Those who grew up in the 70's fondly remember the brilliance of ballplayers like Joe Morgan and Reggie Jackson. Those who spent the 80's listening to disco also had the chance to live through the glory years of stars like Mike Schmidt, Rickey Henderson and Gary Carter.
Those of us who witnessed the greatest players of the 90's and 2000's have plenty of names to pick from, but there's one that will undoubtedly forever stand out above the rest: Derek Jeter.
Drafted 6th overall in 1992 by the New York Yankees, Jeter is one of the few sports stars of the past 20 years to remain eternally loyal to one organization. Not only is Jeter among the greatest Yankees of all-time, he will also slide right into the discussion of the best of all-time at the shortstop position. The number speak for themselves - it's the legacy Jeter leaves behind for Yankee fans and fans of the game alike, a legacy that will never be forgotten and has been matched by few throughout the illustrious history of Major League Baseball.
Derek Jeter played his entire career for one of the most hated franchises in all of sports, and yet he managed to establish himself as one of the most likable athletes in the history of the game. Even the staunchest of Red Sox fans could not debate the aura and greatness of the rival Yankees long-time captain. Can anyone else remember an athlete getting such a majestic send-off and two commercials from massive sports brands simply aired as a final shout-out to a spectacular career?
While Jeter might have been a stand-up guy off the field (and a big hit with the ladies), his biggest contributions came between the foul lines. With that, we present the Top 15 greatest moments of Derek Jeter's illustrious career.
And we bid adieu, with a tip of a cap, to one of the greats...number two, Derek Jeter. Number two.
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15 The First of Many
May 30th, 1995. Another day at the ballpark. The Yankees are in Seattle for an early-season series against the Seattle Mariners. Jeter, up to this point, is 0-for-6 at the plate in his short time with the big club. High expectations for the 6th overall pick means he had to deliver something soon - and he did. Leading off the 5th inning, he took the first pitch he saw from Mariners starter Tim Belcher to left field, placed perfectly between the third-basemen and shortstop.
"I'm sure that will the first of a lot of hits for that brilliant young infielder, Derek Jeter," said the play-by-play announcer as Jeter stood on first. Was he ever right.
14 Ankle Injury Return
Jeter's numbers are already spectacular, but a run of bad luck near the end of his career with injuries may have hurt his chances to pad his stats even further. A broken ankle in the 2012 ALCS not only essentially spelled the end of the Yankees season, it also led to questions about Jeter retiring. He quelled the doubters by making his return at the end of July 2013 against the Tampa Bay Rays, making an impact from the get-go by taking the first pitch he saw for a ride over the fence in right-field.
13 2000 All-Star Game MVP
The 2000 season was perhaps the greatest of Jeter's career in terms of overall achievement. He was named the MVP of the World Series later on that year, but it was the second MVP award Jeter won that glorious season. He went 3-for-3 with 2 RBI's in the All-Star Game that season. While an All-Star game MVP might not resonate as much as other MVP awards, Jeter's MVP performance holds extra significance as he became the first player in the history of the league to win both the Midsummer and Fall Classic MVP awards in the same season.
12 Captain Jeter
When people think of the captain in sport, they don't often point to baseball as a sport with an "important" captaincy. George Steinbrenner put it best after bestowing the honor upon Jeter in an interview:
"He represents all that is good about a leader. I'm a great believer in history, and I look at all the other leaders down through Yankee history, and Jeter is right there with them.''
The decision was reportedly Steinbrenner's alone, but it's clear that even if it had been put to a players vote, the job was always going to be Jeter's.
11 Mr. 3000
No, were not talking about the Bernie Mac classic. Jeter was on track for 3,000 hits for awhile, and when it happened, it's not as if anyone was legitimately surprised about him accomplishing the rare feat - it was how he did it that made it special. Simply put, it was Jeteresque, with the usual dramatic flair that only #2 could deliver. Instead of slapping a single through the hole, a Jeter trademark, he made the moment even more memorable by hitting a solo home-run; and he did it at home, to boot. Classic Jeter.
10 Farewell, Yankee Stadium (The Speech)
The "Old" Yankee Stadium was one of baseball's hallowed grounds - the House That Ruth Built, the home of the Bronx Bombers, the place where legends from all eras of baseball frequently dazzled and amazed. On September 21st, 2008, the old Yankee Stadium lowered its curtains one last time, and who else but Derek Jeter to give it it's final send-off?
"For all of us up here, it's a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and come out here and play," he said. "And every member of this organization, past and present, has been calling this place home for 85 years. There's a lot of tradition, a lot of history, and a lot of memories. Now the great thing about memories is you're able to pass it along from generation to generation. And although things are going to change next year, we're going to move across the street, there are a few things with the New York Yankees that never change -- it's pride, it's tradition, and most of all, we have the greatest fans in the world."
