NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whose team can advance to the American League Championship Series with a win Friday, has been quietly working with a heavy heart following the recent death of his father.
Jerry Girardi died Saturday in Metamora, Ill., at age 81, following an extended battle with advanced Alzheimer's disease. His son received a phone call notifying him as the Yankees were traveling to Baltimore to open the AL Division Series, which started on Sunday.
Not wanting to distract from the club's postseason efforts against the Orioles, Girardi passed along word only to a handful of select Yankees staff members and opted to continue managing the club through its first three games of the postseason.
"I didn't really want to talk about it," Girardi said. "I didn't want to take away from what we were trying to do here, because I know my dad wouldn't. The one thing my parents always taught me was -- finish the job at hand."
The Yankees observed a moment of silence for Jerry Girardi prior to Thursday's Game 4 of the ALDS, which New York dropped to Baltimore, 2-1, in the 13th inning. Funeral services will take place on Monday at St. Mary's Cemetery in Tampico, Ill.
"I think the best way to describe it is, if I could be half the husband and half the father my dad is, I'd do pretty good," Girardi said. "He was always there for me, even though he was working three jobs, he was always there for me. He taught me the value of hard work and perseverance, family and the important things in life."
The Yankees are tied 2-2 in their five-game series against the Orioles. Many of Girardi's players did not learn of his father's passing until the team confirmed a published newspaper report on Thursday.
"You feel bad," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "Your thoughts and prayers go to him and his family. It's a tough thing to deal with."
"You'd never know, the way he was acting," infielder Jayson Nix added. "He never let on. That's got to be a real tough difficult for him, with everything that's going on with us, fighting here and to be dealing with that as well."
Girardi said that he put sunglasses over his eyes when he learned of his father's passing, shielding his tears on the team bus as it traveled over Manhattan's Henry Hudson Parkway en route to Penn Station, where the Yankees would travel by rail to Baltimore.
Despite the flood of emotions, Girardi said that it was never a difficult decision to stay with the team.
"I didn't want to take away from the focus of what the club was trying to do," Girardi said. "I didn't want people to worry about me. My dad had always taught me, my mom, too -- persevere and finish the job. We have an expectation here and a job we're trying to finish here."
Jerry Girardi had been living in Snyder Village, an assisted-care facility in Metamora. Joe Girardi said that his last visit to his father was in August during the Yankees' trip to play the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Baseball was something that we both had an extreme passion for," Girardi said. "He took me to games when I was a little boy to Cubs games. And we'd go to five or six a year, and the memories we had of playing catch in the backyard. I loved to talk the game with my dad."
One of the biggest thrills of Girardi's professional career was being able to call his father during Spring Training 1989 and relay the news from manager Don Zimmer that he was about to make the Cubs' Opening Day roster.
"Zim had told me about a week before the season, but said, 'You can't say anything yet,'" Girardi said. "So I had to tell my dad, 'Listen, dad, don't take out an ad, don't go telling all your buddies.' Because my dad was extremely proud of all of us. That was pretty special, and when I was able to give him my '96 [Yankees] World Series ring."
Jerry Girardi was born on May 5, 1931, and married Angela Perino in 1959 in Tampico. The couple had five children: John, George, Maria, Joe and Jerry. Girardi is also survived by six grandchildren. Angela Girardi died in 1984.
The elder Girardi served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He later worked in construction sales for National Gypsum Company and also worked as a bricklayer.
Girardi said that it would not be difficult for him to continue filling out the Yankees' lineup card with his team on the cusp of advancing to the ALCS.
"You know, when I think about it, it's the first time in over 28 years that my mom and dad have seen a game together again," Girardi said. "So they'll be watching, and they'll be mad if I'm not doing my job. I know that."