Bronx, NY—The biggest day of the 2014 season for the New York Yankees took place on Sunday afternoon, September7, when fans of Derek Jeter were given an opportunity to express their gratitude to him for being a living example of not just a great athlete but of living a life worthy of inspiration and emulation. It was a day even more for those who admire Jeter than it was for him.
It is unlikely that the Yankees will qualify for the post-season this year. Thus, the days that will be remembered by Yankees fans from the 2014 season will be Derek Jeter day on September 7 and September 28, the final day of the season and of Jeter’s career.
Jeter was joined on the field by members of his very close immediate family, his mother and father, his sister and her son and his grandmother. It was a a meaningful occasion for them as Jeter said they had never been on the field before, He also let everyone know, “The reason I became a Yankee fan was my grandmother.”
A representation of his teammates during the past 20 years was also present. His trainer, Gene Monahan, and manager, Joe Torre, were at one with the players in Jeter’s eyes. At a press conference before the ceremony, Torre gave his opinion of his star player, “It’s too important [for me] not to be here. Someone like Jeter doesn’t come down the pike too often. You can’t replace Jeter. There’s something special about him.”
Also present were several members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, not teammates of Jeter, but admirers of the Yankee captain, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, who was Jeter’s baseball idol when Derek was a youngster, and Cal Ripkin, Jr. Another legendary basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan was also present to give tribute.
Another indication of the unique nature of the Jeter ceremony and the respect in which he is held was the presence of so many members of the Steinbrenner family bearing gifts to him. George’s widow, Joan, daughters, Jennifer and Jessica, son, Hal and his wife, Christina, and son-in-law Felix Lopez, as well as every grandchild of the late owner were there for Jeter. The most valuable gift was presented by Hal to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, $222,222.22.
The importance of his foundation to the Yankee shortstop was recognized by the invitation of every class of Jeter’s Leaders who unveiled a 30’ by 30’ banner of Jeter batting that now will hang in the Great Hall of Yankee Stadium.
A sold-out crowd of 48,110, many paying very high re-sale prices, came to cheer their hero. Even the press box was filled beyond capacity because of many who do not cover the Yankees but took advantage of their ability to be admitted on Sunday.
Throughout the game that followed the ceremony the giant video board in centerfield played a wide variety of videos in which emotional tributes and words of gratitude were delivered by superstars of many sports and celebrities. These video segments exhibited Jeter’s universal appeal in contemporary society.
The lengthy planning and excellent execution of the superlative program deserves to be credited to the New York Yankees VP of Marketing Debbie Tymon and her excellent staff. When the Yankees are so often praised for producing classy and thoughtful public events like the annual Old Timers Day or the closing ceremonies for the old Yankee Stadium, the appreciation for those unforgettable days should be directly given to Tymon.
The desire to support Jeter extended to the streets outside the Stadium. A block party was organized by Dr. Cary Goodman, the understanding executive director of the 161st Street Business District (161 BID). Cake and souvenirs were provided to the party-goers who were entertained by a DJ.
Support for Jeter came from as far away as 200 miles above Earth as three astronauts saluted the Yankee legend.
Many wonderful words of praise were uttered on Sunday and many more will be throughout his final month in MLB. An example of the strongest came from two invited superstars. A Hall of Fame shortstop who preceded Jeter in baseball remarked on Jeter as a ballplayer, “You don’t judge Derek Jeter on home runs and runs batted in. There are a million intangibles that he has. It’s hard to measure or define all the magic that Derek Jeter brings to the table. He’s a champion all the way around.”
Another sports legend, Michael Jordan, knew Jeter during the latter’s earliest days in pro baseball, “I played with him in fall ball in Arizona. He’s a great leader just by the way he carries himself. This kid does everything the right way. Nobody can criticize him. He’s made the right decision every time. He’s my idol.”
The day would have been perfect for Yankee fans if a game hadn’t been played after the ceremony. For the second time in the three weekend contests with Kansas City, the Yankees were shut out. To add insult to injury, the three runs scored against the Yankees in those two losses were unearned. Yankee batters were held to four hits on Sunday. The first of the hits appropriately was made by Jeter.