|Jeter acknowledging the fans after his 2722nd hit, fair use/public domain claimed, full cite below.|
Derek Jeter's career as a professional baseball player is over. For the past twenty years, he was a member of the New York Yankees, one of the most storied (and hated) teams in the history of sports. He was not just a Yankee. He was one of the greats in a team that is known for greats. He wore the only remaining single digit left for the Yankees, #2. Something tells me that no one else will be wearing that number...except in the stands.
Jeter was one other thing to the Yankees, he was the Captain. The Captain of the New York Yankees. Truly he was the king amongst peers.
Jeter, by almost unanimous agreement, was a class-act both on and off the field. There were no allegations of him carousing at 4:00 a.m. at some "jiggle joint" as I believe The New York Times referenced such "gentlemen's clubs." There was no mug shot or Congressional testimony with him wagging a finger claiming to have "never used performance-enhancing drugs." Sure, he dated a long list of famous and attractive ladies. Why shouldn't he? He was a single guy, perhaps the most eligible bachelor in the tri-state area. (Sorry Mr. Trump, he's got you w-a-y beat.)
Now there was the little tiff with the owner of the Yankees who criticized him for being out late for a birthday party. Yawn. Although, they both had some fun with it via a Visa commercial. I've got a link posted to it below.
As for his on-field performance, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame. He might even receive 100% of the votes. Yes, Virginia, he was that good. Sure, there were times when he did not measure up to his personal standards. During perhaps the most famous World Series of our lives, the 2001 series, he only batted .148. However, when it counted, he delivered, earning the storied title, "Mr. November." This was an ode to Reggie Jackson being known as "Mr. October." To the best of my knowledge, there is only one "Mr." of each of these months. Something tells me it will stay that way.
My personal favorite play ever of Jeter was during the playoffs to get into the World Series. It was known simply as, "The Flip." I've got a link to it in the sources and if you're a baseball fan, it should bring back memories. (Perhaps not so fond ones if you're an A's fan.)
I have seen him play in person a handful of times. Without question, my favorite time was in 2003 in Trenton. It was my good fortune to see him play when he was re-hab'ing an injury and was making his obligatory trek thru the minors.
This venue, being a minor league ball park, offered cheep tickets, hot dogs and beer. I was quite close to the field and would have had to been a hedge fund manager (or at least a senior research dude at Golden Sacks) to afford these kind of seats at a major league game.
The biggest kick I got out of the evening was listening to the crowd respond when they realized just who was playing that evening. I overheard a couple of older ladies in their thick Jer-say accents comment, "Oh, Dear-rick, he'z so koute!" (For the record, I am married to someone from Jersey and was proud to have been a resident of the Garden State for a few years. Therefore, my comments above are not meant to be either insulting or amusing, simply how I recall hearing the comments.)
These two ladies were likely along for the ride that evening. I think they were with a local chamber of commerce group that just "happened" to have group tickets for that game. Talk about picking the right game to attend.
This entire season was the Jeter "farewell tour." He received loud and sincere cheers across visiting ballparks. Even in Boston, a city known for its (ahem) "motivated" fans, they gave him a great send-off. And, as well they should. Jeter earned that by his conduct on and off the field.
I had originally entitled this post to be (translated in English) "Farewell, my Captain." Upon reflection, I changed it to "Farewell to the Captain." Here's why. Derek Jeter was not my captain. I'm not a ball player at any level. Aside from '95 softball league and a few games at Ft. Dix in '03, I've not played any organized ball since I was a kid. For me to claim Jeter as anything other than someone I admire from (a great) distance would be silly and wrong.
Truth be told, I'm not even that great a Yankees fan. I follow the box scores and loved when my daughter, dad and former boss (and still mentor) "COL" Dave met up at Yankee Stadium. But I don't watch many games and could not even tell you who played outfield for them this year.
I do admire Derek Jeter for both his accomplishments and his character. I respect him for knowing when it was time to hang up the cleats for good. I am appreciative of his pure love of the game and his drive in pursuit of excellence. And I wish him well in retirement and whatever life holds in store for him.
Be well my friends,