Goodbye, Jerry Coleman.

•January 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

Jerry Coleman Tribute Image

Last Sunday afternoon, I received a text message from a friend in San Diego that simply said “The Colonel died.” Nothing more, nothing less. Immediately, I had to google it to see if this was indeed true and when I saw the reports slowly start to pour in, my heart sank. Someone I’ve admired, looked up to and who has captured my imagination on many levels for the majority of my life had passed away. It may seem silly saying this, but in a way, it felt like I’d lost a family member. This feeling of loss has only grown since I’ve had time to reflect on my memories of Jerry Coleman.

I often take issue with the word “hero” but I look at Jerry Coleman and that’s the only word I can use to describe him. Looking at just his life in Baseball, which lasted over 70 years, I think it’s safe to say that he had one of the most impressive resumes imaginable. I certainly don’t want this post to be a stat and accomplishment driven tribute, but these are the facts and they paint a picture of how relevant Jerry Coleman was to the world of Baseball. If you were to add his military accomplishments, which lead to him being the only Major League player to see combat in 2 wars and resulted in his playing career getting put on hold both times, this list would be much longer:

-In 1939, he was a bat-boy for the San Francisco Seals of the old Pacific Coast League.
-From 1942 to 1957, he spent his entire playing career in the Yankees organization, where he played on 6 World Series teams.
-Placed 3rd in the 1949 Rookie of the Year voting.
-In 1950, he was voted to the All-Star Game and won the World Series MVP award.
-From 1958 to 1960, he worked in the Yankees front office.
-In 1960, he began his broadcasting career, where he did the CBS MLB game of the week.
-In 1963, he began his 7 year tenure as part of the Yankees broadcast team.
-In 1970, became part of the California Angels broadcast team.
-In 1972, became the voice of the San Diego Padres, which lasted over 40 years.
-In 1980, left the broadcast booth to manage the Padres for 1 season.
-In 2005, was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
-In 2007, was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
-In 2007, was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.
-In 2012, in honor of “Jerry Coleman Day” in San Diego, a statue was built and unveiled in his honor at Petco Park.

Jerry Coleman passed away at the age of 89, yet as anyone familiar with the Colonel knew, he had to be the youngest 89 year old around as he was still quite active in both the booth and Padres organization. He had the youthful exuberance of a man much younger than him. He was still physically able, sharp, funny, and it was apparent to anyone who listened that he was still very much in love with the game of Baseball. An irrational side of myself honestly thought that Jerry would be around forever due to these reasons. He did not seem like a man approaching 90 years old and that’s a hard pill to swallow due to the fact that Jerry Coleman’s death was a result of a fall he had in December. Not due to age, disease, or whatever mother nature has in store for most people in their golden years. Due to this, I’ll always wonder how long we could have had Jerry Coleman? I’m convinced that some great years were stolen from us.

I associate Jerry Coleman with my love of the game. I’ve watched and listened to Padres games since I was a kid and Jerry Coleman has always been the one constant in that organization through my entire life. Along with Tony Gwynn, there’s not a person involved in the game of Baseball that’s meant as much to my family and myself and that’s the honest truth. I’ll always associate family with Jerry Coleman and to this day, my dad still quotes Jerry’s trademark “Oh Doctor, You can hang a star on that baby!” If I ever have children, I know that I’ll continue this tradition and while telling them of great (and not so great) Padres of the past, much like my parents and Grandmother did with me. Rest assured, Jerry Coleman will be at the top of that list.

To some, Baseball may be just another corporate sport filled with millionaire athletes and this may be true on a level. However, there’s more to Baseball below this surface and that’s why the game is special. Jerry represented this as he reminded me of the raw and genuine love of the game that many of us discover as children. He played in the Golden Age of Baseball and was one of the last remaining people left from that era who was still involved and relevant. I don’t like to generalize and disregard other generations, but the players from the Golden Age brought something to the table not found in generations since.

