Derek Jeter announced this will be his last season playing professional baseball, a loss for the game, a loss for the Yankees, and a loss for kids — and adults — everywhere who will see one of the classiest role models in any sport at any time leave the big stage.
My daughter wore his number 2 in Little League for years. Even now, his fathead hangs on my son’s wall. We were at Yankee Stadium for his last game of 2013 against the Red Sox to watch him get a hit and then limp off the field (tickets courtesy of my daughter).
It seemed like he could play forever. But now Jim Palmer’s prediction for Jeter’s Hall of Fame selection in my 1999 Southwest Spirit story will be off only by a year.
Here is an excerpt from that story:
“Jeter has obtained the type of fame that almost transcends the game at an early age,” says David Cone, the Yankees pitchers who knows something about being young and on a contending team in New York from his days with the Mets. “It’s very unique. Every city we go to, there’s fans who want to see Derek.”
That’s a prescription for an old-fashioned swollen head, what these days might be called a Belle Head, after the Baltimore Orioles notoriously moody outfielder. But Jeter remains about as modest as a handsome, single, multimillionaire Manhattanite can muster. Ask him why and he says it’s because he wants to go home to his parents. His parents, he says, just won’t stand for anyone with a big head. Never have. Not even back in high school when he got A’s and batted .508 for Kalamazoo Central High.
“One thing you learn from playing baseball is this is a very humbling sport,” Jeter says getting dressed one afternoon earlier this season for a game with the Baltimore Orioles. “You can be on the top one minute the bottom the next. You can go 5-for-5 one day and 0-for-5 the next. I think you have to be on an even keel. You’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad. Not get too high and not get too low.”
Don’t check your calendar. This is 1999, not 1927. And that was the Yankees number 2, Derek Jeter speaking, not number 4, Lou Gehrig.