Howie Mooney
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Saturday, July 23, 2022


An aging and beloved pitcher, a prospective half-million-dollar bonus for innings pitched and his loyalty to his team all came together one night to create a really incredible scenario.  What the heck are you talking about?  I’m talking about a game that was played between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays near the end of the 2018 season when CC Sabathia got kicked out of a game two innings before he would have received a truly decent $500,000 bonus.

It’s true.  And the ending of the story might surprise you.  But first, who the heck is CC Sabathia?


Carsten Charles Sabathia was born July 21, 1980 in Vallejo, California.  He grew up in Vallejo and went to school there and graduated from Vallejo High School in 1998.  He had pitched on his high school baseball team and he had also played tight end for the school’s football team.  He had committed to play both sports for the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors after high school.

At the beginning of June of that year, though, the major league baseball draft took place and, with the 20th pick in the first round, the Cleveland Indians selected Sabathia.  The memory of that day stays with him still.  

“I still get goosebumps thinking about it,” Sabathia told Anthony McCarron in a 2016 interview with the New York Daily News.  “It changed our lives, you know.  I was in art class, third period.  Back then, it wasn’t like it is now, where you watch it on TV and it’s like prime time.”

In 1998, Sabathia’s mother, Margie, was following the draft on the internet.  When she saw that her boy had been drafted by Cleveland, she called his school with the news.  “It was me, my Mom and my grandmother.  That was her dream, for me to get drafted, and to have it happen in the first round, it was awesome.  She had never missed a game of mine from the time I was eight years old – baseball, football, basketball, anything.”

His signing bonus was negotiated by his mother and the team and it came to $1.3 million.  “For us, it was like hitting the lottery, coming from the situation where I came from.”  At the time, there were days that were very difficult for the family when it came to paying the bills.  The money allowed them to pay off his grandmother’s home, where they were all living.  One of his aunts still lives there.

“That was cool.  I still go there during the off-season.  My aunt handles my fan mail and separates everything and I go there and sign (autographs) and she cooks for me in the off-season.  It all connects through my whole career.”

So Sabathia never ended up playing football or baseball in Hawai’i.  Pretty much immediately, he went to rookie ball in Burlington, North Carolina.  He started five games there in 1998 and earned one win without absorbing any losses.  His ERA, at the end of the year was 4.50 and his WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was over 1.500.  That would be the highest WHIP he would post for a single year in his entire career.

Over the course of 1999 and 2000, Sabathia would find his way from low A-ball and finish in Double-A Akron.  In 2000, he was selected to the 28-man roster for the United States for the Olympics in Australia.  He pitched in a pre-tournament game but wasn’t picked for the 24-man squad that participated in the actual games.  However, he was named the Cleveland franchise’s Lou Boudreau Award winner as the Minor League Player of the Year.


In 2001, he had a great training camp and went north as the youngest player in the major leagues.  He had a great season with Cleveland as he went 17-5 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.  Cleveland faced the Mariners in the American League Divisional Series and Sabathia started the third game and allowed two earned runs in six innings, a game that his team won 17-2.  

A few days after training camp opened in 2002, Sabathia and the Indians got together on a four-year contract worth $9.5 million with a club option for 2006.  That year, the 22-year old finished the season having thrown 210 innings and striking out 149.  In 2003, he became an All-Star for the first time, before he had turned 23.  He would repeat that feat in 2004 as well.

In 2005, he would finish eighth in the American League in victories with 15, and seventh in the league in total strikeouts with 161.  But in terms of K’s per nine innings, he was fourth at 7.4.  The Indians picked up the club option on his contract in the spring of 2005 and subsequently extended him for two more years with a contract worth $17.75 million.

The following year, Sabathia led the league in complete games with six and shutouts with two.  But it was 2007 when he had his greatest year to that point in his career.  He led the A.L. in starts, innings pitched and in batters faced.  He also won 19 games and lost only seven and posted an ERA of 3.21.  

