The Captain Has Had Many Great Moments; Here are the 5 Greatest
The game of baseball celebrates its heroes and greatest moments unlike any other sport in the world. Our favorite players are immortalized within our ballparks, and in our memories. Their stories are passed down from generation to generation, and their moments have stamped our lives as if they were meant for us specifically.
Our grandparents would tell us of Ted Williams’ last at bat in Boston, a home run to deep right center field in a half-empty Fenway. Our parents told us about Hank Aaron smashing an Al Downing hanging breaker into the left field bullpen on a brisk, April night in Atlanta to become the all-time home run king. Our generation will tell stories of Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
Jeter wasn’t a slugger, hitting mammoth moon shots that left us in awe, and he never hit more than 24 in a season. He was a good shortstop, not a great one, but Jeter had the ability to make the plays that left your jaw dropped. The backhanded stab, running deep into the hole, jump throw against his momentum, on a rope to first, was his trademark. Not too many shortstops could do that, ever.
Derek Jeter’s career has become iconic, not just within baseball, but for all sports. The greatest players in the game all have their signature moments that last forever; Jeter has a catalog. Here are the top five career-defining moments of Derek Jeter’s fantastic career.
THE DIVE - July 1, 2004
The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry is always in full swing, even in the dog days of July. Boston right fielder and left-handed batting Trot Nixon hit a cue shot on a pitch away that shot straight up and towards the shallow left field foul line, behind the third base bag. Jeter, sprinting from his position at shortstop, never took his eyes off the pop fly. Jeter made the catch, running full bore along the foul line, not able to stop his momentum before having to dive into the third row of the Old Stadium, face first. Jeter emerged from the crowd battered and bloodied under his right eye and on his chin, a testament to how Jeter played the game, 100% every day.
THE FLIP - Oct. 13, 2001
The Yankees were on the road and facing elimination down two games to none against the 102-win Oakland As. In the bottom of the 7th, Terrence Long ripped a line drive along the right field line, Yankee outfielder Shane Spencer corralled the ball in the corner and fired it towards home and catcher Jorge Posada, missing two cut-off men. The A's Jeremy Giambi was rounding third, trucking towards home and towards a tie game as the ball appeared to die in-between home and first…then Jeter happened. In what could be the most heady, intelligent baseball play in Postseason history, Jeter sprinted from his short stop position, realizing Spencer’s throw from deep right field wasn’t going to make it home, scooped up the ball and flipped it towards Posada. Giambi, assuming the ball was going to die alone the baseline, didn't slide and was tagged in the leg just before touching home.
Without Jeter’s intuition and guts, Game 3 is tied and the Yankees are more than likely sent home early. Instead, the Bronx Bombers hold onto the 1-run lead and then rally to beat the As in Games 4 and 5, and marched towards another World Series.
FOX broadcaster Thom Brennaman summarized “The Flip” as it happened: “Derek Jeter, with one of the most unbelievable plays you will ever see from a shortstop!” Spot on, Thom.
DJ3K - July 9, 2011
Getting 3,000 hits in a career all but assures a Cooperstown enshrinement. Derek Jeter decided that getting a patented inside out single to right field, like he had done countless times, wasn't going to be good enough for such a milestone.
Instead, the Yankee captain came to the plate in the bottom of the 3rd, with a 1-0 deficit against arguably the best pitcher in baseball, David Price — all while the New York faithful chanted “Der-ek Je-ter” as they had done so many times before — and sent a low-and-in breaking curveball to deep left field.
“See ya! History with an exclamation point!” said Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay, who continued: “Derek Jeter has done it in grand style.”
While Jeter rounded first base, Rays first baseman, Casey Kotchman tipped his cap to the captain, followed by a standing ovation from Yankee fans, and the visiting Rays. Christian Lopez, the man who caught the famed homer, gave the ball back to Jeter, and asked for nothing in return.
Jeter is the first and only member of the 3,000 hit club in the Yankees' illustrious history.
MR. NOVEMBER - Nov. 1, 2001
After the attacks of 9/11, America was in a state of shock and looking for answers. Our way of life was completely thrown off track. The closest thing that we could find to normalcy was postseason baseball.
Sure enough, the Yankees were able to rally past a two-games to-none-deficit at the hands of the Oakland As, and defeat the 116-win Seattle Mariners four-games-to-one in the ALCS.
Just seven weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Yankees found themselves in a two-games-to-one hole to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the city of New York found itself torn between grieving and cheering. At that time, the Yankees were much more than a baseball team; they were representing New York City, and really, the nation as a whole. Just across town from old Yankee Stadium, New York’s bravest continued the cleanup and rescue effort at Ground Zero, and families continued to mourn. This was the one World Series where the rest of the country wanted the Yankees to win.
Derek Jeter came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning of a three-three game — at midnight on Nov. 1. It was the first time in the history of the game that the Fall Classic had been played during the month of November. The video board in right field even said: “Welcome to November Baseball.” At the time, Jeter was batting just 1-for-15 in the series.
With two outs, Jeter battled back from an 0-2 count and took the 3-2 pitch from Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim the other way, a line drive to the right field corner. It barely cleared the short porch Stadium wall.
Mr. November was born…and a city was lifted, even if for one night.
A BRONX GOODBYE - Sept. 25, 2014
For the first time in Jeter’s career, he didn’t want the ball hit to him at his shortstop home. The Captain was showing his emotions all night, often fighting back tears, adjusting his cap in anxiousness. What should have been a 5-2 win in the top of the ninth for the Yankees, quickly turned into a 5-5 tie thanks to home runs from Orioles Adam Jones and Steve Pearce.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, a runner on second, and Yankee fans standing and chanting their captain’s name, the echo of Bob Sheppard’s introduction rang out one last time: “Now batting for the Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter…number two.”
Jeter, with his signature inside-out swing, took the first pitch to right field to plate the winning run for the Yankees.
The game didn't matter in the standings, as the Orioles had already clinched the AL East and the Yankees were already eliminated from Postseason contention, but that moment will resonate within the game of baseball forever.
This generation’s greatest sports icon was finally walking away from the lights of New York and the National Pastime on his own terms. After being mobbed by his current teammates, and embracing his old ones, Jeter slowly began to walk around the infield of Yankee Stadium, taking it all in, letting the love wash over him.
He walked over to where he has played for the past 20 seasons, between second and third base, where he won his five Gold Gloves, and lowered himself. His final act was done.
— Jake Rose