NEW YORK — There were no tears Friday for CC Sabathia.
They were already shed.
Sabathia, still in severe pain a day later, his left arm in a sling, showed little emotion, saying his spirits have been buoyed by the gracious text messages, the glorious tributes, and fan applause.
Yet, sitting in front of a room full of reporters before Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, he acknowledged that his 19-year career is over.
Sabathia, who announced in the New York Yankees’ spring-training camp this would be his final season, really did leave his arm on the field.
His prized left shoulder, the one leading him to the Hall of Fame, finally gave way on an 90-mph pitch to Houston Astros infielder Aledmys Diaz in the eighth inning.
“I just felt like when I released the ball,’’ Sabathia said, “my shoulder kind of went with it.’’
The man gave it everything he had, leaving the game with absolutely no regrets.
“He’s been the ultimate teammate, competitor, gamer,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “he left everything on the field. Left everything he had on the mound.
“I talk about it to our guys every now and then about, ‘Give us everything you’ve got.’ And CC embodied that, and he left it all out there last night. …
“In a weird way, it was kind of a perfect way to go out.’’
This is one of baseball’s greatest warriors. He pitched at least 190 innings in 11 seasons during his career, won a Cy Young award with the Cleveland Indians in 2007, pitched on short rest down the stretch to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to the postseason in 2008, won a World Series title with the Yankees in 2009, and became only the 25th pitcher to win at least 250 games with 300 strikeouts.
He loved the game of baseball, and baseball loved him back.
In Sabathia’s dreams, he would have been standing on the mound one last time in the World Series, with the Yankees capturing their second title since his arrival in 2009, but this is real life, not Hollywood.
It’s over with the Yankees making it official by replacing him on the postseason roster with reliever Ben Heller. Even if the Yankees miraculously recovered from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Houston Astros in the ALCS, he’d be ineligible for the World Series.
So this is where it ends, at Yankee Stadium, in front of a sellout crowd, and an emotional clubhouse who weren’t quite ready to stay good-bye.
“You can never say that man didn’t give his all,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. “You had to rip the jersey off to get him off that mound. He got everything out of that arm. That’s a warrior right there.
“That’s why he has so much respect around the game. He left it all out there.”
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What other pitcher would blow out his shoulder on a pitch, stay on the mound facing George Springer, and throwing three more pitches before he simply couldn’t tolerate the pain.
“When I was throwing those pitches to Springer,’’ Sabathia said, “ I couldn’t even look up to see where I was throwing the ball. I was just letting it go and whatever happened, happened. …
“I threw until I couldn’t anymore.’’
This is his legacy.
“I think everyone understands how authentic it is and genuine,’’ Boone said. “He’s the best. I mean, he’s how you would draw it up from a teammate standpoint, from a competitor standpoint.
“One of the greatest things CC has — and I think is one of the greatest things on a human being — is he’s kind of dripping with humility. That’s real. That’s who he is.
“A lot of people can come across that way. CC is that. And it’s why I think he’s beloved in there but across the sport and really with anyone he comes in contact with.
“But as far as a ballplayer, a competitor, and a teammate, it’s hard to draw it up any better than CC Sabathia.’’
The crowd at Yankee Stadium, who had been booing their team all night, stopped and gave Sabathia a standing ovation when he clutched his shoulder, walked off the field Thursday, through the dugout, and crumbled walking down the steps.
Joe Girardi, Sabathia’s former manager, choked back tears talking about Sabathia on the MLB Network postgame show. Even the Astros clapped their hands out of respect watching him leave the field.
“I think that’s what got me more emotional than the actual injury,’’ Sabathia said. “Just hearing the fans and the way that they were cheering me. It just makes me feel good. …It was just awesome to hear that and get that on the way out. …
“Makes you super emotional. So many texts, tweets, so many things. It’s been awesome.’’
Sabathia, 39, hopes to stay in the Yankee organization. He’ll work as a special assistant, an advisor, an instructor, whatever they desire.
The only thing he knows for sure is that he has thrown his final pitch.
“I told Amber (his wife) last night that this was the best way for it to end for me,’’ Sabathia said, “because of the way I’ve been feeling, loving the bullpen, jogging out, feeling pretty good. I feel like about July of next year, I’ll be like, I think I can pitch.
“So, knowing that obviously the way I feel now, I can’t.
“It’s kind of fitting.’’
It’s not sappy enough for a movie script, but for this man, it truly is perfect ending.
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