Derek Jeter announced that he will retire after the upcoming season, thus ending a legendary 20-year career with the New York Yankees.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte decided to hang up the spikes after last season. Rivera had a summer-long farewell tour while Pettitte went out with a complete game in front of his hometown Houston crowd. Jeter, meanwhile, battled injuries all year and was limited to 17 games. Indeed, the highlight of his season was walking with Pettitte out to the mound to get Rivera for the final time in his Hall-of-Fame career.
Considering all of the teammates that Jeter came up with are retired and that his body is beginning to break down, I don’t think the news of Captain Clutch calling it a career after 2014 was particularly surprising to anyone. It is, however, astonishingly sobering as the Yankees will say goodbye to one of the greatest players ever to wear pinstripes and officially close the book on one of the greatest eras in sports.
The news is a gut-check for the Yankees and their fans as we will lose the last remaining link to the dynasty years of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Fans lost Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill after the 2001 season (Martinez to the St. Louis Cardinals, O’Neill to retirement). Bernie Williams retired after 2006 after being mistreated by the organization.
We lost the dynasty’s manager, Joe Torre, after 2007 and the Stadium where it all happened after 2008. Jorge Posada retired after 2011, the first of the “Core Four” to hang up his spikes for good.
Over the course of a decade, marquee players and postseason heroes disappeared from the Yankees’ roster one by one. Yet through all of that, us fans still had Jeter, Mo and Pettitte (aside from a three-year stint with the Houston Astros from 2004-2006 and a one-year hiatus in 2011). Through unbelievable highs and cataclysmic lows, these players were constant. They provided longevity and stability that I honestly did not comprehend while they were still on the diamond.
Only now do I fully appreciate that for two decades, we had one of the greatest shortstops of all time, the greatest closer and one of the gutsiest starters. As an added bonus, all three are class acts.
There’s another change that, though minor, is tremendous in terms of its symbolism. Bob Sheppard was the Yankees’ PA announcer for just over half a century. His health began to deteriorate in 2006 and he ultimately missed the entire 2008 season. He died on July 11, 2010. Still, a recording of his voice is used for Jeter’s introduction as he steps to the plate. Thus, three or four times a game, fans can hear Sheppard’s perfect annunciation and celestial tone.
Without Jeter in the lineup, however, “the Voice of Yankee Stadium” will echo through the Bronx no more.
The stadium is different, the public address announcer is different and now, the players will all be different too. Rivera and Pettitte are retired. Jeter will follow after this year, and with him will go the final connection to one of the most successful eras in Yankees history.