While watching and reading tributes to Jerry this last week, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t shed a tear a couple times. When spring training games start up again late next month, I won’t be surprised if this happens again. Baseball lost someone very special last Sunday and I feel as if I lost someone special as well. Jerry Coleman, you were a good one and will be missed by many.

In typical 90 Feet of Perfection fashion, I pay tribute to Jerry Coleman with some photos I both enjoy and find interesting. I hope you do as well.

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Jerry Coleman Billy Martin
Jerry and Billy Martin relax at second base during a 1950’s spring training. Coleman and Martin are two of my favorite players in Baseball history for various reasons and the fact that they both came from the Bay area certainly contributes to this. Although Coleman was almost 4 years older than Martin and they came from different sides of the Bay, I’ve often wondered if they knew of each other or crossed paths prior to playing with the Yankees?

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Jerry Coleman Padres Manager'
In 1980, Coleman left the confines of the broadcasting booth to manage the team. Legend has it that Coleman took the job after the Padres promised that he could return to his job in the booth after his tenure was over. The Friars only went 73-89 that season, but up to that point it was the best record the club had accomplished in it’s 11 year existence.

In my opinion, the Padres should retire his #2 that he wore that season solely based on his significance to the team. Everth Cabrera currently wears the number for the team.

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Jerry Coleman HOF
July 31st, 2005. Jerry Coleman during what he described as one of the greatest days of his life. He ended his acceptance speech with the line “On this golden day here in Cooperstown, a journey that started 63 years ago, I feel that finally, finally, I’ve come home. Thank you.” I will always remember this fondly due to the fact that I felt like one of “my” guys made it to Cooperstown.

Dave Winfield may have went into Cooperstown as a Padre but not without some controversy and Tony Gwynn was still a couple years away. Coleman may have played for the Yankees, but he was Padre through and through and it was quite special to see him honored with the Ford C. Frick Award . To watch video of his induction speech, click HERE.

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Jerry Coleman double play

“The best second baseman I ever saw on the double play.”Casey Stengel on Jerry Coleman

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Jerry Coleman in Booth
I’ll never hear Jerry call a Padres game again and this is saddening. Yes, he didn’t do as many games as he used to, but the fact that I always knew he was there and still calling games, regardless of how often, was comforting.

I came across THIS video of Coleman’s last game in the booth and it made me both happy and sad. Andy Masur shared the booth with Jerry for what was the final home game of this last season, which resulted in the Padres beating the Diamondbacks on a walk-off single in the 11th inning by Alexi Amarista. Jerry finished the game by piping in with an ecstatic “What a finish!” This captured his childlike enthusiasm for the game of Baseball in a very heartwarming way.

Starting 2014 With Some Baseball Quotes.

•January 4, 2014 • 2 Comments


Yogi Berra, Bill Veeck, Josh Gibson

Josh Gibson was, at the minimum, two Yogi Berras.”
– Bill Veeck.
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Brett Anderson Oakland
“I am looking forward to this. It sounds corny, but I love baseball too much to be hurt.”Brett Anderson (on learning of his trade to the Rockies)

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Jake Peavy
“I didn’t appreciate that. Just play the game. They pay him $136 million to hit home runs. They don’t pay him to be a circus act on the field. If I think a player shows me up like that, I like the next guy to take one in the stinkin’ ribs. That way, his teammate will let him know about it, he will tell him, ‘Hey, you’d better run the bases.'”
Jake Peavy (on Alfonso Soriano showing up teammate, David Wells after a home run)
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dick allen chisox

“I don’t use the strike zone much,” he says. “I’m looking for something to hammer. I don’t have time to argue whether the pitch was two inches either way. Besides, that sumbuck in blue back there has more problems than I do.”Dick Allen

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stan musial curt flood

“Well, you wait for a strike. Then you knock the shit out of it.” – Stan Musial’s hitting advice to a young Curt Flood

The Negro Leagues.

