NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees' team bus was on the Henry Hudson Parkway last Saturday when Joe Girardi's phone rang. After deteriorating from Alzheimer's disease since the 1990s, his father had died in Illinois.
"I had tears in my eyes on the bus, so I put some sunglasses on," the manager said Thursday, struggling not to cry, "and (did) probably what a lot of men do when they go through difficult and sad times, we try to stay busy. That's what we do. And I tried to focus."
For five days, Girardi did not disclose dad's death to his players, preferring not to talk about it and not wanting to distract his team. Jerry Girardi, who was 81, will be buried in Tampico, Ill., next Monday — an off day in the AL championship series.
"I was going to tell them, you know, God willing we get into the next round, that I was going to the funeral on Monday and I wouldn't be at the workout," he said. "That's when I was going to tell them."
New York played another late-night thriller with Baltimore, which won 2-1 in 13 innings to force a decisive Game 5 Friday. The Yankees have one more chance to advance to the ALCS.
A man on a mission. That's what Joe Girardi is. That's what he learned from Jerry Girardi and his mom, Angela, who died in 1984.
Not managing for a night never entered his mind, not last weekend, not now. He stood alone in front of the dugout and wiped tears from his eyes during a pregame moment of silence, then blew a kiss to someone in the stands.
"The one thing that both of them, besides many other things that they taught me, was always to finish the job at hand," Girardi said. "So my thought process was my dad would want me to do everything that we could do to go win a World Series. He had been a part of them with me as a player. 2009 — I don't think he understood what we did at that time. He was at a stage in Alzheimer's that he wasn't talking, so I don't think he understood."
And then the manager with the close-cropped hair and serious look, a man who almost always maintains a steely cool, got emotional and choked up.
"I had a tremendous relationship with my father. Wherever he went, I went. When he stopped, I ran into him," Girardi said. "And I've always said, if I could be half the husband and father my dad would be, that would be special."
It was as difficult a pregame news conference as there can be. A night earlier, Girardi made the toughest decision of his six years as a major league manager. With the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning, he pinch hit for slumping Alex Rodriguez, baseball's most expensive player. Raul Ibanez batted for A-Rod and not only hit a tying home run, hit went on to hit a winning homer in the 12th to give New York a 3-2 victory.