Andy Pettitte: Hall Of Famer?

You haven’t considered that question, have you?
I don’t think it’s anywhere near the 50 most pressing issues of the spring, but it started formulating for me last fall as the veteran Yankees’ lefty cut such an unlikely swath through the post-season. And while the case for a Cooperstown spot for Pettitte is hardly closed, but it is surprisingly compelling.
Comparing across eras is often a dangerous thing, but it does offer a little perspective. And barring a breakdown, at some point in the season ahead Pettitte is going to win his seventh game and pull up into a tie on the all-time victories list with none other than Whitey Ford.
Ford ended what amounted to a 16-year career with a 236-106 record, for a phenomenal winning percentage of .690. Right now Pettitte is at 229-135, which is an impressive .629 (another Yankee great, Herb Pennock, is in Cooperstown with 241 wins and a .598 percentage, and Hal Newhouser of the Tigers is there at 207 with a .579). 
A numbers box follows, just to get to the essence of the thing (the asterisk indicates the numbers have been adjusted to cut out seasons that are just cameos).

                         Ford               Pettitte           Pennock

Seasons              16*                   15                   20*

Wins                   236                  229                  241

Losses                106                  135                  162

Percentage         .690                 .629                 .598

ERA                   2.75                 3.91                 3.60

K                       1956                 2150                1227

W                      1086                  921                  916

20 Win Yrs            2                      2                      2

World Series       10-8                  5-4                   5-0

I’m fascinated by the World Series marks. Pennock made his bones in the post-season, and Ford, from his rookie year of 1950 onwards, became legendary in them. And here’s Pettitte with as many World Series wins as Pennock, and the same post-season percentage as Ford.

I do not go in for lumping all post-season statistics into one number – it is unfair to pitchers pre-1995 and especially pre-1969. Neither should it be ignored that Pettitte is now 13-5 in division and league series. More over, with his triple-play from last fall he has now pitched the decisive game of a playoff series or a World Series an astonishing nine times, and is a tidy 6-1 in such games, with his team having won both of his personal no-decisions, and the one loss being Game Six of the 2003 World Series in which he surrendered exactly one earned run in seven innings. It gets a little less impressive if you include his human torch act in Game Six of the 2001 Series which could have won it for the Yankees – but still, that’s 6-2 in ten potential deciders.
I find Ford was asked to pitch the wrapper three times. He won the finale of the sweep of the Phillies in 1950, got a no decision in the win in Game Six in 1953, and lost the fourth game as the Dodgers swept New York in 1963. As with everything else concerning the post-season, it was tougher for pitchers to get chances to pitch the decider in the days before the playoffs, but Ford did pitch in eleven Series. Pettitte has pitched in no fewer than 28 post-season series (that percentage of deciders pitched is thus still higher than Ford’s).
To this day I think Pettitte deserved the 1996 Cy Young Award, if only for the fact that he went 13-3 after New York losses that season. One wonders if his strong Hall of Fame credentials would be a little more prominently discussed if he’d taken the trophy. If you’d like to be further befuddled by stats and Cooperstown and lefty pitchers, consider one more set: 239-157 (.604), a cumulative post-season mark of 10-5 and a 2-1 record in four deciders. That is David Wells.
I was delighted to settle down, between hospital visits tonight, with MLB Net’s telecast of the Dodgers and White Sox from Arizona, and not merely for the intriguing return of Eric Gagne. Dodgers’ announcer Charley Steiner was my second boss in broadcasting – he hired me 30 years ago last December to jump from UPI Radio to his operation at RKO Radio and from there I was poised to leap into television with CNN (yes, this was before they invented color tv). And I know Charley’s colleague Rick Monday even longer, having interviewed him as far in the past as the 1977 World Series. Rick was later the sports director at Channel 11 in Los Angeles while I held the same post at Channels 5 and 2.

