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Pettitte honored at Torre's Safe at Home Gala

MLB.com @Marathoner

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre's fondest memory of Andy Pettitte was in October of 1996. With Torre at the helm as manager for the first season, the Yankees were back in the postseason for the first time in 15 years. It was a jubilant full house at old Yankee Stadium ... and a collective letdown as the left-hander allowed Atlanta seven quick earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings of a 12-1 loss in Game 1 of the World Series.

"With Andy, I'll go right to the start, 1996," Torre said. "Game 1, he gets murdered against the Braves. The fact of the matter is, he comes back in Game 5 and pitches a 1-0 gem, 8 1/3 innings. So when you consider it's the World Series, you're going from your home field for Game 1 to the visiting ballpark in Game 5, he knew right away how he dealt with pressure."

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre's fondest memory of Andy Pettitte was in October of 1996. With Torre at the helm as manager for the first season, the Yankees were back in the postseason for the first time in 15 years. It was a jubilant full house at old Yankee Stadium ... and a collective letdown as the left-hander allowed Atlanta seven quick earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings of a 12-1 loss in Game 1 of the World Series.

"With Andy, I'll go right to the start, 1996," Torre said. "Game 1, he gets murdered against the Braves. The fact of the matter is, he comes back in Game 5 and pitches a 1-0 gem, 8 1/3 innings. So when you consider it's the World Series, you're going from your home field for Game 1 to the visiting ballpark in Game 5, he knew right away how he dealt with pressure."

"I had just come off pitching against Baltimore and pitching real well for us to get to the World Series," Pettitte jumped in. "Then to lose Game 1 the way I did, it was just a major disappointment in my life. For Joe to handpick me when he could have picked any of the other four guys to start Game 5, and to be able to come back in Atlanta and throw a shutout, that was huge. I was able to fall back on that the whole rest of my career. Even when I struggled in the playoffs or had a bad game here and there, I was always able to look back and say, 'Hang on, you pitched horrible in Game 1.'"

There were plenty of moments like that dynasty-inducing turnaround to recount on Thursday night at Chelsea Piers, where Andrew Eugene Pettitte, the winningest (19-11) postseason pitcher of all time, was the honoree at the star-studded 12th-annual Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation Gala. Bernie Williams, David Cone, Dr. Mehmet Oz and John Franco were among the attendees.

The Safe at Home Foundation was founded in 2002 by Torre and wife Ali in response to the impact that domestic violence had on Joe and his family during his youth, and its mission is to educate to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives. The gala supports the foundation's programming initiative, Margaret's Place, named in honor of Joe's mother.

This violence prevention and intervention model offers students an opportunity to explore issues of violence in a stable, non-threatening environment, while helping them understand that they are not alone or to blame. There are currently 11 Margaret's Places in New York and Los Angeles, where they have reached more than 45,000 students through countless school-wide campaigns, healing activities, educational opportunities and private and group counseling.

"You can't put enough [importance] on it," Pettitte said of stopping domestic violence. "There's a way you're supposed to treat people and a way you're supposed to represent yourself. Any time you don't do that it's a disappointment, to yourself and your community and your family."

Attendees spoke about the importance of Torre's organization and this gala, especially in light of the wave of domestic-violence news in sports of late.

"[To the] perpetrators, that was their friend, the fact that nobody talked about it -- I think a big reason nobody talked about it is that it was something they were ashamed of," Torre said. "... But now with what's come out with the NFL and other places, people are forced to talk about it. And forcing people to talk about it means we have to force them to get educated on it, too. Because a lot of these situations, I don't think we can completely condemn these players. I think we can help them in understanding that what they were doing is not the right thing."

"I really admire Joe Torre's courage for coming out and telling his story about what happened to him growing up and how important it is," Cone said. "Of course, domestic violence is certainly in the news a lot nowadays, and I think Joe's ahead of the curve. Some of the work he's done here has really paid off in the last 12 years and has really made a difference in a lot of people's lives."

Pettitte was next in line in this traditional celebration of his own finest Yankees talent of yore.

"We have a couple left, but Andy has always been special," Torre said. "When you consider that he won his first world championship in '96 and just happened to be around in 2009 to win another one is pretty remarkable. I'm not sure how much consideration he'll get for the Hall of Fame, but if people pay attention to postseason performances, he can go to the top of the list. He's been remarkable in how he's handled the pressure of postseason, especially in the city of New York, which is not easy to do."

Williams -- now a junior in the Manhattan School of Music -- joked that Torre is "kind of running out of people to recognize. I think one year he recognized the whole '96 team. It was just so funny."

Pettitte called it a "great honor" and said he is curious himself to see where the next generation of Yankees baseball will lead, following two years with no postseason. Derek Jeter's retirement after last season put a bow tie on their Torre years.

"You want to see how they're going to do. You root for them," Pettitte said. "I want them to be successful. You still feel like you're part of it, because there still are so many guys on that team that I rubbed shoulders with, who I still communicate with. They're like brothers to me and I want them to be successful. As that goes away and all the guys start moving on who I played with, I think that'll be a little different for me.

"There's no doubt it's an end of an era. It's interesting, because I know the organization is going to be trying to make moves to make this club good and to make it a championship-caliber club, because that's what the organization expects, and that's what the fans have grown to expect. They demand an awful lot here and it's a tough place to play. Hopefully, they can put together a great nucleus of players and we'll be able to get back to where we want to be, and that's winning championships."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.