Yes, he played in the All-Star Game once again and yes, he was also named the winner of the MLBPA’s Players’ Choice Award as the league’s best pitcher by his peers, but most importantly, he was named the winner of the Cy Young Award as well.  He was just the second Cleveland Indians’ pitcher to win the award after Gaylord Perry.  Since then, Cliff Lee, Corey Kluber and Shane Bieber have also won it.

On September 28 of that year, he became the youngest pitcher since Greg Maddux in 1993 to win 100 games.  Cleveland made the postseason again and won their divisional series against the Yankees before losing the championship series to the Boston Red Sox.  That was his last great year in Cleveland though.  

In 2008, Sabathia and the team both started slowly.  In his first 18 starts, he was 6-8 and the team was out of playoff contention.  Before the trade deadline, they dealt the impending free agent to the Milwaukee Brewers for four players including Michael Brantley and Matt Laporta.  Sabathia wanted to show his gratitude to the city that had been the host of so much of his success.

He took out an ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that cost him five figures.  In the ad, signed by Sabathia, his wife Amber and members of his family, he told the people of the city, “Thank you for 10 great years....You’ve touched our lives with your kindness, love and generosity.  We are forever grateful!  It’s been a pleasure and an honor!”


On the day of the trade, July 7, the Brewers were 49-39.  They lost that night to the Colorado Rockies to go 49-40.  They finished the season with a record of 90-72.  Sabathia was a big part of that resurgence.  He went 11-2 in the last three months of the 2008 season and put up an ERA of 1.65 over 17 starts with the Brewers.  He helped the team gain a wild-card spot.  It was their first post-season berth since 1982 when Harvey (Kuenn)’s Wallbangers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2008, the Brewers lost the divisional series to the Philadelphia Phillies but at least they made it to the dance.  He only played half the season in Milwaukee, but Sabathia’s tenure there was enough to get him votes for the National League’s Cy Young Award (he finished fifth) and the Most Valuable Player Award (he finished sixth and was the highest rated pitcher).  He was going into free agency on a very good note.

Sure enough, two and a half months after the Brewers’ season had ended, Sabathia had found a team that wanted his services.  Yes, the Yankees signed the man his teammates called “Double C” or just “Dub” to a seven-year, $161 million contract.  That’s $23 million a year, if you didn’t want to do the math.  At that point, it was the highest valued contract ever given to a pitcher in baseball history.


Sabathia did not disappoint in that first year.  First of all, he was the Opening Day starter for the Bronx Bombers when they christened their brand new Yankee Stadium for the first contest there.  He went 19-8 on the season.  His 19 victories were tied with Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright as the tops in all of baseball.

In August, Sabathia went 5-0.  After the All-Star break, he posted a record of 11-2.  His Yankees finished with 103 wins, the most in baseball.  He pitched amazingly in his start in the first game of the divisional series against the Minnesota Twins.  He allowed two runs, one earned in 6 2/3 innings as the Yanks swept Minnesota in three games.

New York faced the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the championship series.  Sabathia started twice against the Angels and pitched 16 innings.  He won both of those starts with an ERA of 1.13 to earn the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award.  They were on their way to their first World Series since 2003.

Sabathia had two starts against the Phillies but failed to pick up a win.  He was effective though as the Yankees knocked off Philadelphia in six games to win their first championship since 2000.  In his five postseason starts, he went 3-1 with an ERA of 1.98 in 36 1/3 innings.  For the year, he finished fourth in the A.L. Cy Young Award voting and he picked up votes in the MVP race as well.

At the beginning of the 2010 season, Sabathia was still only 29 years old and he was about to enter the greatest three year window of his pitching career.  He would make 95 starts over those three years and amass 55 victories.  He would pitch more than 670 innings and he would play in the All-Star Game in each of those years.  And he would post the only 20-win season of his career.

The first half of 2010 was tremendous for Sabathia.  He was going to the All-Star Game on the strength of a 12-3 start.  He put up that record in 19 starts with a 3.09 ERA over 131 innings.  On August 22, he pitched the 16th straight game in which he went six innings and gave up three or less earned runs, breaking the franchise record that had been held previously by Ron Guidry back in his incredible 1978 season.

