In 1995, legendary Yankees’ roles were reversed
By JAY SCHREIBER
The New York TimesFirst published Sep 22 2013 12:55AM
In the spring of the 1995 major league baseball season, a rookie named Andy Pettitte was pitching in relief for the Yankees. Another rookie, named Mariano Rivera, was starting and not doing well.
Eighteen years, five World Series titles and one major role reversal later, they are moving in tandem toward retirement. Pettitte may start his last game ever at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, and Rivera, widely considered the best reliever ever, also begins the final week of his major league career, unless the Yankees somehow squeeze into the postseason.
In 1995, the Yankees did not know what they had in Rivera. He was a skinny 25-year-old from Panama, and in his major league debut, on May 23, he lasted only three and a third innings in a game the Yankees lost to the California Angels by 10-0.
In his next start, at Oakland, he did better, pitching into the sixth inning and giving up just one run as he notched his first major league victory in a 4-1 Yankees win. But nine days later, on June 6 in the Bronx, Rivera made his third start, again against the Athletics, and was pounded, giving up seven earned runs in four innings.
"Another shabby outing by another young pitcher — both homers came off starter Mariano Rivera — produced another exasperating Yankee loss," Jack Curry wrote for The New York Times. Rivera, he noted, was hit so hard by the A’s that "he resembled their favorite batting practice pitcher."
The day after Rivera was knocked out of that game, leaving the Yankees with a 14-21 record, it was the 22-year-old Pettitte’s turn. He had made his major league debut nearly a month before Rivera had — in a brief relief stint April 29 against Kansas City — and had made four more appearances out of the bullpen before manager Buck Showalter put him in the starting rotation.
He lasted five and a third innings against the A’s in Oakland in his first start on May 27, a 3-0 loss. He pitched a complete game against the Angels at Yankee Stadium on June 2 but lost again, this time by 3-2.
And now start No. 3, against the same A’s team that had hammered Rivera the day before. Pettitte went seven innings, allowed just one run and four hits, and earned his first major league victory as the Yankees prevailed, 6-1.
"For one night, Pettitte was a savior of sorts," Curry wrote in The Times.
"He saved the Yankees from disappearing even deeper in the American League East standings, saved them from possibly being swept by Oakland and saved them from another night of discontent by pitching wondrously."
The rest is — well, you know the rest. Pettitte, who went 12-9 that first season, now has 255 victories, the most of any active pitcher. Rivera, who ended up making 10 starts in 1995 and none after that, has more saves than any other pitcher (652). And, over the last two decades, he has closed out 72 of Pettitte’s victories.