•December 30, 2013 • 2 Comments

I’m currently reading Dennis ‘Oil Can’ Boyd‘s autobiography. In the book, more than once he discusses the Negro Leagues (his father played in them) and his feelings towards that era of Baseball. In addition, I recently discovered Louis Santop; the legendary superstar catcher of the early Negro Leagues. Surprisingly, somehow I never knew anything about Santop and his career. I mention these things because they both recently sparked a big Negro League kick for me. This means putting dents in some related books I own, re-watching some documentaries, and doing some exploratory research online. I feel that every time I get in this mode, I venture further down the rabbit hole that is the history of the Negro Leagues. With all this said, it inspired me to whip up an all Negro Leagues photo post. Enjoy!

Louis Santop

Louis Santop
As I mentioned in the intro of this post, up until recently I had no idea who Louis Santop was. Somehow I had overlooked his career in the Negro Leagues which resulted in his 2006 Hall of Fame induction. Santop spent most of his career with the Hilldale Club and is widely recognized as one of the best catchers in Negro League history and the top catcher from the Negro League deadball era.

With everything that Santop accomplished during his long career in Baseball, his legacy is often associated with an error that in turn cost his team a loss during the 9th inning of Game 8 of the 1924 Colored World Series. Legend has it that Santop was never the same after the error due to a public verbal assault from Hilldale’s player-manager, Frank Warfield which left Santop in tears. The following season, he lost his job as Hilldale’s starting catcher and the the season after that was released; never to play again. Sad stuff, if you ask me.

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Josh Gibson

Josh Gibson 1942
A great photo of the of the man who was known as “The Black Babe Ruth.” I had never seen this photo of Josh Gibson before and was delighted to discover it due it’s quality. I can almost imagine a Satchel Paige fastball thrown high and inside zip by his head and the photographer snapping this gem of Gibson leaning out of harm’s ways.

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Buck O’Neil

Buck O'Neil 1950s
Buck O’Neil is without a doubt, one of my favorite people in Baseball history. Like everyone else, I know more about his post-playing career as a Manager of the Kansas City Monarchs, a scout for both the Cubs and Royals, coach for the Cubs, and his many years late in his life as an ambassador of the game. With all that said, I’m very aware that he was a pretty darn good player as well. Some even say he was a Hall of Fame caliber first basemen. Whether that is true or not is up for debate but what can’t be debated are these facts (taken from his wiki page):

“O’Neil had a career batting average of .288 between 1937 and 1950, including five .300-plus seasons at the plate, as well as five seasons in which he did not top .260. In 1946, the first baseman led the NAL with a .350 batting average and followed that in 1947 with a .305 mark in 16 games. He also posted averages of .344 in 1940 and .330 in 1949. He played in four East-West All-Star Games in three different seasons and two Negro World Series.”

Now if you ask me, that’s a playing career worth celebrating and this is what I’m doing by posting this photo of O’Neil preparing to round 3rd base. Not many photos exist of of Buck from his playing days, but you can bet that anytime I find one, I will always share it here on 90 Feet of Perfection.

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1944 Homestead Grays

1944 Homestead Grays

This very well may be one of, if not my favorite Negro League team photos. What we have here is what I assume is a starting lineup for the 1944 Homestead Grays, featuring (L to R): Jelly Jackson, Ray Battle, Edward Robinson, Sam Bankhead, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Dave Hoskins, Jerry Benjamin, and Cool Papa Bell.

While researching the players in this photo that I’m not already familiar with, it caught my eye that Dave Hoskins is the only member of the ’44 Grays that ever made it to the big leagues. It’s quite heartbreaking to know that the majority of these players were one generation or so behind the desegregation of Major League Baseball. As far as Hoskins goes, he played parts of 2 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, however he also spent time in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and played one season with the PCL San Diego Padres.

