The most memorable part of the final weekend of Derek Jeter’s career wasn’t the 2 hits he collected, the tasteful tribute on Sunday by the Red Sox, or the many ovations he received. It was the sense of relief that enveloped him. For most of his career, Jeter has rarely displayed emotion when talking with the press. Occasionally, he’s been sharp, other times, kidding. But usually, he’s deadpan and emotionless by design. But ever since his final game at Yankee Stadium last Thursday, Jeter showed a vulnerability and tenderness, that made him more accessible than ever before. His famous monotone gave way to something softer, both less sure and more intimate.
And for the first time, he looked unsure of himself at times on the field.
“I’m happy, man,” he told reporters after the last game of his career on Sunday in Boston, in which he went 1-2 with an RBI. “Because it’s hard. It’s a lot of stress, too. Like I said the other day, you try to play it cool, but out in the field with the bases loaded, one out, you’ve got Manny Ramirez at the plate, it’s not a comfortable feeling at times. When you’re facing Pedro (Martinez), trying to get a hit, it’s not a comfortable feeling.
“I remember running into Shawon Dunston a few years ago in San Francisco, and I had never met Shawon Dunston. I saw him on the street; me and Jorge were going to lunch and ran into him. I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m stress-free. I don’t have to worry about hitting any sliders anymore.’ So I’m looking forward to it. I gave it everything I had physically, and I gave it everything I had mentally during my time. Now it’s time to step back and, like I said, let someone else play.”
Jeter sat out Friday night’s game but played on Saturday, striking out and reaching on an infield single. He took himself out of the game and sat on the bench for the rest of the afternoon, smiling, laughing his teammates. Since the Yankees and Red Sox were both out of playoff contention, the gamed had a surreal, spring training feel. Then, yesterday, he lined out to short in his first at bat then reached on a Baltimore chop the next time up. The final at bat of his career. He watched the rest of the game from the dugout, and again, seemed relieved.
“I said I was going to play, so that’s why I played,” Jeter said later. “There are a lot of fans that told me that they came a long way to see these last games, so I felt it was right to play here. But don’t think I didn’t think about that, I thought about it. People say, maybe New York was your last game because you want to remember that as the way your career ended. But you can’t take that memory away. I don’t care if I played for another three weeks, that memory is going to be there and it’s never going to go anywhere. I played out of respect for this rivalry and the fans here.”
Jeter’s finale seemed interminable at times but in the end–the classic finish at Yankee Stadium, the relaxed, earnest sendoff in Boston–he delivered one last time and was afforded the chance to take it all in. He showed more of himself than ever before and went out on a high note.
Also, we’ve likely seen the end of Ichio! and our man Hiroki Kuroda. They’ve been fun to watch, and Kuroda, especially, has been a favorite. Man, could be all she wrote for David Robertson too and boy, he’s been a good Yankee. Don’t forget our boy Cervelli, either. Lousy as the season was in some ways, it could have been worse and there were pleasures to be had: Port Jervis, Zelous and Zoilo. How about the bullpen, especially Dellin Betances!
This has been the 12th season we’ve covered the Yankees here on the Banter. The coverage is less intense than it was 5, 10 years ago because I’ve got other interests and besides, now there are so many other wonderful Yankee blogs out there. But I still love watching the team and rooting them on and am humbled to have you guys stop by and hang with us.
The season might be over for the Yanks but this ain’t football–we do this everyday. We’ll be here–served fresh daily!–for the playoffs and beyond.
Thanks for coming through. I really appreciate it.
[Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images]