1 Peter 4:11 (ESV)
Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Game 3 (October 31, 2009): New York Yankees 8, Philadelphia Phillies 5
As the New York Yankees entered the third game of the 2009 World Series, they were faced with the unenviable task of trying to wrestle back the home field advantage they had lost back in the Big Apple. Heavy favorites to win the crown, they had shockingly split the first two games against their National League opponent.
But when veteran left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte took the mound, there was assuredly something else weighing on his mind: redemption.
Two years earlier, Pettitte admitted to twice using human growth hormone back in 2002 to help speed up the recovery of his injured elbow. Even though HGH wasn’t a banned substance at the time, Pettitte still found himself in the crosshairs of negative commentary from the media and opposing fans. Even before his actions were publicly revealed, he quickly knew he needed to reverse course.
“Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped,” Pettitte said in a statement released to The Associated Press. “I wasn’t looking for an edge. I was looking to heal…I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable.”
Being labeled a cheater was especially difficult for someone who was known for being one of Major League Baseball’s most outspoken Christian athletes. One of Pettitte’s favorite scriptures at the time, in fact, was one that spoke to his desire to live above reproach and with the utmost integrity as a representative of Jesus:
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)
So as Pettitte warmed up in Philadelphia, home to one of the most unforgiving fan bases, it was no surprise to him or anyone else that the boos and chants began to reverberate throughout Citizens Bank Park. It was Pettitte’s first World Series appearance since the HGH scandal two years earlier, but he was no stranger to the Fall Classic. Pettitte had already won four previous championships with the Yankees and had played for his hometown Astros in the club’s first ever World Series.
This time was different. And Pettitte knew it.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Phillies got the early advantage thanks to Jayson Werth’s home run followed by a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly. Pettitte settled down and the Yankees fought back with seven runs of their own to take a 7-4 lead. Even Pettitte got into the act with his first career postseason RBI.
The Yankees held onto the lead and took Game 3, 8-5. Pettitte won Game 6 as well and extended his record for most postseason wins with 18 en route to his fifth and final World Series ring. A few years later, the Yankees retired his #46 jersey.
While some contrarian opinions about Pettitte may never change, he takes solace in the fact that his mistake was largely forgiven within the Christian community and that his opportunities to share his story in churches and organizations actually increased after his contrite admission.
“It’s absolutely amazing what happens when you’re consistent in your walk and you’re consistent in the way you live your life,” Pettitte said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened in your life. I’ve shown that with what happened with the HGH situation…I literally thought that when that happened I’d wasted my whole life…and that I’d messed it up with a bad decision that I made. But God knows my heart. God knows that I’m telling the truth in everything I said and I think that He’s totally honored me and blessed me in that and the way I handled it.”
Ultimately, his embrace of 1 Peter 4:11 and his faith provided the strength that carried him throughout that entire World Series and helped him find the redemption he craved.
Dear Lord, we pray that we would do the right thing no matter how difficult it may be. Give us the strength to carry Your good news to the world around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.