In a scene that’s played out so many times before in the past, the Yankees were playing in front of an October home crowd with a chance to shower themselves in glory. This time, it was the ALCS and the Bronx was rocking as fans tried to push the pinstripes to yet another year of glory. While the other team was bringing star and offensive power, they’d have to deal with a budding Yankee hero on the mound.
CC Sabathia did what he had done for the vast majority of the regular season. He stared down his opposition and shut them down for the next eight innings. Four days later, he did the exact same thing. CC threw 16 innings in the 2009 ALCS and only gave up two runs the entire time. He was named MVP of that year’s ALCS and eventually he permanently wrote his name into Yankee lore by helping the team win that year’s World Series. In his first season with the Yankees, he had already ensured that he’d be remembered fondly.
Then one season with the Yankees would turn into 11. A decade after he made the ALCS his own personal stage, CC was back in the championship series, but the circumstances were wildly different. Instead of making the start, Sabathia was on for relief and the days of making long and dominant starts were clearly behind him. In a star-crossed inning, the Astros scored a run on an error and it took CC all he could handle to get two outs. The second out is very likely the final out that he’ll get in his long and storied career. Despite the crowd at Yankee Stadium doing their best to will CC to get out of the inning, he knew he couldn’t go anymore.
When teammates went to the mound to check on CC Sabathia, he told them of his shoulder: “It popped.” He tried the one warm-up pitch, said “I’m done,” and walked off the field in pain. Teammates said it was hard to see him in pain after the game.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 18, 2019
Ten years after CC left his permanent mark on the Yankees with his performances in October, left the game to cheers even with the Yankees eventually going down 3-1 in the ALCS to Houston. It wasn’t an amazing performance, but the crowd was paying tribute to his career.
It was a far cry from the scene that played out at Yankee Stadium seven years ago. That was when CC Sabathia took the mound in the Bronx in a winner-or-go home scenario against the Orioles. All he did back then was pitch one of the greatest gems in Yankees postseason history — 121 pitches, nine innings pitched, one run allowed. Sabathia gave the Yankees a complete game of domination when they needed him the most, and it was another diamond in the crown of amazing postseason performances that CC had amassed over the years.
While the fans at Yankee Stadium were giving CC a standing ovation as he made his unfortunate exit, the Astros were also clapping and showing Sabathia the respect that he deserved. If anybody knew what the game would be missing without CC, it’s the Astros. Just two years earlier, a lot of the same players who were around for Houston’s 2017 World Series got real acquainted with Sabathia during the ALCS. He faced them twice and in the first game, CC frustrated the Astros for six shutout innings as the Yankees got on the board for the series. Sabathia’s strong start rejuvenated the Yankees and New York eventually took a 3-2 lead in the ALCS before Houston woke up and won the series. Still, CC continued his run of playoff excellence and on October 16, 2017, the eventual World Series champions knew exactly what CC Sabathia was capable of.
That’s why Houston showed CC Sabathia such respect and admiration on October 17, 2019. The Yankees may not be done yet, but this clearly appears to be the end of the road for CC whether New York pulls off a miracle comeback or not. Sabathia has given the Yankees and their fans so much to cheer for and be proud of over the decade that he’s spent pitching in the Bronx. He won’t be remembered for how he finished — instead, CC Sabathia will be remembered as one of the true Yankee greats. He did it for New York in October — that’s what matters.