July 15, 2014 marks the 85th edition of the MLB All-Star Game. No storyline, regardless of the outcome, will be more written about, referenced or chatted about at the water cooler than the fact that it marks Mr. November Derek Jeter‘s final appearance in the Midsummer Classic.
The New York Yankees‘ shortstop has never played for another team. He is one of the finest, most consistent and revered players of his generation. He was ROY in 1996, has finished second in AL MVP voting twice, and third once. He has won five Golden Gloves, five Silver Sluggers and has twice led the American League in hits. He is now a 14-time All-Star.
Only three Yankees — Mickey Mantle (16), Yogi Berra (15) and Reggie Jackson (14) — have appeared in equal or more ASGs than No. 2. Since its inception in 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, only 18 players in the history of the game have as many or more ASG appearances than Jeter.
Jeter is one of the most decorated players to ever play the game of baseball. But there is one decoration that cannot be handed out in the form of an award or be documented by MLB, and that is the respect he has garnered over the span of his 20-year career.
“He represents all that is good about a leader,” said the late George Steinbrenner about Jeter. “I’m a great believer in history, and I look at all the other leaders down through Yankee history, and Jeter is right there with them.”
“We knew from the start that there was something special about him,” Joe Torre once said. “The way he carried himself, the way he played the game. He’s just all about winning.”
Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox, a bitter and lengthy rival of the Bronx Bombers, for eight seasons. He had this to say about Jeter: “He always treats people right and he tries to beat your brains out. That’s a good way to go about things.”
Winning, folks, or beating your opponent’s brains out, is the name of the game. It is the primal motivation behind sport. Jeter is a true competitor, and will forever be remembered as one. His five World Series championships speak loud and clear to that sentiment, of which he was named World Series MVP in 2000.
The ASG was just a sub-heading tonight under Jeter’s farewell tour. The game was important, but this was Jeter’s night, no question. During introductions, Jeter was noticeably choked up as he stood along the first-base foul line. After 18-time All-Star and seven-time AL Batting champion Rod Carew, who played 12 seasons for the Minnesota Twins, threw out the opening pitch at Target Field, Captain Clutch was exactly that.
It could not have been more fitting that in his final ASG, Jeter scored the first run of the game. With a leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning off Adam Wainwright, Jeter put himself in scoring position for a Mike Trout RBI triple.
The respect Jeter has garnered around the clubhouse, the city of New York, the game of baseball and the country of America in which this beautiful game is played came from a place deep inside of everyone. But not everyone has the strength, passion or willpower to summon the desire that comes from that place. Jeter knows respect must be earned, and he has spent the better part of his last couple decades on earth doing his best to work toward earning it.
A nation tips their hats to Jeter on this day, but there will be a lifetime of hat tipping left to come for Jeter when he passes people on the sidewalks that riddle the urban landscapes of cities and towns across the United States, and even the world.
“There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do — and I believe that.” – Derek Jeter.