Derek Jeter made his last appearance in Fenway Park and, his last at bat resulted in a single and an RBI. Before going to the dugout, he shook Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz’s hand and then tipped his hat to the fans. Subsequently, he received a standing ovation by all of the fans and the players from both sides and proceeded to hug each Yankee player in the dugout. He then came out of the dugout and, he once more tipped his hat to the fans that were all screaming Derek Jeter.
How different Jeter’s farewell was from Ted Williams’ last at bat at Fenway on September 28th, 1960, a game I saw on television as a loyal Red Sox fan. This at bat and game was immortalized by the essay written by John Updike: The Kid Bids the Hub Adieu. The Red Sox were not in contention that year but, still in all, we all hoped that Ted would deliver one of his blasts and, sure enough, on his last at bat he hit a home run. As he circled the bases, there was an explosion of cheers and, when he entered the dugout, the fans continued pleading for him to come out of the dugout and take one last curtain call. He never did and that at bat was, in fact, his last because he did not go with the team to New York for the Red Sox final away game series.
In contrast, Jeter after 20 years of playing with the Yankees, allowed himself to appreciate the good will he had accrued over this period of time. Fenway Park was filled with Yankee fans, and if there were any boos from Red Sox fans, they were muted by the roaring chants of Derek Jeter. For so many years, I had viewed Jeter as the enemy, but recently, I came to respect him and actually started liking him as a person: I was beginning to see him as a genuine person more than just a New York Yankee.
Many might wonder why all the fuss about Jeter? When all we hear about is how athletes misbehave, I believe that we all want to celebrate a guy that has managed to keep his shirt clean for 20 years. Unlike so many other famous people, Jeter has stayed out of the news media which tends to taint the rich and famed. How has he done this? Like George Clooney and Warren Beatty, but unlike so many other athletes and movie stars, he did not marry early, thereby, avoiding inevitable divorce and bad feelings that often feed the rumor mill. He knew he was not ready to settle down, a judgment call that many men, especially famous ones, appear to be unable to make. And when he does settle down, the likelihood of him staying settled down will be high given the fact that he has been raised by very loving parents who have attended many of his games.
We know that Derek Jeter has dated some beautiful women and so, apparently, did the Yankee owner, the late George Steinbrenner. Back in 2006, Mr. Steinbrenner was quoted in a newspaper article saying that Jeter’s bachelor lifestyle had affected his play in a negative way. What happened? Rather, than the Boss disciplining Jeter, the two of them were asked to do a commercial for Visa with the message that Jeter could go anywhere on his Visa card. This is an example of how an individual with good social skills could make what appeared to be a lemon situation into lemonade.
We applaud Derek Jeter, not so much because he was a great baseball player, but more so that he has had the heart and will to play the game to his best ability. His judgment in both his public life, as a baseball player, and his private life has been excellent: This, the unstained but real human being, is the type of athlete we long to cheer. It is sad that there are so few Derek Jeters left amongst our athletes of today.