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Father of Yankees manager, veteran of Korean War

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardiwipes his eye during moment silence before Game 4 American League divisibaseball series against Baltimore

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardiwipes his eye during a moment of silence before Game 4 of the American League division baseball series against the Baltimore Orioles Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in New York. Girardi's father, Jerry Girardi, who had suffered from Alzheimer's disease, died Saturday at age 81 in Metamora, Ill. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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Updated: November 14, 2012 3:11PM

NEW YORK — The Yankees’ team bus was on the Henry Hudson Parkway last Saturday when Joe Girardi’s phone rang. After deteriorating from Alzheimer’s disease since the 1990s, his father had died in Illinois.

“I had tears in my eyes on the bus, so I put some sunglasses on,” the manager said Thursday, struggling not to cry, “and [did] probably what a lot of men do when they go through difficult and sad times, we try to stay busy. That’s what we do. And I tried to focus.”

For five days, Girardi did not disclose dad’s death to his players, preferring not to talk about it and not wanting to distract his team. Jerry Girardi, who was 81, will be buried in Tampico, Ill., next Monday — an off day in the AL championship series.

Jerry Girardi served in the U.S. Air Force in the Korean War and worked in construction sales and as a bricklayer. Sounds like he was a tough guy who didn’t back down.

“I was watching my dad change a bathtub spigot, and he had the wrench, and he was trying to tighten it, and the wrench slipped and hit his thumb and he broke his thumb and it was bleeding,” Girardi said. “But he finished what he had to do. He finished that, and my mom was like, ‘You’ve got to go to the hospital,’ and he’s like, ‘Nope, I’ve got to finish it.’ He just taped it up.

“So I thought, that’s what my dad would want me to do, so that’s what I tried to do.”

Girardi talked baseball with his dad, went to Wrigley Field together, played catch in the backyard, watched Cubs’ games together on TV. He had given his father his 1996 World Series ring.


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