By the end of 2010, he led the majors in wins with a record of 21-7.  He finished with an ERA of 3.18 and struck out 197 while walking just 74.  He finished third in A.L. Cy Young voting in the American League behind Felix Hernandez and David Price and he garnered votes for the Most Valuable Player as well.  

The Yankees swept the Twins in the divisional series but lost to the Texas Rangers in six games in the championship series.  After the season, Sabathia was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his right knee.  He immediately had surgery and began rehabilitating right away in order to be ready for 2011.  He also went on a weight loss regimen in order to reduce the pressure on his knees and hips.

The surgery and rehab seemed to work.  Sabathia was the Yankees’ Opening Day starter for the third straight year.  Once again, he was named to represent the Yankees in the All-Star Game but he pitched on the Sunday before the break and was replaced by Alexi Ogando on the A.L. roster.  That Sunday start was a pretty momentous one.

Going into the break, the Yankees and Rays were fighting atop the East Division.  The teams were facing each other in the final game of their series at Yankee Stadium.  It was Sabathia against James Shields.  Sabathia went all the way, striking out nine and walking just one in a 1-0 complete game victory over the team that would be their nemesis in other seasons.  

It was his 13th win of the season, making him the first Yankees’ hurler to notch that many victories before the All-Star break since Andy Pettitte did it in 1996.  His ERA of 2.72 was the lowest in the first half by a Yanks’ pitcher since David Cone back in 1999.  In that month of July, he had five starts, went 4-1 and had an ERA of 0.92.  He struck out 50 in 39 innings and was named Pitcher of the Month.

The Yankees won the A.L. East but Sabathia struggled in two starts in the divisional series against Detroit.  The Tigers won the series in five games.  Overall, he went 19-8 in 2011 with an ERA of 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.23.  He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting and 14th in the Most Valuable Player race.

After the 2011 season, Sabathia had an opt-out clause in his contract, but he made it fairly clear that he had no intention to leave the Yankees.  In August of 2011, he told the New York Post’s Mark Hale that he was staying put.  “I think you know I’ve built a house here, right?  My kids go to school here.  We live here year round.  So I’m not going anywhere.”

At the end of October, Sabathia and the Yankees announced that he had signed an extension that would take him to the end of the 2016 season.  It also provided for another year that would pay him $25 million but it gave the team the opportunity to buy him out for $5 million in the event he had any issues with his left shoulder.  So, it was official, he wasn’t going anywhere for a long while.

Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman put out a statement after the two sides reached their agreement.  “CC is the ace of our pitching staff, a leader in our clubhouse and a driving force for the Yankees in our community.  He is exactly the type of player and person that Yankees’ fans and this organization can be proud of.  We are excited that he will be wearing the pinstripes for many years to come.”

In his first sixteen starts in 2012, he went 9-3 with an ERA of 3.55.  He was named to the All-Star Game again.  It was the sixth time in his career he was named to play in the summer showcase.  He had to miss it though because of an injury to his abductor muscle.  He went on the disabled list again in August with left elbow soreness.  

He came back on August 24 and made eight more starts to finish the season.  Over 58 1/3 innings, he struck out 57 and walked only nine batters.  He finished the year with a record of 15-6 and an ERA of 3.38 with a WHIP of 1.14.  He reached the 200 innings mark one more time and struck out 197 over the course of the season.

The Yankees won the A.L. East for the third time in four years and they faced the Baltimore Orioles in the divisional series.  Sabathia was amazing going 8 2/3 innings in the first game of the series.  In Game 5, he tossed a complete game as the Yankees took the series.  Unfortunately, they were swept by the Tigers in the championship series.

When the series against Detroit was done, Sabathia had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow.  The issue had been bothering him since his time in Cleveland.  He was able to rehab and recuperate in time to make the Opening Day start in 2013.  It was his eighth consecutive Opening Day start and his fifth with the Yankees.

