1 October 2014
Right to the end, he rose to the occasion. That last game at Yankee Stadium and the improbably slim chance of coming to the plate again—walk-off base hit. Ending it all at Fenway Park—after years of boos raining down, this time with the crowd chanting his name to mimic the Bleacher Creatures in New York—legging out an RBI single. Twenty years in the limelight and Derek Jeter has always known how to deliver.
It’s easy for a diehard Yankee fan like myself to eulogize Jeter, but I’ll spare you the gushing praise. That’s easily enough found, particularly from his peers and other baseball insiders. I shall content myself with a handful of statistics and a few pithy statements. But before we get too serious, here’s a sidelong glance at Jeter off the field, where, remarkably, signs of jealousy never reached the press:
But here’s where my focus lands: Professional baseball has been played since 1869. In all that time: Only 5 other players collected more hits. Only 8 other players scored more runs. Only 26 other players own more World Series Championship rings. (They’re all Yankees, except for Eddie Collins.) In the post-season, nobody has played more games (158), gotten more hits (200), or scored more runs (111). Dig that—the equivalent of an entire extra season spent against the fiercest competition and Jeter’s production remained at an all-star level.
Jeter and Mariano Rivera savor the reason they play the game.But when the furor dies down, and we all go back to checking court dockets for the next trial involving a star athlete, Yankees Universe will have added a glittering star to its firmament. Playing for the most storied baseball franchise of all time, in the long shadow cast by the Yankees’ Mount Rushmore—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle (to say nothing of the elite second tier of legends who include Yogi Berra, Mariano Rivera and Whitey Ford)—Jeter has become the all-time Yankee leader in these categories: Games (2,747), At-bats (11,195), Hits (3,465), Doubles (544) and Stolen Bases (358). He’s also second to the Babe in Runs, with 1,923.
But maybe these final statements sum it up best from the team’s perspective:
He’s been the longest-serving Captain in Yankee history (2003-14).
Not only will his number be retired, but we can expect a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park—and just possibly, a statue.
He was the last of the single-digit Yankees: Billy Martin (1), Jeter (2), Ruth (3), Gehrig (4), DiMaggio (5), Joe Torre (6), Mantle (7), Berra and Bill Dickey (8) . . . and Roger Maris (9). The trophy case is closed.
Much of the media bumpf I heard around Jeter’s retirement was negative and sounded like sour grapes. As someone who loves baseball but admittedly knows little-to-nothing about the strategy of the game and has never kept a stat in my head except how many different Major League fields I attended games in during the summer of 1988 (5), I appreciate your rundown on Jeter. I appreciate him now more than I did as a great player. I still wouldn’t let me twenty-something daughter near him (if I had one), but he did his job well and brought credit to the sport. Nice job, Dan.