NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte expressed gratitude to the New York Yankees franchise, his former teammates, the fans and even the media as the team retired his No. 46 and unveiled a plaque in Monument Park during a ceremony Sunday.
In honoring Pettitte, the Yankees became the first team in the modern era to retire the number of a player who was directly linked to performance-enhancing drug use. Pettitte was named in the 2007 Mitchell report.
In the pregame ceremony that took place in front of the pitcher's mound and was attended by team owner Hal Steinbrenner, former teammates -- including Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez -- and former manager Joe Torre, Pettitte spoke in front a three-quarters filled stadium.
Pettitte made remarks over the public address system, which he said "scared him to death" and was one of the toughest things he has ever had to do. While spending most of his time thanking everyone from the Steinbrenners to his family and to the people in the "press booth," Pettitte also reminisced about when he broke into the majors in 1995.
"Looking back on that day, I could have never imagined the most storied franchise in sports history would be honoring me in such a way," Pettitte said. "It makes me a little uncomfortable being honored like this. I did not play this game for personal recognition."
The club honored Pettitte's longtime battery mate, Posada, on Saturday by retiring his No. 20. Pettitte became the 20th player in team history to have his number retired.
The Yankees gave Pettitte the team's highest individual honors despite his being named in the Mitchell report for use of human growth hormone. Pettitte quickly admitted the report's accuracy and apologized, saying he only used HGH for a short period and just to aid recovery of an elbow injury.
HGH was not banned by Major League Baseball until 2005. Pettitte's admitted use was in 2002.
"I'm thankful," Pettitte said when he was asked what it means to him to be honored in such a matter despite being mentioned in the Mitchell report. "I have always tried to be respectful. I had a man tell me a long time ago, 'You take care of your character, and God will take care of your reputation.' I have kind of carried that phrase with me for a long time."
Pettitte's career was defined by the postseason, when -- with the aid of the expanded playoff format in the modern era -- he started and won more games than anyone in baseball history. In 40 career postseason starts, Pettitte went 18-10 with 3.76 ERA. His 251⅓ playoff innings and his 167 strikeouts are also the most all time.
Pettitte pitched the majority of career with the Yankees, except for a three-year interlude in the middle of his career when he accepted less money to sign with his hometown Houston Astros in 2005. Pettitte already had four World Series rings with the Yankees, after making his debut in Houston. After he returned, in 2007, he won a fifth World Series with the club in 2009.
Pettitte retired after the 2010 season, only to return in 2012 and play two more seasons. In all, Pettitte pitched 15 seasons with the Yankees, going 218-127 with a 3.94 ERA and 2,20 strikeouts in 447 games. His strikeouts are the most in franchise history. His 438 starts are tied with Whitey Ford for the most in team history. Only Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231) have more wins for the Yankees.
Pettitte threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Posada prior to the Yankees' game Sunday with the Cleveland Indians.