Sabathia recorded his 200th major league win on July 3 against the Minnesota Twins but his season ended on September 20 after he suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain that caused the team to shut him down for the season.  He acknowledged that age was creeping up on him and that even though he didn’t still have the same velocity, he still had the desire to be the pitcher he had been, the last four years.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to be that same guy again,” Sabathia told the New York Post’s Fred Kerber, a few days after his last game.  “I am 33 this year.  Pitching (Friday), I felt back to myself, more so than any other start.  It wasn’t velocity because I was 90-93, but just pitching inside, being aggressive, throwing fastballs in hitters’ counts – just going out there and being a bully.”

Sabathia had pitched his entire career at around 315 pounds, but a relative of his died suddenly from heart failure in December of 2012 and Sabathia immediately went on a crash diet in fear of the same thing happening to him.  He lost 35 pounds very quickly and that sudden and severe weight loss contributed to his bad performances and below-grade numbers in 2013.

He made the decision for reasons he thought were the right ones, but, in retrospect, it might have been too much too fast.  “I decided I wanted to be around for my family, my kids,” he told John Harper of the New York Daily News as camp opened in February of 2014.  “I think (the issue) was just losing that much weight and trying to play a professional sport.  I felt like ‘The Biggest Loser’ last year,”

“I lost a lot of weight but I wasn’t physically ready to go out and play.  I felt like I lost a bit of power and stamina.  By the fourth or fifth inning, I was usually tired.  So that’s something I worked on this winter.  This winter was all about getting stronger, gaining strength and being able to go out and pitch.”

In working on strength and stamina, Sabathia lost an additional five pounds, but he told Kerber that he felt as ready as ever to be the guy he had been before his elbow surgery.  “I feel a lot stronger.  My arm feels a lot better.  I just feel healthy, so I’m ready to go.”

But 2014 was, in many ways, worse than the previous year and he was plagued by right knee issues from the start of the season.  As a left-handed pitcher, he landed on his right foot, and as a man whose weight approached 300 pounds, his right knee had born the brunt of that impact his entire career.  He made only eight starts and on July 16, it was announced that Sabathia was done for the year.  A week later he had surgery done on that knee.  

The right knee would bother him through 2015.  On August 23, he again went on the disabled list.  He came back on September 9 wearing a knee brace and was like a new man again.  He made his last five starts and put up an ERA of 2.17 over those games.  He was also the winning pitcher in the contest that clinched the Yankees a spot in the A.L. Wild Card Game.  They would lose to the Houston Astros.

The knee brace was a big help to Sabathia and 2016 was a season of improvement and redemption for the big man.  He made thirty starts that year and though his record was a modest 9-12, his ERA was still good at 3.91 in just under 180 innings.  He picked up his 100th win as a Yankee and recorded 152 strikeouts over that span.  The Yankees did not make the playoffs and Sabathia underwent another procedure on his right knee once the year ended.

At the start of the 2017 season, Sabathia was now 36 years old and he no longer had the power and velocity he once did.  He now relied on command and pinpoint control.  When he had those things going for him, he was incredible, and he was just that more often than not.  He did go on the disabled list in June and in August but they were short stints and over the course of the season, he looked very much like a quality pitcher again.

On August 1, he made his 500th career start against the Tigers.  Over the course of the season, he started 27 games and compiled a record of 14-5 with an ERA of 3.69.  After coming off the disabled list on August 19, he went 5-0 over his last eight starts and he was influential in helping the Yankees nail down a wild card spot.  In ten starts following a Yankees’ loss over the course of the year, he was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA!

Sabathia pitched the second and fifth games of the divisional series against Cleveland.  He got the win in the decisive fifth game to send the Yankees to their first championship series since 2012.  They ended up losing to the Houston Astros in seven games.  In the visiting clubhouse, Sabathia shed tears when the series was over.  Houston went on to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games in what was later referred to as the Trash Can Series.

In December, the Yankees and Sabathia’s camp reached agreement on a contract for the 2018 season.  Sabathia would earn $10 million – down from the $25 million he made the year before.  That didn’t matter to the lefty.  This was his tenth year with the team and he was one of the beloved elder statesmen not only in terms of age but also in terms of tenure with the Yankees.