Something else caught my eye regarding Hoskins are his stats batting stats for the ’44 season. See, Hoskins was a pitcher and his batting line for the ’44 season were quite impressive (.324/.328/.493) in 136 at-bats in 138 games. It seems as if Hoskins put in some time in the field as well, or at least as a pinch hitter. I’m aware that many of the Negro League stats at Baseball-Reference are incomplete and always will be, but I think it’s apparent that Hoskins could handle himself behind the plate.
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Elston Howard

Elston Howard Monarchs

Elston Howard is well known in the Baseball world for many reasons: He was the first African-American to play for the Yankees, he eventually took over catching duties from Yogi Berra, and he invented the batting donut. Something I recently learned about Howard is that he was supposedly the first player to use both his pinky and pointer finger to signal to teammates that there are 2 outs in an inning (opposed to using the pointer and middle finger). For some reason this blew my mind.

However prior to all this, Howard made his mark in the Negro Leagues as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs, where he played under Manger Buck O’Neil and at one point was the roommate of teammate, Ernie Banks. Howard carved out quite an interesting and impressive career for himself. It’s a shame that in this day and age, more people are not aware of him.

Jackie Robinson. Michael Jordan. Ted Williams. Mays & Paige. Vin Scully.

•December 4, 2013 • 1 Comment


Jackie Robinson

jackie robinson retires
A great photo of Jackie Robinson cleaning out his locker in January of 1957 at the age of 38. Like everyone else, I’ve seen countless photos of Jackie playing in the majors, in the Brooklyn clubhouse or in the Dodgers’ front offices with Branch Rickey. Until I came across this photo, I’d never seen much photo documentation of when Jackie retired from the game. I assumed it was due to possible friction regarding his decision to retire after being traded to the Giants, but it seems there was a bit more to the story. I found this on Wikipedia while researching this and it seems to check out:

“…Robinson had sold exclusive rights to any retirement story to Look Magazine two years previously, his retirement decision was revealed through the magazine, instead of through the Dodgers organization.”

Interesting stuff! I’m quite curious as to what other stuff was in the issue? I realized that this is an Associated Press photo, so I guess Look Magazine were not able to keep it entirely on the hush-hush?

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Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan vs Cubs
April 7th, 1994. A Chicago White Sox Minor League outfielder by the name of Michael Jordan batted 6th in the lineup in a Windy City Showdown exhibition game against the Cubs. He went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI’s and received standing ovations every time he came to bat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I loved MJ’s time in Baseball and was completely fascinated with it as a kid. Honestly, I still feel the same way. To watch video from this game, click HERE.

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Ted Williams

Ted Williams Millers Rare Photo
A rare photo of Ted Williams posing for a photo from 1938 during his time with the Minneapolis Millers. I came across this photo on Instagram awhile back and was delighted as I had never seen it before. A user named @lmskobba uploaded it and said that his Great Grandmother took the photo. (Thanks for letting me share!)
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Willie Mays & Satchel Paige

Willie Mays and Satchel Paige
Willie Mays and Satchel Paige pose together for a photo during Mays’ Hall of Fame induction in 1979. As a sucker for anything related to ole’ Satchel, I had to share this. It made me wonder if Mays and Paige ever faced each other? Well, after some searching around I came across Mays’ SABR bio page and found this:

“Mays recalled his first meeting with Satchel Paige: “…during the first meeting with the legend, I got a double off Paige my very first time up. I stood on second, dusted myself off, feeling pretty good. Paige walked toward me. “That’s it, kid.”… My next three times up I went whoosh, whoosh, whoosh… “

I found another variation of this story HERE and it suggests that Mays was a teenager during this game. I was confused as to when this may have happened due to the fact that Mays only officially played in the Negro Leagues only 1 season: 1948 as a 17 year old outfielder with the Birmingham Black Barons. Paige was pitching in the Major Leagues in 1948, so I didn’t think that was possible. This lead me to assume that this must have been during an undocumented exhibition or barnstorming game.

Well, after additional sleuthing, I found THIS page which says that Mays played home games for the Black Barons as a 15 year old for one dollar per game! I suppose that solves this mystery. I am just now curious as to how many times Mays faced Paige? As much as I love the Negro Leagues, I just wish the games, stats and history were documented better. But then again, there is something very cool and somewhat mysterious about the Negro Leagues that constantly leaves me always wanting more in regards to information.

