15 Best Moments of Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame Career
Derek Jeter Announces That He Will Retire After 2014 MLB Season
When Derek Jeter formally announced that he would be retiring after the 2014 MLB season there were undoubtedly a number of baseball fans who felt a bit of a hole in their hearts. After all, over the last 20 years there has been no single athlete, in MLB or otherwise, to combine the level of grace, talent, leadership and tenacity that Jeter has shown, all while being a model citizen off the field. The fact that his tenure came during a time when nearly every other figure of note in baseball was shown to be a fraud, cheater or simply a bad guy has only furthered the love all baseball fans feel for the New York Yankees shortstop.
On the field, Jeter has been the all around package, performing exceptionally on both the field and on the plate. Every time a ball went into the hole between shortstop and third base over the last 20 years, everyone knew that number two was going to be there with his patented jump throw to just beat the runner. Additionally, you knew when he came to the plate that Jeter's inside-out stroke was going to do something great, as he seemed born to poke balls over the short porch at Yankee Stadium. In fact, it appeared that he was born to wear the pinstripes, and you can tell he has enjoyed every moment wearing them.
His career slash line of .312/.381/.446 with 256 home runs, 525 doubles, 3,316 hits and 1,876 runs is sure to earn a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, even though this won't be the most important thing to Jeter. No, that will be the five World Series rings that he has, as winning has always been the most important thing to the shortstop, which has gone a long way in endearing him to the normally harsh Yankees fan base.
And while everything that Jeter did on the field was astounding, what separates him from the crowd is the things you can't put a number on: the intangibles. The 39-year-old seemed to be in control of his surroundings ever since he became a starting shortstop at the ripe age of 21, and was a leader right from the start. Even when there were veteran guys in the clubhouse, such as David Cone, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera, there was no doubting who the true leader was, and is.
He may not be the loudest of guys to the media or in the clubhouse, but Jeter seems to simply walk in a manner that commands respect, and how could you question the guy? Never has he been embroiled in a scandal on or off the field, he always produces, and there may not be a more respectful athlete to opponents in the world. One can only imagine the comfort that Joe Torre and Joe Girardi have felt in having Jeter around the clubhouse, and the fears that the latter feels knowing the shortstop will be gone in 2015.
Knowing that the departure of Jeter now has a set date on it -- and that I can't sulk on his retirement forever -- I have decided to honor him by creating a list of the 15 greatest moments of his career. These moments range from the beginning of his career to just last season and will surely take fans of Jeter through a roller coaster of emotions that will have them begging the shortstop to continue on beyond 2014. At the very least it will have me quietly praying that he comes back and that this retirement talk is all a bad dream.
15. MLB Debut: May 29, 1995
You can't go through all of the high points without going to the moment that everything began. Jeter first appeared in a big league game against the Seattle Mariners on May 29, 1995, and while he went 0-5 on the day, there would have been none of the memories of the last 20 years without an early learning experience. The first game was just that for the shortstop, as he would get two hits the next day, and then became a starter in 1996.
14. 1996 Opening Day Home Run
Joe Torre surprised a decent amount of people by naming Jeter his starting shortstop on opening day in 1996, but the shortstop rewarded Torre's faith rather quickly. During this opening game against the Cleveland Indians, he hit his first career home run off Dennis Martinez, which quickly quieted those in the New York media who doubted the youngster.
13. 2004 Gold Glove Award
After having his defense criticized for many years, Jeter won the 2004 Gold Glove Award for the first time. While sabermetricians may disagree, anyone who watched the Yankees during the shortstop's career know that he has been a rock, gobbling up every ball within range and seemingly never missing a throw. The fact that baseball writers were able to acknowledge this was a great moment for Jeter and all those who watched him play on a daily basis.
12. 1996 World Series Championship and Rookie of the Year Award
The most important thing in the baseball world to Derek Jeter is winning World Series championships, and he did just that in his rookie year. Over 15 games during the 1996 playoffs he compiled a slash line of .361/.409/.459 with one home run, three doubles and 12 runs scored as the Yankees won their first World Series title since 1978. The fact that this season was capped off by Jeter being a unanimous choice for the AL Rookie of the Year Award was only icing on the cake.
11. 2000 All-Star Game MVP
When you become the first person to ever do something for the Yankees, you know you either did something awful or great, and it is clear that Jeter winning the All-Star Game MVP Award in 2000 was the latter. During the game the shortstop went 3-3 with one double, one run scored and two RBIs as the American League won 6-3.
