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Derek Jeter’s Greatest Moments

The end of an era will occur for the Yankees at the end of this 2014 season. Last week, “The Captain” Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season, his 20th season with the New York Yankees, will be his last. In a genuinely well-written letter scanned to his Facebook account (https://www.facebook.com/derekjeter), Jeter explained that the blank canvas at the start of his career is now almost full. He went on to thank the late, great George “The Boss” Steinbrenner and his family, along with the entire Yankees organizations, his teammates past and present, and finally, his family.

Jeter tips his helmet after his 3,000th hit. (New York Times photo)

Jeter tips his helmet after his 3,000th hit. (New York Times photo)

During his illustrious career with the Yanks Jeter broke a variety of team records. He currently holds the record for games played (2,602), at bats (10,614), hits (3,316), and stolen bases (348). After this season, Jeter should be able to passes Lou Gehrig’s team record of 534 doubles, as he currently sits at 525.

Jeter will be remembered for many things from the two decades he spent in the league. Here’s a look at some of his greatest moments:

1.) Leadoff Home Run in Game 4 of the 2000 World Series

Jeter stands in the box. No outs. No balls. No strikes. Suddenly, as the lanky 6-foot-3-inch shortstop awaits the pitch, the ball rifles out of the pitcher’s arm to the inside part of the plate. For the average ball player a pitch in that particular part of the plate would lead to a lazy ground ball to either third or short, but for the owner of one of the quickest hands in the majors? No problem.

Jeter didn’t appear to think twice when he swung the bat. The first pitch of Game 4 of the 2000 World Series was launched into the bleachers out in left center field. The Yankees eventually won the game, 3-2. This turned out to be just the spark the Yankees needed to win the World Series that year. Jeter won World Series MVP honors off the strength of another home run he hit in Game 5 to seal the deal for the Bronx Bombers.

2.) Passing Lou Gehrig’s hit record on September 11, 2011

If at any point in Derek Jeter’s career he wasn’t considered on the level of other the legends of America’s pastime, those thoughts were erased when he hit an opposite-field hit to right  on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The innate skill that Jeter had to intentionally push the ball to the opposite field is, in itself, another thing to be remembered by baseball aficionados. A substantial argument can be made that Jeter is the greatest opposite-field hitter of all time. With a career .451 batting average when hitting towards the opposite field, he more than backs up that argument.

3.) “Home Run” in Game 1 of 1996 ALCS vs. Orioles

This memory was epic. In his first full season as a starter for the New York Yankees, Jeter was coming up alongside two other premier shortstops: Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez. A year in which Garciaparra was getting his feet wet in the league, and Alex Rodriguez was tearing the cover off of the ball (sans steroids we think), Jeter turned out being the only one of the three to make the playoffs. All year long glimpses of greatness would appear here and there. He hit a solid .310, with 183 hits, in his first year in the league. Not bad for a rookie.

His postseason would soon eclipse those numbers. It all began with what should have been a routine fly ball to the right field wall of the old Yankee Stadium. The famous 12-year-old fan, Jeffrey Maier, must be somewhere in the world basking in the fact that he jump-started Jeter’s career by reaching over the wall and reeling in the ball for a homerun to tie the game up 4-4 in the eighth inning. Jeter batted .361 with 22 hits and a homer en route to his first World Series championship.

4.) Jeter Takes Flight Against the Red Sox in 2004

derek-jeter-dive-into-standsJeter diving into the stands in extra innings against the Red Sox ay Yankee Stadium in the summer of 2004. Yet another memory that is surely engrained in the minds of baseball fans all across the United States. It was not only just great instinctual play, it was a gutsy and gritty play that showed just how tough a player he was and still is. Jeter set the bar with the catch, and he set it high. After the play, young children and teens with hopes and dreams of playing in the major leagues witnessed the amount of passion and dedication that is needed to play this sport. To just willingly sacrifice one’s body for the sake of the team is a lesson that resonates deeply for any aspiring ballplayer.

5.) Mr. November is Born

Game 4 of the 2001 World Series was played on Oct. 31 because of the September 11 attacks. The city was in desperate need of something uplifting and Jeter gave it to them on this night. It turned into Nov. 1 by the tenth inning. It was an inning that Yankee fans will never forget. After being down 0-2, Jeter worked the count back full. He patiently waited for the pitch that would be remembered by the New York faithful for years to come. A home run (to the opposite field of course), that won the game. It was from this point forth that Jeter would be dubbed “Mr. November.”

6.) ‘The Flip’ in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against Oakland

Ah, the flip! One of the greatest plays in postseason history. A play that had so much “right-place-at-the -right-time” potential that it may never be duplicated. flip-play

The game in Oakland was tight. The two aces, Mike Mussina and Barry Zito, were facing off in an epic pitcher’s duel that would decide if the Yanks would be moving on to the ALCS or if the Oakland Athletics would live to fight another day. The score was 1-0 in the seventh inning. Jeremy Giambi got on base with a two-out single. Terrence Long followed suit with a double to the right field wall. Giambi, who is not known for his speed, was waved around to the plate. The throw came in from right field. It was an errant one. Astutely, Jeter noted the angle at which the ball was traveling and realized that it was not on course for home plate, so he made his move. He pursued the ball, reeled it in, and gently tossed it in the direction of his catcher Jorge Posada. A Tim Wakefield knuckleball couldn’t have been placed so perfectly at the right time. The ball landed right in between Giambi and Posada’s glove. Giambi was tagged out, and history was made.

7.) His 3,00th Hit

Despite having so many stellar, storybook plays in his career, none can compare to the day in which Jeter notched his 3,000th hit on July 9, 2011. Jeter stepped into the batter’s box and worked the count to 3-2. A slider coming out of the hand of starting pitcher David Price was hooking and dropping fast out of the zone, but Jeter reached down, grabbed it, and pulled it to left center field for the milestone. He eventually went on to go 5-5 with 2 RBI’s. At the chipper age of 37, he finished the season with 167 hits and a .297 batting average. The following year, he came back and had one of his best seasons in the majors. He stuffed the stat sheet with 216 hits (second most in his career), and a .316 batting average.

Jeter’s retirement is definitely the end of an era, but it should not be mourned. It should be celebrated and most importantly respected. Players of this mold don’t come by as often anymore. In an era where steroids have dominated the focus, casting a dark cloud over the sport, the career of this tall and lanky shortstop from the Bronx is one all young players should try to emulate.

Derek Jeter is classy. He has integrity. He works hard. He is clean. He is gifted. He is a starting shortstop in the majors. And he is the Yankees organization.

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