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World Series 2001
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10/30/2001 11:58 AM ET
Andy at the bat
By Troy E. Renck
Left Field PHOENIX -- It isn't so much a list as a Dead Sea Scroll.

Things hitters would rather do than face Arizona Diamondbacks lamppost Randy Johnson. Umm, let's see, there's chewing tinfoil, participating in a paper cut war, eating cactus, filing taxes and watching Kevin Costner films involving water.

"I am glad he's on my team," Arizona first baseman Mark Grace was saying the other day. "He's one of the few guys who can make great players look stupid."

So what do you think he had in mind for Andy Pettitte? You've heard of Pettitte. Perennial October star. Key component of a dynasty.

As hitters go, he's a great pitcher. Prior to Sunday night, the back of his baseball card was a four-year cringe. Starting in 1998 he had posted exactly one knock in 22 at-bats. But hey, he made up for his .045 batting average with nine strikeouts.

Heck, if you didn't know better, you'd think Interleague play was invented just to embarrass the junior circuit's moundmen. They are placed in compromising positions. Like Spandex, nothing is left to the imagination. All of their faults are exposed. It's a humiliating, if not comical, scene that also plays out every fall.


For reasons that remain unclear, though baseball stages only one World Series, it insists on using two sets of rules. So when the Yankees swaggered -- or was it staggered? -- into the desert their hurlers, Pettitte included, were forced to grab a bat and take some hacks.

Pettitte rolled snake eyes, finding himself pitted opposite of the Big Unit (who is not related to Dewey Decimal or Pythagoras in case you were wondering). Predictably, the lefty's experience was about as fun as gout.

At 6:44 p.m., Andy wandered up to the dish for the first time in Game 2. To his credit, he looked the part. He took a few good practice cuts, then correctly dug his back foot into the box.

One swing later, it was clear this routine was little more than a mirage. Pettitte, like his teammates who are highly paid for this skill, had no chance of connecting. That first grip-and-rip attempt created oohs and aahs from the crowd because you could practically hear his vertebrae popping with the dramatic swivel.

He remained a human windmill on his second attempt, missing badly on a Johnson fastball. Realizing that such behavior was futile, Pettitte wisely took a called strike three, preserving a touch of dignity.

By the sixth, Andy adopted a new strategy -- straight from Ben Davis' famous West Coast Offense. He glared, wiggled his bat twice then laid a beautiful bunt down the third-base line. Arizona's Matt Williams, a four-time Gold Glover, was surprised by the move.

He charged in as Pettitte charged down the line. OK, so charged is probably a little off base. Pettitte was huffing and puffing more than the Big Bad Wolf, arms flailing as he pursued some sort of statistical nirvana.

With little more than a blink to spare, Williams erased Pettitte with a perfect throw to Mark Grace. His teammates appreciated the effort, patting him on the back as he searched for an oxygen mask.

"I am not very happy with Matt Williams right now," said Pettitte, who suffered the loss despite pitching brilliantly. "He took away what would have been my first World Series hit and he hit the big (three-run) home run, too."

Alas, Pettitte is now 1-for-24 with 10 strikeouts. That's that bad news. The good news? If the series unspools as one predicted, Pettitte will have a shot against Johnson in Game 6.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

Troy E. Renck is a reporter for