By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The father of New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi died on Saturday and Girardi kept the news from the team until Thursday to avoid distracting them from their playoff series with the Baltimore Orioles.
Jerry Girardi, 81, died at a healthcare residence in Metamora, Illinois, the Yankees said in a statement. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease, his son said.
Jerry Girardi served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and later worked in construction sales for National Gypsum Company, the Yankees said. He also worked as a bricklayer.
"One of the reasons I didn't say anything, I knew talking about it would make it probably even harder," Girardi told reporters.
"I only told a couple of people...I didn't tell any players...I didn't want the team to have to deal with it," he said.
Girardi said he received the news while on the team bus on Saturday.
"I had tears in my eyes on the bus so I put sunglasses on," he said.
Since receiving the news, Girardi has managed three games in the playoffs, including Wednesday night's thriller when he made the bold decision to pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez, the game's highest-paid player, with Raul Ibanez.
The move paid off as Ibanez homered to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning then homered again in his next at-bat in the 12th inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five American League Divisional Series.
Girardi said he had planned to tell the team after the Orioles series, but did not explain what led the team to announce the death on Thursday.
Girardi's mother died in 1984 and he has three brothers and a sister.
Visitation and prayer service have been scheduled for Sunday in Illinois, with an additional visitation on Monday ahead of a funeral Mass and burial.
Should the Yankees advance to the American League Championship Series, they would be scheduled to play on Sunday but not Monday. (Editing by Julian Linden)