First published on my Tumblr page, September 2014.
With a runner in scoring position, in the bottom of the 9th of a tied game, Derek Jeter went up for his last at bat in New York. All of Yankee Stadium was chanting his name, and on the first pitch he got one last base hit to win his last home game.
I know this isn’t hockey, or any of my usual fandoms, but I had to post this, because for me, before there was hockey, or TV shows or even before Lord of the Rings, there were the NY Yankees and Derek Jeter.
I was nearly six in 1996 when they won the World Series, and it was my first year as a baseball fan. It was Jeter’s first as a Yankee. It was magical. I got to be a Yankees fan through year after year of ticker-tape parades in NYC, and there was a period of time where my brother and I could recite from memory entire chunks of the 1999 World Series video tape. To me, “TTHEEEEEEEEE YAANKEES WIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNN” will always be thrilling. Through all those years Jeter was my favourite player. I idolised him, and he never let me down. Even in more recent years when I stopped being much of a baseball fan (except for a brief renaissance when I lived in Boston), it was always comforting to know that Derek Jeter was still there, in the pinstripes and the number 2, carrying on as he always had.
Jeter wasn’t ever a home run king the way some other players were, but in his 20 years as a Yankee (of which he was captain for 12), he hit and hit often. He retires the winner of 5 World Series’, is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits (3,461), games played (2,744), stolen bases (358), and at bats (11,186). He’s won 5 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, 2 Hank Aaron Awards and a Roberto Clemente Award. He played on 14 All-Star teams, and leads the MLB in hits by a shortstop. When I was following games, Joe Torre always used to say that you had to take lots of small bites to win – and to me Jeter was always that kind of player.
This moment means a lot to me because it’s a storybook ending to my storybook experience as a Yankees fan. Derek Jeter was a Yankee for three quarters of my life. He was the hero of my childhood, my captain, and maybe this isn’t that one last World Series triumph, but it’s still a fitting way to end an era.
As Jeter hangs up his cap, my personal investment in the Yankees comes to an end, but they will always be my team, and he will always be my captain.