Farewell to Derek the Great
By Howard Goldin
Derek Jeter played his final game in Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. The largest paid attendance of the year (48,613) came to witness Jeter’s farewell appearance in the Bronx. Many of those present expended an exorbitant amount of money to scalpers to be able to see the special event. It was a magical night that ended in an appropriate way.
Since the opportunity for the Yankees to qualify for the playoffs ended after the previous night’s game, the focus for Yankee fans was solely upon Jeter. The elimination of the chances of the Yankees to advance to the next level also freed Jeter to think about his career and show his appreciation to the fans.
Immediately before the start of the game, a video was shown that displayed the gratitude of the people of the city to Jeter for what he means to them. The video ended and the Yankees immediately took the field. The fans in the ballpark responded with a standing ovation and the chanting of Jeter’s name. Jeter answered by tipping his cap.
He has throughout his career and repeatedly in his final season acknowledged his appreciation of their support. He spoke of his relationship with the fans in a lengthy post-game press conference that was shown on the giant screen in centerfield to the fans who were invited to remain after the game concluded.
He asked, “In what job do you hear 40-50,000 people chanting your name? I see signs “Thank you Derek” and I say, ‘What for? I’m just trying to do my job.’ I want to thank everyone here. They’re [the fans] the ones that made this special.”
Asked about what he thinks brings out so much support for him from the fans, he replied, “I care about one thing, winning. I don’t think anyone played harder, maybe as hard but not harder. I did it here in New York, and I think it’s harder here.”
Speaking about the farewell tour, Jeter admitted, “The whole year has been special, but at times difficult. I’ve appreciated it all, but it feels like watching your own funeral.” He explained that hearing the constant praise and seeing the focus on him makes him uncomfortable.
He also discussed his emotions, “I have emotions; I think I’m pretty good at hiding them, controlling them.” Yet on his last game at Yankee Stadium, he felt less control of his emotions,” I don’t know that I ever thought ‘please don’t hit it to me’ I thought I would break down.”
He also felt that emotion “when my teammates presented me with something before the game today, a painting and a special watch.”
He was again asked why he decided to retire after this year. His answer was the same as on previous occasions, “I felt like I’ve been doing it a long time. I feel like I could still play, but I don’t want to. I wanted to call it a career.”
Jeter performed in a heroic manner as befits someone special. In his first trip to the plate, Jeter doubled to score Brett Gardner, who had singled.
Jeter made out in the second and fifth innings as the score remained tied at 2.
With the bases loaded in the seventh, Jeter was safe on an error, in which two runs scored and the Yankee captain recorded his second run batted in of the contest.
Jeter’s final chance to bat came in the bottom of the ninth with the score knotted at 5. Rookie Jose Pirela began the frame with a single. Gardner moved pinch runner Antoan Richardson to second on a sacrifice bunt. To the surprise of no one who believes in miracles, Jeter drove in the winning run for the ninth walk-off win for the Yankees in 2014.
Jeter was very happily greeted by his current teammates and then by his former teammates who were now also on the field. He embraced the rest of the Core Four (Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera), Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams and their manager Joe Torre. Jeter described them in the following words, “These guys are like brothers and Mr. T. like a second father.”
The Yankee shortstop decided on the day of his final stadium game to not play shortstop in his three remaining games in Boston, “I played my last game at shortstop. I wanted to take something special from Yankee Stadium and New York.”
Jeter’s summary of his remarkable career is, “It was above and beyond anything I ever dreamed of. I’ve lived a dream.”