There are few players that define a generation and transcend their sport. It isn’t always the flashiest player, but the one that best shows the game he plays. Over the last 20 years, no player has meant more to his city, his sport, or his fans than Derek Jeter.
Jeter was an icon, he played the game of baseball with such heart and such emotion that you couldn’t help but be awed by his tenacity and his will to win. Whether it was his million-dollar smile or his humble approach, you always wanted Jeter to succeed, and that’s precisely what he always did for the city of New York.
Jeter was the face of the Yankees. During his time in pinstripes the team accumulated five World Series rings. He has been responsible for some of the most iconic plays in Yankee’s history, the flip play against the Oakland A’s, his game-winning home run in the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his now famous walk-off hit in his last home game against the Baltimore Orioles.
However, Jeter isn’t just a legend in New York, he is among the game’s all-time greats as well.
Over his career, Jeter has become one of the game’s greatest players. His 3,465 hits rank sixth for all-time. He has been named an MLB All-Star 15 times, and was awarded the Gold Glove award five times.
A trip to Cooperstown is assured for Jeter, and he will most certainly be first-ballot. However, according to Jeter, it’s his New York fan-base that has kept him striving to succeed, as he stated in his farewell letter sent to fan’s at his last home game.
“Your scrutiny exposed my flaws. Your expectation was my inspiration.”
He always had a connection to the New York faithful, and he was there for them when it was needed most. Fans rallied behind him and the Yankees after the tragedies of 9/11, they cried with him during the tragic death of owner George Steinbrenner, they said farewell when he gave the final speech at the old Yankee Stadium, and they recognized him during his final game in New York.
When Jeter took his final step onto the field after his last Yankee Stadium game Thursday night, he tipped his cap and thanked the fans. He didn’t say a word but he admitted afterwards what was going through his mind.
“I basically just said, ‘Thank you,” Jeter said, “because this is all I ever wanted to do. Not too many people have the opportunity to do it. It was above and beyond anything I dreamed”
In fact, Jeter didn’t need to say anything because the sold-out crowd spoke on his behalf. A chorus of “Thank you Jeter” surrounded Yankee Stadium, because as much as Jeter loved his city, they loved him back just as much.
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