Thumbnail image for 66A.jpgThis monstrosity at the left is included because my friends Charley and Rick were victims of one of the standard media nightmares of the spring. In the bottom of the sixth, the White Sox sent number 83 out to play shortstop. And, of course, as can be the case from the first game of the exhibition season through the last, t
here was no number 83 on the White Sox roster. Managers, especially in split-squad situations and/or road trips, supplement even the usual mass of 40-man roster guys and non-roster invitees with as many as dozen extra minor leaguers on a one-game basis, whose identities are usually written down on the shirt cuff of the visiting Media Relations guy. Anyone in the press box is thus left as helpless as in high school, when whoever kept your scorecard had to exchange rosters with whoever kept theirs (I once had a hockey game in which the rival team wore several years’ worth of uniforms and thus had multiple players wearing the same numbers – they had at least three guys wearing number “5” and tried to fix this by stitching in a little “A” or “B” atop the number).

Anyway, 83 was eventually unmasked as minor leaguer Eduardo Escobar and Rick and Charley moved giddily on to the further disturbing truth that Mr. Escobar was wearing an expandable cap, the surest sign of minor league serfdom. Steiner assured his audience that having been the first pick in the first-ever amateur draft in 1965, Monday suffered no such degradations, whereupon Monday insisted that in his first spring training with the then-Kansas City A’s in 1966, he had been insulted in no less an astonishing way than being assigned uniform number 104.


As they used to say on Letterman, “#104 Rick Monday” is a bit of writer’s embellishment. Conceivably in some instructional camp after they anointed him the first-ever draftee, the A’s made him wear such garb, but it wasn’t in spring training. 
It is kind of marvelous, though, that as late as 1966, number 45 was still the kind of number you gave to a non-roster second-year pro who wasn’t going to make your team. By the time Monday reached the bigs in the fall of ’66 he was wearing 28, and then moved to 7 the following year.
And the White Sox, by the way, later debuted an outfielder named Justin Greene and a pitcher named Justin Cassel (brother of quarterback Matt and pitcher Jack).  Both Justins were wearing number 86.



    Befuddled?? Who’s befuddled? Not me! I get it! If you stand on your left foot for three minutes, wear the jersey numbered 45 1/2 +3*, then you’re obviously the middle infielder shortstop halfback!! Right? ….right?? No? Oh heck, let’s face it… I’m always confused. But at least I know who I am. I’m the real, the one… the only Diogenes2008 at Daily Kos! And I like seeing you blogging here and at the Big Orange, in spite of what some impostor says. (I know, I know… huh?? Don’t ask… it’s a long story.) ๐Ÿ™‚ And while we’re on the subject of confusing things, don’t forget Justin Greene’s cousin, Justin Thyme… and his uncle, Justin Case. ๐Ÿ˜› …This Justin… I’m a loon. Or maybe I’m just glad this day is over. And I’m happy to see you back here again, unbent and unbowed by the vileness of certain unnamed people. I hope you can forgive me a little silliness after a long day. Hugs to you, hugs to your dad, and best of luck to your whole family. Yippee… spring training has started!!

  2. dyhrdmet

    Keith, I was at a Spring game a few years ago where someone came in to play second base, and he had no name or number on his jersey. I have no idea who he was. I think it was good that the game wasn’t being broadcast anywhere. I’ve also gotten an autograph from a player who had one of those hologram decals on his cap like someone had just picked it up from a sporting goods store. The fun of spring training, and not caring enough to try to keep score.

  3. hartbreak

    I think Pettitte’s got the potential, but I don’t think he’d go in if, say, he were to stop playing now. Then again, it’s not uncommon for the Hall of Fame choices (and snubs) to baffle the hell out of me. *still mad about Buck O’Neil*

  4. historymike

    Two stories.

    One, September rosters can be just as tricky. The Astros once put in a player with a number and no name, and he wasn’t in the program. The legendary Pirates announcer Bob Prince kept looking through the media guide until he heard the press box PA man say, “Will Rab Mungee report to the press gate.” Prince shrugged and said, “Next up for the Astros is Rab Mungee.”

