Derek Jeter was the Captain.
To Yankee fans, that’s all we need to know.
When he was named Captain, he achieved a status not granted to the likes of Joe Dimaggio or Mickey Mantle.
One of my earliest memories of Derek Jeter occurred before he was Captain, in his rookie year.
The Yankees were playing the Red Sox on a Saturday afternoon in September of 1996. I was there with my family sitting in Row X of the Old Stadium. The game went into extra innings, and Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the eleventh inning.
He proceeded to do what he would be famous for doing all throughout his twenty-year career with the Yankees. He got a clutch hit to drive in the winning run.
Fans would one day be calling this rookie, Captain Clutch.
Another vivid memory occurred during a game that I cannot recall when it was played or against what team. All I remember is that the bases were loaded. Jeter was on first. The count went 3 ball and two strikes.
On subsequent pitches, the carousel began, meaning all the runners would be running on the pitch.
There may have been two out, I can’t remember. I do know there were a couple of 3-2 pitches, but finally, the batter (it may have been Jason Giambi) got a single to right field.
He scored from first on a single to right.
One of the things I used to marvel at was watching Jeter go from first to third.
He was just an exciting player who, in the days of steroids and players hitting home runs by the score, was content to perfect his “Jeterian” swing by neatly putting an inside/outside bat on the ball and punching it to right field.
By the standards of the day, Derek Jeter was not a home run hitter. Nevertheless, it always seemed that when Jeter hit a homer, it was essential to a win.
At the time he began his career, there were two other shortstops to whom he was compared. Although they did not all play for a New York team, it was a modern-day version of Willie, Mickey, and The Duke.
Alex Rodriquez and Nomar Garciaparra were superb baseball players. They were superb shortstops. They both hit more home runs than Jeter, and many thought they were better defensive shortstops as well.
In any discussion about this trio, I would acknowledge the skill of the other players and merely say, “You can have either one of them, I’ll stick with Jeter.”
I stand by my decision and, evidently, so did the Baseball Hall of Fame.