A legend played his last game in Yankee Stadium tonight. I have watched this still young man from the time that he was a 19 year old rookie through the present day. He is a man of grace and honor. He wore his uniform with pride, and he brought honor and a will to win to a storied franchise. Derek Sanderson Jeter was raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan by loving, caring, parents. They instilled in him a sense of respect and honor that he has carried with him his whole life. His mother had contracts with him concerning his schoolwork and baseball time. His father constantly challenged him to be competitive. Not to show him up, but to make him always try to do his best.
I first heard of Derek from another Yankee legend: Phil 'Scooter' Rizzzuto. He would mention him often during Derek's time in the minor leagues. He spoke glowingly of "This kid, Jeter, that the Yankees have in the minor leagues. He's going to be the next great shortstop! Fittingly, Scooter called his first home run when he came up from triple A.
The 'Boss', George M. Steinbrenner, knew what he had in Jeter. He listened to Stick Michael and his braintrust, and observed him for himself. Derek grew to love the 'Boss' over the years, and they had a special relationship. When Steinbrenner signed Alex Rodrequez, he let him know that he would have to learn third base: George already had a shortstop, and his name was Derek Sanderson Jeter. Derek caught the eye of manager Buck Showalter and he, to this day, speaks glowingly of Derek. When Joe (Mr.) Torre took over as manager, he knew that he had something special in the the cocky, but respectful, Derek Jeter. He always says that Derek always seemed to fit. He never seemed to be the rookie.. he was an old soul. That's not to say that he was rude or disrespectful, he was just the opposite. He was always respectful of the veteran players.. he just always seemed to fit.
Derek was a part of the 'Core Four' ... the players that were in the middle of the Yankee's push for World Series dominance. Jeter, Posada, Petite, and Rivera, helped them amass the needed wins to dominate the baseball world in the mid to late '90s. One thing that they all had in common was that they were all good people. One by one, they have gone from the stage... Derek is the last. I will always remember him rubbing Don Zimmer's head for luck..... calling Joe Torre 'Mr. Torre' out of respect, and having Bob Sheppard announce him, even after Mr. Sheppard had died. I will remember the play where he dived headlong into the stands to catch a pop fly, seriously hurting himself, because the game was important. Meanwhile, his contemporary, Nomar Garciaparra, sat out the game because he was in a dispute with the Boston Red Sox. This was at the end of the discussion of who was the better shortstop, Garciaparra, Rodriquez, or Jeter. Derek has show them all how a great player and a good man reacts.
They've tried over the years to find something on Derek.. some flaw, something that they could sink their predatory teeth into. The New York Post and Page Six always tried, but Derek was always above reproach. He would do nothing to sully himself, his parents, or the New York Yankees. This is one of the reasons that George M. Steinbrenner made him 'Captain. Derek has always been class, but never at the expense of thinking himself above the people who came to see him. He was always interacting with the fans, and they loved him for it.
Tonight was Derek's last game in Yankee Stadium. Typically, the game came down to him, and, always with a flair for the dramatic, he won the game with an single to drive in the winning run. I am listening to him now thanking the fans again for cheering him on. Derek is a truly good human being.. as is Mariano. Derek's Turn 2 foundation is helping deserving need kids. Derek is truly a good man. The tears in my eyes are for the passing of a truly deserving legend. Goodbye, Derek. Thank you just for being you and really being a shining example. We love you!
Kent Lakes NY
September 25, 2014