Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Jeter Hangs 'em Up

Jeter Hangs ‘em Up



It took a little while for Derek Jeter to hang up his spikes. An entire season, in fact. It has become a tradition for the very best players in professional sports to play their final games in stadia throughout the year, and receive gifts and accolades from the fans. I call it the “victory lap”.



In the world of baseball, no one is more deserving than Derek Jeter. On May 29, 1995, Jeter got the call to suit up for the New York Yankees for his first game. He had been a Yankees fan, growing up, as he had attended games with his grandfather. His favourite player was Dave Winfield.



He had been drafted by the Yankees in 1992, and spent time in the minor leagues. (A note to aspiring young athletes: the road to success in sport can be rocky. In his first season in pro ball, Jeter batted .202, just above the Mendoza Line. He ran up long distance bills of $ 400 per month to keep in touch with his parents. He was frustrated, and he was homesick.)



To his credit, Jeter has emerged from the murky waters of professional sport unscathed. He was never associated with the drug scandals. His father may have played a part in that. Jeter Senior is a substance abuse counsellor. There is no doubt in my mind that he may have had some “fatherly advice” for his son over the years. In addition, Derek signed a contract every year as a youth. It stated that he would follow “acceptable forms of behaviour”.



Tony Fernandez signed with the Yankees for the 1995 season. It was when he went down with an injury that Jeter got the call. Jeter struggled somewhat in his first season, then seemed to find the magic. He won “Rookie of the Year” honours in 1996, due to the fact that he played fewer than 130 games in 1995.



The New York Yankees have seen  quite a few good players pass through the locker room over the years. Mantle, Maris, Ruth, Gehrig…it is a long and impressive list; however, Jeter surpassed many of those legends in several statistical categories in his 20 year career with the Bronx Bombers: hits, (more than 3 000), doubles, games played, stolen bases, at bats…It is a very long list, which says a lot about his character as well.



Jeter wears five World Series rings. He contributed significantly in all of his years in New York. He played 16 times in the post season, a tribute to his teammates as well. He batted .308 in the post season, and .310 for his career. He won several “Silver Slugger” awards, and “Gold Glove” titles as well. He patented a move at short stop, fielding the ball, pivoting, jumping high in the air, and firing a strike to first base.


I do hope that Jeter will find a spot for himself in the game. Another former Yankee great, Don Mattingly, now manages the Los Angeles Dodgers. For some of you old Yankee fans, (are you out there, Bruce Insley?), there is an adjustment when you see “Donnie Baseball” in the Dodger uniform. For better or for worse, that is the nature of the game today. Close your eyes and picture Jeter in a Blue Jay inform! It could happen!



From the game itself, Jeter put $ 265 million in the bank. He has also done quite well in the endorsement game. Only Ichiro has made more from activities off the baseball field, especially in the Japanese market.



And now, back to the game. The Orioles and Kansas City! As Dizzy Dean would say, “Who woulda thunk it!” Dust off that plate, umpy, and bring on October baseball.



James Hurst


October 7, 2014       

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