    Two, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a classic PA man, Tex Ricketts (the Tex came from his name sounding like the boxing promoter Tex Rickard). He couldn’t tell who the Cubs were bringing in and called to the press box to ask. A writer said he’d check. He called back. Tex answered. The writer said, “Tex?” Tex said, “Yes.” The writer said, “Bob Rush.” Tex said, “Who?” The writer repeated, “Bob Rush.” Tex said, “Hi, Bob, how are you?”

  5. sdfaninco

    Quality stuff Keith. Love the historical perspective. Love the way your pictures are integrated as well. (especially the ’66 A’s media guide SUPER-COOL) Check me out.



    @tomsgree12, gee… thanks for the kind words. I was just feeling a bit silly, since I just spent the last week dealing with the deaths of two of my sisters’ husbands. I went to a funeral yesterday, and have another next week to attend. I’ve been spending time with my sisters, and trying to be strong for their sake, because they’re racked with grief right now. A day or so ago, I was on another one of Keith’s posts here, and someone posted a comment pretending to be me, and slammed Keith… and that’s what the “impostor” thing was about. The rest of it is just me being silly, because I’m so exhausted both mentally and physically right now that I have to let some of that out or just lose it. I was pretty sure Keith would understand how that feels… whether you do or not is up to you, and honestly I’m not sure I care. I do care what Keith thinks, though. Right now I’m just trying to get by, and reading Keith Olbermann’s blog gives me a lift when I need one…. and seeing him here let’s me know he’s still standing. Right now that’s a big thing for me, because I care about him and his father, even though we’ve never met (and yes, it is possible to care for people you haven’t met). Sorry if my humor offended you… I was just feeling silly and snarky and wiped out.

  7. 1948braves

    My first impression when I think of Andy Pettitte is the month of October. A good quality pitcher. I have seen Pettitte mentioned in lists of the top ten best pitchers of the past 10 years. But I don’t believe he’s a Hall of Famer. Cy Youngs and All Star appearances I do think matter. He certainly has made a lot of appearances in post season games, so he would/should have a fair number of wins as opposed to those who didn’t make it to the post season as often. And Andy Pettitte to me was never seen as a big gun the way Maddux, Schilling, Clemens and Randy Johnson were. So I would say no. Not a Hall of Famer.

    Keith, all your viewers hope to hear steady good news and your return soon to Countdown. In the meantime, Lawrence O’Donnell is doing a terrific job in your absence (as I’m sure you are aware).

    “He could speak in eight languages, but he couldn’t hit in any of them.” Ted Lyons on Mo Berg

  8. 1948braves

    olympictrees: We all know it’s not you. Don’t let it get you down. As Keith has stated many times, he appreciates everyone’s words of encouragement and concern. It’s been a difficult path for so many this past year.

    If you can, try and take a few moments and watch the Oscars. There’s some mighty good nominees up this year. It’s such a joy (for me anyway) to just sit back and watch these very talented actors get recognition from the industry when they win. It’s like the World Series.

    A whole lot of hard work paying off. You can’t help but smile when anyone wins. Down below – one of my favorite moments in Oscar history – when Adrien Brody won for The Pianist. How can this not make you soooo happy for him. It was such a powerful movie and powerful performance. That’s what the Oscars does for me every single year. So I hope you enjoy some time tonite to just relax and root for your favorite performer. Hope to see you back soon.


    Great. Now I have a stalker chasing me…. First of all, Keith – I’m really sorry about all of this. I’m sorry someone saw fit to harass you using my DKos username. I don’t know why they’re doing it, but obviously they don’t realize that you don’t know me… and wouldn’t care one way or the other if I posted here… but know this: This is my last post on your baseball blog under olympictrees or anything close, and if you see that email address again (especially if it is “” instead of “”) it isn’t me…. for what that’s worth. I’ll still be on DKos as Diogenes2008, but if you see that name here, it’s not me. Thanks for everything – for sharing with us, for giving me a lift when I needed one… and good luck to you and your whole family. And please keep updating us on your father’s health, because I know I’m not the only one who cares. I always enjoy your blog posts, here and at Daily Kos. To those here who feel like friends – thank you, and I’m sorry about all of this. If I do come back, it will be under a different email address, and I won’t be mentioning my DKos username, so if you see it… it ain’t me. To the stalker: You must not be terribly bright if you think that using my username to harass Keith is going to bother him any – HE DOESN’T KNOW ME, and likely doesn’t care whether I’m here or not. So you’re barking up the wrong tree. And if it’s me you’re after – then have the courage to email me, instead of involving Keith’s blog. Coward.