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Vin Scully

Brooklyn Dodgers

A wonderful photo from 1953 of the legendary Vin Scully in the WMGM radio booth at Ebbets Field. If you’re wondering where Scully is, look above the “G.” Coming across this photo made my day and I hope it does the same for you as well.

(Thanks to It’s A Long Season for sharing this gem via Sporting News)

Hanging Up The Spikes.

•November 21, 2013 • 1 Comment

Gehrig Retires 1939
Every season, many Major League Baseball players say goodbye to the game they love; some by choice and others forced by powers beyond their control. Most of them are far from the players they once were and that’s fine by me. I’m ok with players hanging on as long as they (naturally) can, even longer than they “should” in some cases. To me, this often reflects the fact that they love Baseball and still want to play. Hell, if I had it my way, there would be a professional senior league that old ball players could “graduate” to once they retired from the big leagues. I just look at the game in a humanistic and romantic frame of mind. I am aware I’m in the minority in this day and age when it comes to this.

Just to put it out there, I get a little sad and a confused when I see guys retire from the game after watching and admiring their careers. Whether it be a “AAAA” player who could not find success in the big leagues, a career utility infielder who will disappear without fanfare, or an aging superstar who has wrapped up a spectacular career; I always ask myself how can they COMPLETELY stop playing the game of Baseball?

I play Baseball and intend to until I physically can not do so anymore. There’s something deep inside of me which keeps me playing this game, even with the injuries that often plague me. It’s a fire that just won’t go out. I suppose it’s much different for someone who has played professionally for many years and therefore has had a much different experience than myself. For these guys, I just assume the fire inside to play should still be flickering though? I look at people like Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee and say to myself “That’s how I wanna be.” The guy is 66 years old and still plays competitive Baseball long after his major league career ended. Whether it be men’s senior leagues, independent minor league teams, pick-up clubs, etc., he plays for the love of the game. After being cut by the Expos in 1982, Lee was interviewed and asked if he cares if he’s out of Baseball for good. He answered with “Oh, I’ll never be out of Baseball for good, that’s my life.” It’s an admirable quote that I often think about as it resonates with me.

With all that said, I know not everyone feels the same about the game of Baseball as Bill Lee and myself. For many, when it comes to time to say goodbye to the game, it really is goodbye and that is what this post is about. A number of players that I admire have recently decided to hang up the spikes and I know I will not see them play again. This post is a “digital” tip of the cap to these men and what they accomplished during their careers. I know not everyone who left the game in 2013 is listed on here, but these are the players that I personally admire for what they did on the field and have actually officially announced their retirement. Much like my “30 Teams, 30 Posts” project, I’ll leave a photo I like, along with feelings or a memory that’s triggered by it. Enjoy.

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Mariano Rivera

Rivera Jeter Pettitte
I’m just going to start with the biggest and most obvious name and that would be Mariano Rivera. What can I say that has not already been said about the best closer of all time? I may be VERY critical of the role of the modern “closer” but I still have to admit that he is a legend and an easy first ballot Hall of Famer. Growing up as a fan of the Padres, I was always more of a Trevor Hoffman fan for obvious reasons. There always seemed to be a lot of comparison and debate between these two closers and only members of the 600 Save club: East vs West, large market vs small market, cutter vs change-up, AC/DC vs Metallica, etc. I always (and still do) follow Hoffman more for obvious reasons, but I could never remotely dislike or disregard Mo. He was the greatest and anyone who says otherwise is taking crazy pills. I finally got to see him pitch in person this last summer and while he did blow a save in the game, I felt honored to finally seem him pitch in person.

If you were somehow in the 1% of Baseball fans who managed to miss Mo’s last appearance, do yourself a favor and click HERE. It gets good right around the 3:20 mark. If you don’t get a little misty eyed, I question your love for the game.

