Girardi: Dad would want me to be here

Joe Girardi spoke publicly Thursday for the first time about the death of his father, Jerry. William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER/US PRESSWIRE

Joe Girardi spoke publicly about his father for the first time since his dad's death on Saturday. He offered several touching anecdotes about the close relationship he shared with his father, Jerry.

Once, Girardi recalled, he was watching his dad change a bathtub spigot at their home in Peoria, Ill.

"And he had the wrench, and he was trying to tighten it, and the wrench slipped and hit his thumb and he broke his thumb and it was bleeding, but he finished what he had to do," Girardi recalled. "He finished that, and my mom was like, 'You've got to go to the hospital,' and he's like, 'Nope, I've got to finish it.'

"He just taped it up. So I thought, that's what my dad would want me to do. So that's what I tried to do."

That's one of the main reasons Girardi decided to manage during the ALDS.

His father would have wanted him to.

"My dad would want me to do everything that we could to go win a Word Series," Girardi said.

Girardi also spoke last year with ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand about the role his father played in his life. Jerry, who worked as a salesman for an electric company, bartender and bricklayer, would always find time to play sports with Joe.

"He taught me toughness. I just remember playing basketball in the backyard and my dad playing like it was an NBA game, in a sense. I would shoot a shot and he would jab me in the stomach," Girardi said. "He would box me out and he taught me how to survive in a sense. You have to fight for everything that you want in life."

Father and son also listened to Cubs games during Jerry's sales trips and frequently went fishing together.

"Wherever my dad went, I went. When we went fishing, I was right there next to my dad. He would catch the fish and he would let me reel them in," Girardi recalled.

When he won his first World Series, with the Yankees in 1996, Joe Girardi gave the ring to Jerry.

Later, on trips to Chicago as Yankees manager, Joe would often make the 2 1/2 hour trip to Peoria to be with his ailing father.

Joe told Marchand that even though Jerry was having a tough time with the disease, he believed his father recognized him.

"He doesn't open his eyes a lot. He does wiggle his hands and fingers when he hears my voice. I really believe he knows that it is me, but I don't know for sure," Joe said.

Jerry's death came a few days before Joe made arguably the boldest managerial move of his Yankees tenure, lifting Alex Rodriguez for pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS against Baltimore, with the Yankees down by one.

The gutsy move paid off, as Ibanez homered to tie the game and then knocked the game-winning homer in the 12th.

Girardi said Thursday that he "would have loved" to talk about the move he made with his dad.

"Baseball was something we both had an extreme passion for," Girardi said. "I mean, he took me to (Cubs) games when I was a little boy ... five or six a year. And the memories that we had from playing catch in the backyard. I loved to talk the game with my dad."