Today is the first day in twenty years that Derek Jeter is not a Yankee.
A lot has been said and written over the past week about Derek Jeter. By now, everyone knows that Jeter is a winner who gave 100% of his effort every single time he stepped onto a baseball field.
Jeter is sixth on the all-time hit list, a five-time World Series Champ, and a shoo-in first ballot Hall of Famer, who should be the first player in history to receive 100% of the vote. However, those are just stats and theories for historians and baseball analysts to ponder.
Derek Jeter is bigger than that.
Jeter had the uncanny ability to not only be grander than the moment, but by some incredible good fortune, to find the moment, like in the flip play. In order for that play to even occur, Shane Spencer had to miss both cut-off men, the slow-footed Jeremy Giambi had to be waved home, and Jeter had to be in a place on the diamond where as a short stop, he had no business being.
Remember October 31, 2001? The World Series had been pushed back one week due to the tragic events of 9-11. The Yankees were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 4 of the World Series. Tino Martinez tied the game up in the bottom of the ninth inning with a monstrous home run to send the game into extras.
Then, the clock struck midnight. It was the first time that America’s Pastime was played in November.
Jeter steps to the plate. There are already two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning. The Captain, who had struggled throughout the entire post season, steps up to battle Diamondback closer Byung-Hyun Kim. Jeter swings at the first pitch and crushes a home run to right field. The Yanks walk off.
Mr. November is born.
When the world waited and waited for him to make history and get hit number 3,000, he did it with a dramatic home run to left field. Michael Kay is gold on the call, “History with an exclamation point!”
When all eyes were on him Thursday night, his last game at Yankee stadium, with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, every baseball fan wanted Jeter to have the storybook ending to win the game. But to even get to that moment, Yankee closer David Robertson, who had been automatic for most of the year, first had to give up a three-run lead. After a two-run homer from Adam Jones and a solo home run from Steve Pearce, Jeter’s final home game was all tied up. All of a sudden, there would be a bottom of the ninth with the Captain hitting third.
Jose Pirela leads the bottom of the ninth off with a single, Brett Gardner bunts pinch runner Antoan Richardson over to second, and another moment is created out of thin air for Jeter to be a hero once again. What do you think he did with that opportunity?
Wasting no time, the Captain displayed his patented Jeterian swing on the first pitch to bring home Richardson, and walk off a winner for his final game in pinstripes. Another great Michael Kay call, “Where fantasy becomes reality.”
David Robertson said after the game, “I created another Derek Jeter moment. As much as wish I hadn’t created it, I’m glad it happened.”
As a Yankee fan who breathes with the success and failure of the team, today is a sad day. What I’ve known for the past twenty years is over. My captain is leaving the green grass of a childhood game and most likely already setting up the pieces for his next life. Or more likely, those pieces are magically already coming together, waiting to be conquered and won over.
If they are lucky, each fan gets that special player, their favorite player “ever.” It is essentially a person whom can be trusted with the state of your heart in moments where you can barely stand to watch. I know I’m a big wuss, I’ve watched so many post season Yankee games on the edge of my couch with my hands over my eyes, nearly unable to bear what I cannot control.
I’m about to turn 40, Jeter’s age. I’ve grown up with the guy, I’ve watched almost every single game that he’s played in. Sure, I’ve loved other Yankees: Tino, Jorge, Andy, Bernie, Paulie, Mo. But Jeter is the one. He’s my once-in-a-lifetime player. There will never be another, no one will even come close.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 29, 2014