On the evening of June 12, Sabathia was on the mound at Yankee Stadium as his team faced the Washington Nationals.  The big lefty struck out Michael A. Taylor for the second out of the fourth inning and the 44,220 fans let a hearty cheer out into the New York night.  Then the chants started.  “CC!” “CC!” “CC!”  For his own part, Sabathia was oblivious.

He was on the mound getting ready to throw his next pitch.  But Gleyber Torres motioned toward catcher Austin Romine to call time.  Sabathia didn’t know the reason for the delay.  He turned around and saw the scoreboard.  That was how the crowd had known that that strikeout of Taylor was Sabathia’s 1,500th as a Yankee.  He joined Whitey Ford, Red Ruffing, Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte as pitchers who had compiled 1,500 Ks while pitching in the Bronx.

More important than the milestone strikeout to manager Aaron Boone was how good Sabathia looked on the mound.  “Overall, he was really good again.  The stuff was good again.  The slider was a really, really effective pitch.”  There was one play, though, that went down right after Sabathia had retired Taylor on strikes.  

The Nationals’ catcher, Pedro Severino, hit a dribbler off the end of his bat that squibbed down the third base line.  Sabathia jumped off the mound and scampered over to the ball.  He picked it up and gunned it to Greg Bird at first to get Severino.  That one left Boone a little wide-eyed.

“That one play he made – you’re holding your breath the whole way.  Kind of shows you his athleticism, too, when he does have to occasionally go make those plays still.  It was a good play he made coming off the mound.  He (Romine) was laughing.  He was like, ‘I couldn’t get there.  It was on you, big man.’”

There was another similar situation that Sabathia made the same play, but the third time it happened, Taylor was the man who hit the swinging bunt and the big lefty was unable to get the faster runner.  For his part, Sabathia's night was over, but he figured two out of three wasn’t bad.  “Too much.  A couple of times is good.  Three is too much,” he said, with a smile on his face.

In mid-August, Sabathia went on the disabled list with inflammation in his right knee once more.  He was back in September though and as the month wore down, he had a series of triggers that would see the team pay him a bonus for pitching certain numbers of innings.  When he negotiated his contract for the 2018 season, he would receive a bonus of $500,000 if he pitched 155, 165 and 175 innings.


Going into his last start on September 27, he had 148 innings in the bank.  He needed seven more innings to collect half-a-million dollar bonus.  The Yankees were in the Sunshine State to play the Tampa Bay Rays.  It was the last game of a four-game series between the teams.  The Yankees were in second place 9 ½ games behind the Red Sox and 9 games ahead of the Rays.

It was kind of ugly early.  New York led 4-0 after a half-inning.  By the middle of the fourth, they were up 7-0 and two innings after that, it was 11-0.  In the bottom of the fifth, though, with two out, Sabathia came in on Rays’ first baseman Jake Bauers with a first-pitch fastball that hit Bauers on the hands.  The Rays, down 7-0 at that point, took offense and reliever Andrew Kittredge took matters into his own hands.

In the top of the sixth, the first Yankees’ hitter was catcher Austin Romine.  Kittredge threw a pitch at or behind Romine’s head.  The Yanks' catcher hit the dirt quickly.  It didn’t hit Romine but it sent an obvious message.  Romine and Rays’ catcher Jesus Sucre had words and reading Romine’s lips, you could see him asking ‘Why?’  While Romine and Sucre were jawing, Sabathia was coming up the dugout steps.  He was upset.

Boone held his big pitcher back and Sabathia could be seen heatedly going into the tunnel toward the visitors’ clubhouse.  Meanwhile, home plate umpire Vic Carapazza issued warnings to both teams.  Romine struck out swinging but the next five Yankee batters all collected either a hit or a run batted in.  The last two, Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton, homered off Kittredge.  The Yankees established their dominance through their bats and took that 11-0 lead.  But Sabathia was still fuming.

The first batter for the Rays in the bottom of the sixth inning was Sucre.  Sabathia wasted no time.  The first pitch he threw was a fastball into the hip of the Rays’ catcher.  Immediately, Carapazza jumped out from behind home plate and pointed toward Sabathia and ejected him.  Then he looked at Boone in the Yankees’ dugout and did the same to him.

