Jeter’s Inevitable Place Amongst the Greatest Ever (Guest Post from E.L. Danvers)
September 8, 2021
“A lot of covers on a lot of people’s childhoods just closed.” That’s how Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay described the unbelievable ending of Derek Jeter’s storybook career after he hit a walk off single, hugged Joe Torre, and disappeared into the depths of Yankee Stadium after his last home game in 2014.
I was there in 2008 when Jeter closed out the old Stadium. I was there when they won it all in 2009 and when Mo walked off the mound for the final time in 2013. These are legendary Yankee and baseball memories in over a century of epic and fairy tale moments.
But, this was different. There was an immediate euphoria because of the win and because of the way Jeter did it. Of course he would come up to bat at the right time, with a chance to win a game, to end his Yankee Stadium career. And of course, he delivered.
But the euphoria quickly stung. Reality took hold. That was it. It was over. 20 years gone with a signature single to right field. Grown men and women teared up in the stands, myself included.
Kay got it right. “What a baseball life Derek Jeter’s put on display for the entire baseball world. But the ones intimately involved? The people of New York. They watched him grow up. They watched become champion. They watched him become captain. And they watched the end tonight.”
Derek Jeter is one of the greatest players ever. I know some won’t agree. Blah blah blah. It doesn’t matter. The numbers speak for themselves. In his 20-year career, the Captain was Rookie of the Year and a five-time World Series Champ. He won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards five times each. He was a 14-time All Star. He ranks sixth all time for career hits with 3,465 and earned an MVP award in both the All-Star Game and the World Series.
He played so much of his career in the postseason that his total number of postseason games are the equivalent of one full regular season, a record for any player at 158. He did it at the highest level hitting .308 with 111 runs scored, 200 hits, 32 doubles, 20 homers, 61 RBI and 66 walks. He hit .307 in seven World Series. And those 200 post-season hits? That’s the all-time record and it belongs to Mr. November.
Jeter did all of it in the greatest city, under the brightest lights and the highest scrutiny, steroid-free in the steroid era. He didn’t cheat. He didn’t run from the media. He didn’t rely on the sounds of a beaten trash can to get a hit. He was humble, he worked hard, and he never showed anyone up. He played the game the right way every single day.
Cooperstown is hallowed ground. Like Brad Pitt as Billy Beane says in Moneyball, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” It is hard not to be romantic about it, especially in Cooperstown. You can touch the lockers of Gehrig and DiMaggio. See the life-size replicas of Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in their actual uniforms. Take pictures of the glove Mays used to make “The Catch,” along with Clemente’s bat, Cobb’s spikes, and the Robinson’s (Jackie, Frank, and Brooks) jerseys.
At the end of all of it now is Jeter: his jersey, his spikes, his glove, and his #2 helmet. Rightfully so.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?
How can you not be romantic about the legacy of Derek Jeter?