10. 2009 World Series Championship
While Jeter won five different World Series championships, there is little doubting that the last one holds a special spot in his heart. The championship marked the last time he would win the title with Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, who are all retired now, but formed the backbone of the group that dominated baseball in the late 1990s, and again for a brief period in the late 2000s. The so-called Core Four were more than just teammates; they were friends and they played the game of baseball with incredible integrity.
9. Grabbing Mariano Rivera From the Mound
Going back to Rivera, the moment when Joe Girardi sent Jeter and Pettitte to get the closer during his last career appearance, will live on forever. Rivera, normally stoic on the mound, broke down in tears shortly after they arrived to yank him from the game, and everyone watching could feel the pain that he felt leaving the mound in tears. Still, the fact that Pettitte and Jeter were there to comfort him created a moment that will never be forgotten.
8. Jeter Becomes Yankees All-Time Hits Leader
Jeter has made a habit of breaking records during his Yankees career, but none is more impressive than being the organizations hit king. The shortstop picked up the crown on September 11, 2009 by using his patented inside-out swing to line a Chris Tillman pitch down the rightfield line at Yankee Stadium to pick up career hit 2,722. While the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio are all Yankees legends, Jeter has a leg up on each in career hits.
7. 3000th Career Hit
Always one to live up to the moment, Derek Jeter made his 3000th hit one to remember. With the count full, he took a David Price breaking ball and deposited it into the left field seats, in turn picking up the ultimate career milestone mark. He would go on to build on this milestone by going 5-5 during a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, in turn leaving the spine tingling for those watching at Yankee Stadium and on their televisions at home.
6. The Jeffrey Maier Home Run
In a moment that will live on as a glorious moment for Yankees fans and an awful one for Baltimore Orioles supporters, Jeter hit what is known as the Jeffrey Maier home run on October 9, 1996. The homer came into question because the 12-year-old Maier blatantly reached over the right field wall to steal a ball that was going into the glove of Tony Tarasco. This moment would serve as a turning point in the ALDS, and help catapult the Yankees to the World Series title.
5. Jeter Becomes El Capitan
On June 3, 2003, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner named Jeter the Yankees captain, becoming the first player to fill the role since Don Mattingly retired in 1995. While for some organizations the captaincy role may be trivial, it is anything but for the Yankees. In fact, it is reserved for only players of the highest integrity and ability. Of course, Jeter was a perfect selection for the spot, and it will likely be a long time before another captain is crowned.
4. Final Speech at the Old Yankee Stadium
Normally reserved in his comments to the public, Jeter came out of his shell a bit for a great speech following the final game at the Old Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008. The speech was completely unscripted, and the heart, emotion and pride that the shortstop displayed through his words was palpable to those listening inside Yankee Stadium and on YES Network at home.
3. Diving Into the Stands Against the Boston Red Sox
Nobody has every doubted the hustle that Jeter displays on the field, but nobody could have expected what happened on July 1, 2004. During the 12th inning of an extra-inning game with the Boston Red Sox, the shortstop went racing after a pop up along the left field line, which ended up taking him diving face first into the seats along the line. While most would have been worried about simply coming out of the ordeal healthy, Jeter made sure to hold onto the ball, although he did have to come out of the game with a bit of blood on his face. The Yankees would go on to win in the 13th inning, and an unforgettable moment was established.
2. Jeter Becomes Mr. November
Few players can match the legacy that Jeter has in postseason play, which has earned him the title of Mr. November. He earned this title on November 1, 2001 by taking a Byung-Hyun Kim pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning and depositing it over the right-field fence to tie the World Series at two games apiece. The home run came shortly after the clock struck 12:00 and the calendar turned to November 1st, marking the first dose of November baseball in MLB history with an unforgettable moment, and momentarily helping New York City forget about the horrific attacks that occurred on 9/11/2001.
1. The Flip
Narrowing down all of Jeter's career to choose a single best moment is difficult, but the play known as "The Flip" has to take the cake. The moment came in Game 3 of the ALDS, when a Terrence Long hit down the right-field line looked destined to bring Jeremy Giambi around to score for the Oakland A's and tie the game 1-1 in the seventh inning. The only issue with this thought was that Jeter had the wherewithal to get down the first base line to pick up an errant throw, flip the ball to catcher Jorge Posada and see Giambi get tagged out at the plate. The Yankees would go on to win the game, overcome a 2-0 series deficit to win the ALDS, and the baseball world was left wondering how exactly Jeter knew how to be at that spot on the field.