Almost as immediately, Sabathia turned toward the Rays’ dugout and began pointing at them and shouting something.  Tempers were boiling.  Rays’ players slowly moved up the steps and on to the field.  There were no altercations but Sabathia was out of the game and was two innings short of collecting his bonus money.

When Sucre was asked after the game about Kittredge throwing at Romine, he didn’t say much.  Kittredge, for his part, said a little bit more.  “It’s just baseball.  Obviously, that was a high and tight pitch.  That’s not a comfortable feeling for him.  It is what it is, I guess.”

The Yankees won the game 12-1.  Sabathia got the win and finished his season with a 9-7 record.  This game was one of his best.  He had allowed just one Rays hit through five innings.  After the game, he told reporters why he did what he did in hitting Sucre, despite the fact that he would be throwing his bonus away.

“I don’t really make decisions based on money, I guess.  I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”  When asked what it was that he said toward the Rays’ dugout, Sabathia was inconclusive.  “I don’t even remember what I said.  I was just yelling.  You all saw what happened.”

Sabathia had the full support of not only his teammates but Michael Kay was all in in his backing of the big left-hander on the YES Network broadcast of the game.  Before addressing what Sabathia did, Kay mentioned the loss of the bonus.  “That’s why CC’s teammates love him, David,” Kay intoned to his colour commentator, David Cone.  Cone picked up the narrative.  “CC don’t play,” he said.

In the clubhouse after the game, his teammates had his back as well.  “It doesn’t matter what happens out there,” Giancarlo Stanton told reporters, “you don’t throw at no one’s head.  He did what he felt was needed to do.  Either way, I’m with C, always.”

“That’s how he’s been his whole career,” Aaron Judge said after the game.  “He does stuff for his teammates, and he looks out for everybody.  He’s always going to look out for guys in this room, and that’s what he did tonight.”

Both Sabathia and Kittredge were suspended for their actions in the game.  The Yankees’ left-hander had to serve a five-game penalty.  Kittredge was punished with a three-game suspension.  They would serve these at the beginning of the 2019 season.  They were also levied undisclosed fines as well.


Yes, Sabathia was loved by so many in that Yankees room.  But the ten-year Yankee was also appreciated by the executives upstairs.  So much so, in fact, that three months after that Thursday night at the Trop, the Yankees awarded Sabathia the $500,000 bonus anyway.  But they wanted to do it quietly and not publicize it whatsoever.

In fact neither side announced it.  It came out when reporters got a hold of the Yankees’ final luxury tax payroll listings.

When questioned, Sabathia’s agent, Kyle Thousand of Roc Nation Sports, told the Associated Press about what the Yankees had done.  “We thought it was a very nice gesture by the Yankees.  CC was very appreciative and is really excited to come back next year and, hopefully, win a championship.”

When word of the bonus payment got out, of course, reporters went to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for his comments.  “It was something that we did very private and we weren’t looking to publicize, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Cashman told them.


The Yankees finished the season with 100 wins and for their trouble were rewarded with the Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics.  They defeated the A’s 7-2 and moved on to the divisional series against their rivals, the Boston Red Sox.  The Sox knocked off the Yanks in four games.  They also went on to win the World Series over the Dodgers for their fourth title in fifteen years.

In November, the team and Sabathia agreed on a contract for 2019 that would pay him $8 million.  In December, he went into the hospital to have a stent inserted to relieve a blocked artery to his heart.  By January, he was cleared to resume baseball activities.  As camp began in February, the big man announced that 2019 would be his final season.

With his recovery from the heart surgery and the suspension, Sabathia finally got into his first action on April 13.  He pitched five innings of one-hit ball over the Chicago White Sox.  On April 30, he notched his 3,000th career strikeout becoming just the third left-hander to reach that milestone.  Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson were the others.

Three weeks later, Sabathia would go on the disabled list because of inflammation in his right knee again.  He took a cortisone shot for the swelling and was told that following the season, he would need a knee replacement.  On June 19, He went up against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He pitched six innings and struck out seven in a 12-1 win.  That was his 250th big league victory.

