How do you possibly define a career like the one of New York Yankee Derek Jeter? Since 1996, ‘The Captain’ has led the Yankees to five World Series Championships and countless big plays, season after season after season.
Jeter created some many wonderful memories over the past two decades. Here are 10 of his most memorable moments as a Yankee.
10) First career home run
In Jeter’s first season (1996) as the Yankees every day starter, he hit his first career home run off Cleveland pitcher Dennis Martinez in their opening game on April 2. That season, he became the American League Rookie of the Year, hitting hit .314 with 10 homers and 78 RBI. More importantly, he helped lead New York to a World Series Championship, their first since 1978. It was the start of the Yankee run, spearheaded by Jeter.
This almost didn’t happen. Later that season Yankee’s manager Joe Torre recalled, “He had a horrible spring training. In fact, (Yankee executive) Clyde King suggested we send him back to the minor leagues. At that point, I basically said it was too late.”
9) Game 1, ALCS, 1996
During game one of the ALCS, the Yankees faced the Orioles. New York trailed Baltimore 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Jeter came up to the plate. He hit a deep fly ball to right field. Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco made his move toward the outfield fence where he looked like he had an opportunity to make a play on Jeter’s ball. Instead, 12-year old Jeffrey Maier reached from the stands to catch the ball. Right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately ruled the play a home run. The Yankees went on to win the game in 11-innings.
Baltimore protested the game and the call. Garcia admitted afterwards that it was fan interference.
8) A Great Professional 1996-present
In an era of the 24-hours sports news cycle and social media, have you ever heard a bad word about Jeter? Playing shortstop in one of the biggest cities in the world for one of the greatest teams in all of sport, Jeter was the ultimate professional and a great teammate. He walked a clean line on and off the field. Jeter was a superior player, great competitor and leader. He was simply a winner both on and off the field and did everything the right way. If there was a picture associated with the word professional in the dictionary it would be of Jeter.
Perhaps George Steinbrenner said it best, “For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter.”
7) Mr. November
It was the fall classic of 2001, just a few months after the 9/11 tragedy. The season was pushed back a few weeks and, of course, Jeter’s Yankees were once again in the World Series. In Game 4 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the game was tied in the 10th inning. He worked the count full and then smacked a home run off of Byung-Hun Kim for a win in walk-off fashion. That tied the series, but the Yankees lost in seven.
6) The Dive, July 1, 2004
Of course, the Yankees and Red Sox have had their share of rivalry games during the course of Jeter’s career. This particular moment, though, took place just before the fourth of July. The game was tied in the 12th inning. There was a pop foul that Jeter somehow managed to catch. He raced from his position between second and third base and chased the ball down the left field line, sprinting for the grab while falling over the fence. He had a bloody chin and scar on his face. New York went on to win the game. This single play exemplifies the hustle, determination and competitiveness of Jeter.
Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, “He always treats people right and he tries to beat your brains out. That’s a good way to go about things."
5) Game 6 World Series Loss in 2001
In Game Six of the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks trounced the Yankees 15-2. One of the New York relievers, Jay Witasick, gave up nine runs. During the game, Jeter walked into the clubhouse to change out his spikes. There he saw Witasick and he stated to Jeter as The Captain walked by, “at least I had fun.” Jeter exploded on him.
Years later Jeter told Sports Illustated’s Tom Verducci, “Fun? I can’t relate to it. I really can’t relate to it. I’ll never forget that. At least you had fun? I’ll never understand it. I don’t want to understand it.”
“Everybody gets angry. What makes me angry is when people don’t care, not when they fail; everybody fails or when people act like they don’t care. You have one opportunity to do something, and you never know if you’re going to get that opportunity again.”
Wow. Did the guy want to win or what?
Here’s Witasick getting knocked around by the Diamondbacks:
4) Hit No. 3,000, July 9, 2011
There aren’t many guys who reach 3,000 hits, and even fewer that do it via the home run. But that’s Jeter and that’s exactly what he did. His historic hit came off Tampa Bay pitcher David Price. That day Jeter went 5-5.
Yankee owner Hank Steinbrenner said, “Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude. And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization’s objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It’s only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals."
3) The Flip, October 13, 2001
One of the greatest defensive plays in baseball history. Game Three of the ALDS between the Yankees and A’s and Oakland leading the series 2-0 with Jeremy Giambi on first base. The A’s right fielder Terrence Long hit a double into the right field corner. Yankees right fielder Shane Spencer got the ball and his throw missed Tino Martinez, the cut-off man. Miraculously, Jeter was backing up Martinez. He caught the ball and flipped it backhanded to catcher Jorge Posada who tagged out Giambi. Facing elimination, the Yankees eventually won the game as well as the series.
That play was the key. It turned everything around for New York. Jeter wasn’t supposed to be in position to make that spectacular play. The ‘Flip’ won an ESPY for ‘The Best Play’.
Former teammate Gary Sheffield said, “You really don’t know how good he is—you don’t know all the things he does—until you see him on an everyday basis.”
2) Becoming Yankees leader in hits, September 11, 2009
Jeter passed Lou Gehig to become the all-time hits leader for the Yankees. The magic number was 2,722. You know the names – Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Gehrig, etc. It’s a historical baseball hit list and Jeter sits at the top.
1) Final home game, September 25, 2014
Last night was Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium and it could not have ended in greater fashion. As if scripted by Steven Spielberg right out of Hollywood the player they call “The Captain” had a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to propel New York to a 6-5 win over AL East leading Baltimore.
It was truly a magical moment for one of the greatest New York Yankees ever. It symbolized his career in the pinstripes, always clutch and the ultimate winner.
Joe Torrie perhaps summed up Jeter best. “You knew from the start there was something special about him. The way he carried himself, the way he played the game. He’s just all about winning.”