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Mark Kotsay

Mark Kotsay A's
Towards the end of this season, Mark Kotsay decided that it would be his last year in the big leagues. This guy is by far my favorite player on this list and was always one of my favorite players in Baseball. I followed him closely throughout his career due to his connection to both the Padres and A’s always got excited when I saw him in the lineup or take the field. With that said, it was obviously a little saddening to hear of his retirement, but then again he did play 17 years in the big leagues. That in itself is quite admirable for someone who was never a “superstar,” let alone ever an All-Star. I’m going to miss that left-handed swing of his but I have feeling he’s still going to be involved in the game as the general consensus regarding Kotsay is that he would be a great coach or manager in the future.

My fondest Kotsay moment would have to be as a member of the 2006 A’s when he hit an inside the park homerun and helped win Game 2 of the ALDS. Since I can’t find the video of this, HERE is a link of the Padres honoring Kotsay before his final game in San Diego.

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Todd Helton

Todd Helton

Todd Helton is another player who announced late in the season that 2014 would be last in the big leagues. As someone who follows the NL West closely, I’m quite familiar with Helton and what he accomplished during his 17 seasons as the first basemen of the Rockies. He beat up on Padres pitchers for years and even though it was infuriating at times, I could not help but take a step back at times, throw away my fandom and admire what a great player he was. Helton may have played some of his greatest seasons at Coors Field prior to the humidor and benefited from the elevation (which are reflected in his home/road splits), but he had some legit great all around seasons. In my eyes, Helton is a Hall of Famer. Not to mention he played his entire career with one team, which is always admirable and Hall of Fame voters seem to like.

The last weekend of the season, the legendary Vin Scully paid tribute to Helton via THIS video. I believe it sums up how most Baseball people feel about Helton and his impact on the game.

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Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter has officially hung up his spikes due to nerve issues in his throwing shoulder, which have essentially robbed him of his last 2 seasons. When Carpenter was healthy, he was an absolute beast on the mound who often ran with his emotions. This meant yelling at himself and opposing players, staring down batters and playing harder than most. Some may call it competitive and others may call it irrational. I know the yelling and staring down of opposing players rubbed many the wrong way, but I was always kinda conflicted in regards to this. I loved how fierce of a competitor he was, but some of the dramatics that came along with this were unneeded. In any case, I’d rather have someone like Carpenter than have someone who was lacking in the competitive juices department.

Recently, I read somewhere that it was suggested if Carpenter could have possibly had a Hall of Fame caliber career if it were not for the 6 surgeries that undoubtedly cost him a lot of time during his peak years. This is debatable, but what can’t be debated is that Carpenter had a great career. A Cy Young award, three All-Star games and a great post-season career which lead to 2 World Series rings all stand out on his resume.

I gotta admit that my favorite Carpenter moment actually happened last year during his late season comeback from thoracic outlet syndrome. He came back early from his injury late in the season and eventually defeated the Nationals in Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS. While I may have been rooting for the Nats to win, Carpenter coming back from his injury to beat them was something you just had to tip your cap to and enjoy. To watch highlights of this game, click HERE.

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Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte 2007
Andy Pettitte
is a player that I always enjoyed watching. He was a class act and I watched him pitch some amazing games over the years, especially in the post-season. In a nutshell, I feel similar about Pettitte as I do about Rivera, Posada and Jeter. All four of them were part of an amazing group of players and I found it hard to dislike anything about any of them. I guess the only knock against Pettitte would be his connection to PED’s but to be honest, this does not judge how I view him and his entire career; which may or may not land him in the Hall of Fame.

One of, if not my favorite thing about Pettitte was his unbelievable pick-off move to first base. Against the Mariners in the 1995 ALDS, Pettitte picked off not one, but two base-runners at first base. Not to mention, this was his first post-season start of his career and it makes it even more impressive. His mechanics were incredibly deceiving and I feel that most left-handed pitchers could learn a thing or two from him. Watch these post-season pick-offs HERE and be stoked…unless you’re a fan of the Mariners.

 
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