9 2014 All-Star Game
Fourteen years after his MVP All-Star game performance, Jeter was back at the forefront of the Midsummer Classic, only this time it was as a part of his (seemingly never-ending) farewell tour. Based solely on stats and current talent, Jeter probably wouldn't have made the All-Star roster, or at the very least wouldn't be starting. Instead, Jeter was there for one last cumulative goodbye to the Major League Baseball community. He was taken off in the fourth inning and got a final curtain call from the appreciative crowd, another moment that Jeter will surely remember fondly as he enjoys retirement.
8 1996 World Series
This list started with Jeter's first hit, and could easily have ended with his first World Series. Jeter himself ranked his first World Series championship as his favorite memory from the old Yankee Stadium, and perhaps his favorite of all-time. He capped off that season with a Rookie of the Year award, but it's the championship ring that holds the most meaning to Jeter.
"How did it change my life? It made it better," he says, laughing. "That was the beginning. That was the start. It was my first full year. We had a pretty good run after that."
7 Passing Lou
It would be almost improbable to pick one Yankee as the greatest of them all, but Lou Gehrig would no doubt be at the top of the list. When Jeter passed Gehrig at the top of the Yankees all-time hits list, it was more than just breaking a record - his 2, 722 Major League hit signified the changing of the guard, in a sense, from one era of Yankee legends to another. For years Yankees fans spoke of Gehrig and Ruth as the "greatness of Yankee teams past." Now, teams will be speaking of Jeter in the same light.
6 "Subway" World Series MVP
There might not have ever been a bigger stage for Jeter and the Yankees to perform on than the one set for the 2000 World Series, pitting the Bronx Bombers against the crosstown rival New York Mets. A dream match-up that would have probably overloaded social media if it happened today, the "Subway World Series." The Yankees won a closely contested battle in five games, with Jeter leading the way with a two home runs and a .409 batting average, helping the Yankees to the first Major League three-peat in nearly 30 years.
5 The Jeffrey Maier Home-Run
Derek Jeter wasn't just a superstar - he somehow had the power to turn others into superstars, too. In this particular instance, the lucky benefactor was Jeffrey Maier, a 12-year-old boy who just happened to be sitting close enough to take a stab at the long-fly ball that Jeter hit in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and division rival Baltimore Orioles. The classic image of Maier's hand reaching over just as Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco jumped for the ball is an iconic one in Yankees' lore. While the moment was more about Maier, who else but Derek Jeter to set off a dramatic turn of events not only in the series, but also in a young boy's life?
4 "The Dive"
"The Dive" epitomized the effort and reckless gusto Jeter brought to the ballpark on a daily basis. Jeter, the rangy shortstop that he was, ran down a blooper that was heading towards the third base foul line, in between the bag and the foul pole. What made this play a little more special than your usual pop-fly out was that Jeter was going so fast that he had no choice but to launch himself into the stands to avoid doing more damage than he ended up doing to himself - he walked out of the front row seats battered, bloody and bruised, but he had made the catch.
3 "Mr. November"
Reggie Jackson might always hold the crown of Mr. October, even though these days announcers and broadcasters toss the title around quite loosely. It's highly unlikely that anyone will ever be able to take away Jeter's unique nickname, however: "Mr. November." The nickname is a circumstance of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, the baseball season was pushed back one week. The Yankees faced the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series that year, and the delay pushed the playoffs into November for the first time in history. Game 4 began on October 31st, but extra innings pushed the game passed midnight - and in the 10th inning, Jeter struck with a walk-off home-run to send the fans at Yankee Stadium home happy.
2 "The Flip"
If "The Dive" was the most acrobatic play of Jeter's career, the flip was by far the most brilliant. As many have written beforehand, Jeter had no business being where he was during the play. It happened during Game 3 of the 2001 ALCS, with Jeremy Giambi standing on first base and Terence Long at the plate. Long smacks the ball into the corner down the first-base line. Right fielder Shane Spencer picks up the ball and fires it in, but it sails over the heads of both cutoff men. Jeter read the throw the whole way, and instead of letting the ball roll slowly to Jorge Posada, who was waiting at home plate, he darted across the infield, scooped up the ball and lateraled it to Posada, who was able to put the tag on Giambi just in time, who tried scoring from first. It was one of the greatest "heads-up" plays in the history of the game, and unlike "The Dive", no one can ever question the brilliance of Derek Jeter in that moment.
1 Derek Jeter's Final Home Game
It hasn't happened yet, of course, but there's no doubt that Derek Jeter's final sendoff at Yankee Stadium will be one of the most memorable farewells not only in the history of baseball, but in all of sport. No Major League ballplayer in the last 20 years has had as much of an impact on their team and city as Derek Jeter has had with New York and the Yankees. It will be one last goodbye, one last thank you, one last "Derek, Jeter, clap clap, clap clap clap" for Yankees fans to bestow their unfailing love and immense gratitude on their superstar, their leader, and their hero.
Make sure you're in front of a TV (or better yet, at Yankee Stadium) for that final farewell for one of the greatest of all-time: number two, Derek Jeter...number two.
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