    I don’t watch a whole lot of baseball. I love being at the park but let’s face it, not many of us can afford to do that consistantly. Pettitte is one of those players I recognize. That has to count for something. I don’t know that it gets him into the Hall of Fame. By the way, I know 40 lashes with a wet noodle for commenting in a baseball blog when I rarely watch. I’m tired…I’ll try to do better.

    A brief note to Diogenes. You made me smile sweetheart. You be as goofy as you need to be. You have had a rough couple of weeks. I keep missing you at dKos, be well. Oh yeah, almost forgot {{{{{Diogenes}}}}}. All my best to you and your family in these difficult days.

    To Keith, I’m glad you got back on the horse. You are amazing. You are loved. You are a devoted son, brother, uncle and friend. You may not consider us friends but we feel friendly towards you. Thank you for keeping us updated. Give your dad a kiss from me.:)

  11. hartbreak

    First, a disclaimer: I’m a friendly.

    Second: Can we please not start this sh*t again by indulging these people? I enjoy KO’s insight on baseball, and I come here for a break from all things which are NOT baseball. And I really hate to see fellow friendlies get sucked into these things.

  12. holycowharrycaray

    Overly hyped Yankees prospects, a subject that reminds me of a time when Danny Tartabull was THE wave of the future and not just George’s passenger in an episode of Seinfeld.


    We live in Andy’s home town, my son played pony ball in the same league, I do remember him hitting a 1st pitch 3 run homer off Andy’s son–when you are 14–that is as good as it gets.

    I don’t know if he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but I can state he is a super great guy. He stops by the ball parks where the little guys are playing every so often and signs balls-but only for the little ones.


    Wells’ record is even more impressive when you consider his injuries from 2001 on, and the fact that he didn’t become a full-time starter until he was 30. He’s very high up on my list for the guts he showed throughout his whole career. And for the fact that he pitched a perfect game. That’s utterly amazing to me.

    I freely admit, I am one of those women who used to just think of baseball as men in tight pants hitting a ball with a stick and running around in circles. I didn’t really get into the game until I dated an umpire…but the concept of a perfect game is still astounding even when you’ve learned all the mechanics of baseball inside and out. It has never lost its awe for me, and anyone who’s done it is way up there in my book.

    One more note on Wells: many people think it’s a pitcher’s arm that gives out when he runs out of steam, but as I’m sure most people on this board already know, it’s his legs that tire first. Which makes the whole idea of a pitcher maintaining his record with severe back and knee pain pretty d***ed incredible. David Wells deserves all sorts of emphatic titles that I probably can’t post on this board without being reported, but suffice it to say: he’s bad, he’s bad, he knows it.

    My comments are a lot triter when it comes to Pettitte. My theory is that he won’t be voted in until he just accepts that his name is “petite” and not “pet-it”. Really, who does he think he’s fooling? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am fortunate enough to live in San Francisco. We have Tim Lincecum. He’s like your skateboarding stoner little brother who also happens to have the concentration of a professional archer and the ability to remain cool, and even become sharper, under pressure. I’m rooting for him to get the Cy Young for the third time in a row. He deserves it.

    In short: Wells is A1 material; Pettitte needs to get over himself, stats aside, and accept his name for what it is, or he will never have a shot at the Hall of Fame; woo-hoo for our guy, even if he does bear a striking resemblance to both Alanis Morrissette and the kid from Dazed and Confused.


    I mean the guy is a great pitcher and has a big time resume, but I don’t know about the hall of fame. Isn’t this the same guy who tested positive? That writers should shun him just like they do everyone else. That’s not my language speaking and doesn’t mean I agree with it, but it’s only fair. Besides Clemens and Rivera, he has been the mainstay on the Yankees.

  16. cheapairmax2009

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