers.
Pettitte is a high school coach back home in Texas. He posted 219 wins for the Yankees and was a key part of five World Series championship teams, but is still uncomfortable with his place in the team’s history, even when he walks into the today’s New York clubhouse.
“You never look at yourself like that,” he said.
But Pettitte got the proof of what he means this weekend, when he was visiting with current Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia. As they were speaking, pitcher Jonanthan Loaisiga wandered in — on Friday, the 23-year-old made his major league debut and pitched five shutout innings for a win.
“I turned around and introduced myself and he was just staring at me going Andy Pettitte,'” he said.
Giambi and Boone homered in batting practice, and James attempted a diving play in center field to the delight of the crowd.
Rivers went into the stands to share a few moments with some fans before the fun-filled exhibition and 88-year-old Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, received a standing ovation when he made his way onto the field in a walker.
Yankees rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres, who started a couple hours later in the real game against Tampa Bay, was among several active players who watched from the dugout and mingled with the past stars.
“Just to be able to able to be a part of this crop of guys, some of my ex-teammates and all the Yankee greats is unbelievable,” the excitable Swisher said. “There are so many amazing men that are here and it’s just an honor to be able to be here and put the uniform on one more time.”
Swisher joked after the game that he wanted to play in a doubleheader. The right fielder saluted New York’s famed Bleacher Creatures in the second inning after initially beginning the day at third base.
Giambi noted game was the first that his young children had ever seen him play in person, except on YouTube.
Pettitte, who had 27 hits during his time in the majors, took three turns at the plate. Guidry gave way to David Cone so the former teammates could face one another.
“I wasn’t expecting to get an at-bat and I got three. It was a fun experience,” he said.