I get the feeling this isn’t a final goodbye, it’s just a “until we meet again”. Sure, when you play your last game at the end of the week, there will be tears shed and tributes made, but it will only be for Derek Jeter the player, not Derek Jeter the Yankee.
I’m a big fan of the show “The Middle”, and there was an episode where Mike was the best man for his brother’s wedding. At the reception after the nuptials, Mike was “forced” into giving a speech in tribute to his brother and new bride. Mike was an awkward speaker at best, but what he said in front of the crowd could ring true for any of us.
Basically what Mike - the father-figure in the show - said was that everyone is born, they live, and then they die. It’s as simple as that. And when a person dies, their headstone will give the date of birth, a dash, and a date of death. Mike explained that the dates aren’t the important things on that stone because they merely just represent the start and finish. Instead, it’s the dash that is important because it represents the entirety of your life. It’s all about making the most out of that “dash”.
Derek Jeter’s plaque (and there WILL be a plaque) will give a start year, a dash, and an end year for his time as a player with the Yankees. There will be a brief summary underneath, but it could not possibly grasp the depth of the “dash” that was our captain’s great career. Sure, it will tell us how he was the Yankees all-time hits leader, and that he was beloved by fans everywhere, but that will only scratch the surface because no plaque, however large, could truly describe what he has meant to this team.
It won’t tell us about “the flip”, or “the dive” or the November home run. It won’t’ go into detail about his “don’t worry, the ghosts haven’t arrived yet” assurance to a teammate in the dugout shortly before the team rallied for a win. It certainly isn’t capable of describing all the “intangibles” that Jeter brought with him day-in and day-out.
In my lifetime I’ve had, for the most part, three Yankees who I consider worthy of “immortal” status when it comes to baseball. First, there was Thurman Munson, the great captain of the 1977 and 1978 championship teams. Then, there was “Donnie Baseball”- Don Mattingly - the best first baseman I’ve ever seen. Finally, there is Derek Jeter, the captain and final piece of the “Core Four” who will be stepping off the field as a player for the final time in game 162.
All three had their own characteristics that defined their greatness. With Munson it was true grit, Mattingly pure talent, and Jeter superior intellect. Each inspired their teams and each could single-handedly turn the momentum of a game.
I cannot imagine the Yankees without Derek Jeter. Who else has that “special” innate ability to set the New York Yankees above all others – both on and off the field? It may be some time before we stumble upon our next member of the Yankees Mount Olympus, and that scares me.
Even over the last few seasons when our General Manager and Manager have somehow returned this team to mediocrity, we’ve still had “Jeets” to hang our hats on. Sure, our team won’t make the playoffs, but no other team – whether playing in October or not – can say they have the greatest player over the last 19 seasons on their roster.
Many of BYB’s writers will go into much more detail in giving their powerful tributes to Derek Jeter than I will here. They are better equipped to express all of our sentiments.
I’ll keep mine simple.
As I mentioned, I’ve never seen a smarter baseball player than our captain. By that, I don’t just mean on the field. Between the lines I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find another player who could anticipate or dissect a situation better than Number Two. Off the field, I believe we’d find it just as difficult to identify anyone who has better represented the sport. Honestly, there is an entire generation of fans who have had the fortune to know no one else as the face of baseball. There could be no better representative than Derek Jeter.
Thank you, Derek, for showing my kids how to do things the right way. Thank you also for showing my favorite team how to win. I am honored to have been lucky enough to be a fan during your career.
Something tells me this isn’t an end. Instead, I think it’s just a new beginning for Jeter. I get the feeling that I may again see him wearing the pinstripes – and not just for Old Timer’s Day. No one that smart, or with that much to give to the game, could possibly be away forever. I think the Yankees will be calling on The Captain to lead the team in a different way, but with the same work ethic and same “intangible” way.
I’ll conclude by saying “Well done, Captain”. You have completed a player’s career with no regrets and nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve made the most of your “dash”.