New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter, the last player to wear a single digit, will have the iconic No. 2 retired and immortalized into Monument Park Sunday night.
What is there to say about Derek Jeter that hasn’t already been said in other columns, television interviews or features?
On the field, he’s a five-time World Series champion, a 14-time American League All-Star, a five-time Gold Glover, won five Silver Sluggers (four straight from 2006-09), a member of the 3,000 hit club (“history with an exclamation mark,” as some would call the hit), and ended his career hitting .310/.377/.440 with 260 career home runs and 1,311 RBIs. As he would only have it, Jeter ended his career at Yankee Stadium with a walk-off single to right and walked off of the baseball diamond for the last time as a big league baseball player to a standing ovation by Red Sox Nation at Fenway Park in Boston.
Off of the field, Jeter was known for his immense professionalism, calm demeanor, and for having one of the greatest dating records by any man of all time – along with the gift baskets.
He was never a native New Yorker by definition – he arrived in the Bronx by way of Kalamazoo, Michigan – but since his 1995 debut and his 1996 AL Rookie of the Year campaign, he not only became a New Yorker, he became the face of the Big Apple. Although there were other greats who played for New York teams – Joe DiMaggio, Patrick Ewing and Joe Namath, just to name a few – none were like the Yankee captain of this generation.
When the Yankees officially retire Jeter’s No. 2 jersey Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, it officially puts a cap on the end of a particular Yankee era: the single digit era.
Jeter wore the last available single digit in the Yankees’ circulation, No. 2 and, even though he originally wanted No. 13, it seemed like fate or destiny that not only would he be a Yankee, but he would join its prestigious single digit club. To put it in perspective, Jeter’s No. 2 jersey, and now his career, lines him up with other single digit wearers like (in order): Billy Martin, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio, Joe Torre, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra (who’s number is retired twice), and Roger Maris.
His high school scouting report by a Rockies scout even said that he’d “be special.” He turned out to be right, even though the Rockies couldn’t get to Jeter in time in the draft.
Players make numbers synonymous with themselves, a city, or even a moment. Michael Jordan made No. 23 his own and Jackie Robinson not only made No. 42 his own, he also had his number retired by an entire sports league. Derek Jeter made No. 2 not only his own but New York’s own. HIs younger peers throughout Major League Baseball wear No. 2 in some sort of tribute or inspiration to Jeter – guys like Troy Tulowitzki and Xander Bogaerts, for example.
There isn’t one moment that can define Jeter’s career. There’s numerous that we can all recount. The same can be said about the other single digit wearers in the new club in Monument Park.
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These new, Baby Bomber Yankees are exciting to watch and to see the Yankees get younger is refreshing. Outfielder Aaron Judge has been compared to Jeter already. Time will tell if that will come true, or if he will come close to the retired Yankee captain.
The only thing that needs to happen Sunday night is how Jeter is introduced. Jeter’s walk-up was synonymous with the late Bob Sheppard, who’s announcement “now batting, numbah two, Derek Jeter, numbah two” is as iconic as Yankee Stadium and the Yankees themselves. Sheppard’s voice needs to echo through Yankee Stadium Sunday night.
There will be people who will argue that Jeter wasn’t the best shortstop, that he didn’t’ have the range, that he didn’t hit for power, and so on. And that’s fine. However, one can only wonder what the Yankees of the late 90’s and 2000’s would’ve been without the shortstop from Kalamazoo, Michigan. And that’s fine. But Jeter was special in his own right. Clutch, dependable, professional, and classy.
He not only made New York proud on the field but also off of it.
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