The day was September 28th 2014. The location was Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox fans were on their feet and giving a standing ovation for a farewell for the ages. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, this was not David Ortiz’s final game. It was however Derek Jeters. That’s right, a Yankee, hated rival, after 20 seasons of being public enemy number 1, had become, for a day at-least one of their own. He only had 2 at-bats, 1 hit for an rbi. As a DH. But when he was pulled time stopped, and Boston rewarded their arch foe…with that’s right a standing. We didn’t know how often we would see Derek Jeter after that day, but we could bet on at least two more appearances. One is when the Yankees induct him into monument park alongside other Yankee legends. The other is when Jeter would be inducted into Cooperstown, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. To my surprise, this notion has been challenged quite a bit, and even throughout Jeter’s career, he has been met with a lot of skepticism and judgement.
It started back in 1992, when the Yankees drafted Jeter 6th overall. Many scouts had doubted Jeter’s ability to play in the pros. Jeter was drafted behind Phil Nevin, now a yankee bench coach, Paul Sheuy, B.J Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds and Chad Mottola. Jeter was scouted by Dick Groch, when told he signed a “good player” Groch would respond “No, I signed a Franchise.” But what makes Jeter so special? Hmm let’s do this one step at a time.
On May 29th 1995 Jeter would debut against the Seattle Mariners, he would go 0-5. He’d play 14 more games after that, with the Yankees finally making the playoffs and being knocked out, ironically by the same Mariners. It also ended an era. Don Mattingly was retiring after a long and memorable career. But the team needed a shift. They needed a leader. They needed a young kid, from Kalamazoo, Michigan. They had guys already there with talent. Guys like John Wettland, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neil. Yankees would also have a huge fusion of youth. Along with Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada would also come up and help take the Yankees to the next level. However in 1996 only one of them won Rookie of the Year. That season Jeter went on to win the ROY award by hitting .314 with a 183 hits and 10 home runs with 78 RBI’s. Jeter would also go on to make his first All-Star Game, he would hit .324 that season finish with 203 hits 19 home-runs and 84 RBI’s. Also led the American League in runs with 127. And led the Yankees to a World Series title. He would also finish that season 3rd in the MVP voting, 1999 was much of the same another year another All-Star appearance, and another World Series title. This year however Jeter would lead the league in hits with 219 and hit a career high .349. Also a career high in home runs with 24 and rbis with 102 … as a lead off man…let this sink in, if that didn’t make you nod your head in appreciation there’s something wrong!
In 2000 Jeter repeated this same success, All-Star Game, World Series crown, 200 hits, .339 average. This season also saw Jeter make history. As the first player to win the World Series MVP and All-Star game MVP. 2000’s season will be highlighted by his lead off home run against cross town rival, the New York Mets Bobby Jones, which would kill all momentum for the Mets. However Jeter’s greatest highlights would start adding a different nickname.
Jeter would make the all star game again in 2001, he would also end that season hitting .311 21 home runs and 74 rbis’s. But this is where Jeters’s playoff resume begins to add to his legacy. On October 13th, in Oakland in a pivotal game. Shane Spencer’s throw from the right field wall missed cut off man, Tino Martinez. Normally that ball would bounce an extra 3 or 4 hops and then roll to Jorge Posada. Luckily enough Derek Jeter on this day executed one of the smartest baseball plays ever made. We now call it “The Flip.”
2001 however during all of this time was bittersweet. On September 11th America would be attacked by a terrorist group, known as Al Qaeda. 2 Air planes would be flown right into both trade centers in the middle of New York City. The country was mourning, New York was mourning just a little more. Families lost loved ones, friends were gone. Rightfully all major sports organizations stopped. Everything stopped. Just a month later. In the biggest stage of them all Derek Jeter once again made history. First major league game ever played in the month of November. First pitch he saw, hit it over the fence. Crowning him Mr.November. Yankeee would go on to lose that World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. But that moment lives on and Jeter even for a day made not just Yankee fans, or baseball fans forget what they were mourning. But all of America. It was a national sign that “Hey, were gonna get through this.”