Sabathia wasn’t selected to play in the All-Star Game but he was given a special invitation to go to the game and throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  During the game, he also got to make a mound visit to Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman.  At the end of July, he again went on the disabled list because of his right knee.  At the end of August, he went on the DL one more time.

He made his last Yankee Stadium regular season start against the Los Angeles Angels on September 18.  It didn’t go well.  He threw 62 pitches and left the game with two out in the top of the third inning.  He had surrendered two runs in the third inning.  The game was important to the Yankees as they were trying to nail down first place in the A.L. East.  They came back to tie the game but eventually lost 3-2. 

As Aaron Boone came out to take Sabathia from the game, the fans rose as one to give the big lefthander a standing ovation.  As he walked off the field, he tipped his cap to the crowd.  All of his teammates were either on the steps of the dugout or on the field to greet their pitcher.  Sabathia tried not to make the day about him but, after the game, he admitted to feeling very emotional.

“It was good.  It was fun to be out there, especially with a chance to clinch.  That’s all I was really thinking about, just trying to make good pitches.  When the team’s in the position that it’s in, it kind of takes the focus off of you, so it was fun tonight.”

“Walking off was cool, seeing my mom, my wife, my kids happy, so that was pretty cool.”  Sabathia was asked if seeing his teammates as he was leaving the field made him emotional.  “I was.  When I saw Dellin (Betances), the first person I saw, I got a little emotional.  That’s my little brother, so I’m going to miss being around him and (Luis Severino), (Jordan Montgomery) and these guys.”

“I think that’s what I’ll miss more is the relationships with these guys.  The baseball side, I’ve done it for a long time.  My body’s banged up, but it feels good to have these good teammates and hopefully clinch the A.L. East tonight.”

They did finish in first place in their division when all was said and done.  Sabathia finished the year with a 5-8 record and an ERA of 4.95 in 23 starts.  When you look at his eleven seasons with the Yankees, he went 134-88 with a 3.80 earned run average.  When it came to the divisional series against the Minnesota Twins, however, Sabathia was not on the team’s roster.

The Yankees swept the Twins in three games in the A.L. divisional series.  Sabathia was placed on the roster for the championship series against the Houston Astros but only as a reliever.  He got into the eighth inning of the fourth game and got two outs over twenty pitches, but couldn’t get out of the inning due to discomfort in his left shoulder.  

It was diagnosed as a subluxation or partial dislocation of the shoulder.  After the game, Sabathia told the assembled media that his exit from the game was “kind of fitting.  I threw until I couldn’t anymore.”  

“I’ve been feeling good the last week, ten days, whatever,” he told the media the next day as he sat with his left arm in a sling.  “Arm’s been feeling fresh, everything’s been feeling good.  Just that last pitch to (Aledmys) Diaz when he popped up.  I just felt when I released the ball, my shoulder went with it.”

As a result, he would not be eligible for the World Series if the Yankees made it that far.  Ultimately, they did not and the Astros went on to play in the Fall Classic only to lose to the Washington Nationals.


Sabathia’s career was now over.  He announced his retirement with a heartfelt Twitter message.  

“It all started in Vallejo, CA, in my grandma’s backyard throwing grapefruits at a folding chair.  I could have never imagined how much this game has meant to me since.  Through the ups and downs, baseball has always been my home.  From Cleveland, to Milwaukee, New York and everywhere in between, I’m so thankful to have experienced this journey with every teammate past and present.  All I ever wanted was to be a great teammate and win.  I’m so proud of this year’s team, we fought ‘til the end.  Love you guys!  I’m going to miss going out there on the mound and competing, but it’s time to say farewell.  Thank you, Baseball.”

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You can listen to Howie and his co-host Shawn Lavigne on The Sports Lunatics Show, a sports history podcast, right here on the FiredUp Network, or on 208 different platforms wherever you find your podcasts, including Alexa.  Howie also hosts Like Father, Like Son with his son, Reese, here on the FiredUp Network and those same platforms as well.