I'm from Arizona. I'm not exactly a Yankee fan.
Everybody is talking about Derek Jeter’s highlights; his walk off home run last night, the dive, the flip, five championship rings. I want to write about a ring he didn’t get.
In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks became world champions. At the time the Yankees had won the “Fall Classic” 26 times, while my snakes had only existed for four years.
9/11 evoked strong emotions from me during that series but I was a hometown boy and at the time a bit of a Yankee hater. No one was walking away with our trophy.
But during that series, before the bloop single by Luis Gonzalez in Game 7 and the great pitching by Randy Johnson, and Curt Schilling, there was Game 4.
The clock struck midnight in extra innings and November had arrived, significant because the series had never been played that late. Just weeks before the stadiums in New York City were used to house dead bodies, victims of the greatest act of terrorism America and the world had ever seen.
The Yankees were down two games to one and the game was do or die. The situation in some ways mirrored what New Yorkers and many across the country were feeling.
To many, America was down and out. NYC had surely been knocked down. Baseball can sometimes reflect life and I like many felt it did that night. I remember Jeter’s at-bat in the bottom of the 10th for two reasons, because I was in shock and because I couldn’t be angry about the end result. Number 2’s 3-2 walk-off homerun lifted New York and lifted a nation.
Down at the end of the game the boys picked themselves up and their leader, their shortstop sent them home and evened the series. The crowd at old Yankee stadium popped like Hulk Hogan had just come out to punch the Iron Sheik.
It felt like the end of Return of the Jedi. I almost expected Ewoks to start dancing with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Derek Jeter was Luke Skywalker with Han Solo’s swagger. Talk about magic.
Keith Olbermann and the media don’t get it now and probably didn’t get it then. They’re crapping on Derek Jeter because they think he’s “hurting” the team in 2014? Really? I wonder if they were watching last night.
The guy’s special. He’s always there at special times when his team or fans needed him and he’s never given them a reason to be embarrassed. Mickey Mantle was a heavy drinker and Babe Ruth was a maniac. Jeter did his job like they did and the worst thing he’s ever done is maybe bang Mariah Carey. But he did it before Glitter, so what?
Sure the Yankees lost that World Series but they won every home game and fought valiantly. That’s what Jeter is doing now by continuing to play the position he’s always played in his final season. He deserves it.
I want to see Jeter go out on his shield, not on the bench.
I remember that early November morning in 2001, shaking my head at a barrel cactus out front. I didn’t like losing but there wasn’t the bad aftertaste that usually came with defeat.
I felt like Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco:
“If it was gonna be anyone, I'm glad it was him.”
Wolfgang Von Bunt
BYB Staff Writer
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