Baseball Immortal: A Review

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)

Derek Jeter won five World Series, collected over 3,000 hits and dated one beautiful celebrity after another. Yet, at times, it seemed like the public still didn’t know too much about the Yankees captain. He was friendly to the media without saying anything eye-opening.

Danny Peary’s new book “Baseball Immortal: Derek Jeter: A Career In Quotes” (Page Street Publishing, $19.99, 368 pages) uses quotes from Jeter as well as family members, teammates, coaches, opponents, and people who covered the team to give insight into the future Hall of Famer.

The author did an excellent job with a subject who was far from the most interesting interview. As Mike Lupica wrote last year, “Derek Jeter prided himself, for 20 years, on saying as little as possible.”

In his introduction, Peary notes that Jeter was protective of his privacy, comparing him to Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes and J.D. Salinger.

As broadcaster Michael Kay described Jeter, “If you knock on his door, he’ll talk to you for four or five hours through the screen, but you’ll never get invited in.”

However, looking back, Jeter had a lot of insightful things to say over two decades.

The oral history book was different for Peary, who previously wrote books about other New York baseball stars like Gil Hodges and Roger Maris. For those books, Peary interviewed hundreds of people and added to what was available. Here, the author took material from books and articles to create an in-depth narrative.

“Part of the challenge was assembling a hard-to-put-down book of quotes telling the story of a player who was known for not giving reporters interesting quotes—which I believe I accomplished,” Peary said.

There are many interesting stories told about the early 90s. Former Tigers catcher and Michigan coach Bill Freehan wanted Jeter to play for the Wolverines. There are also many quotes about what a butcher Jeter was defensively in the minors but was able to adjust and improve. It’s also amazing to think of Jeter in another uniform, but five teams had to pass on Jeter before New York drafted the kid who grew up wanting to play shortstop for the Yankees.

With all of the tributes Jeter received last year, it’s fun to look back to 1996, when he was thought to be the weak link on a team of veterans. The Yankees even had talks of trading to Mariano Rivera to Seattle for Felix Fermin.

“It is never too early to ponder how long a rope Jeter has—and whether it has a noose at the end of it.” –Joel Sherman, New York Post, March 7, 1996

The shortstop quickly won fans and teammates over with his attitude and talent, winning Rookie of the Year and helping the Yankees win their first World Series since 1978.

It seemed that from his rookie season, Jeter lived a charmed life. He would be part of seven pennant winning teams and spent the second half of his career setting records.

Jeter’s role changed over the years. Bernie Williams, David Cone, Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez were the veterans during New York’s playoff runs from 1996-2001. For the 2009 World Series run, it was Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera.

The quartet was labeled the Core Four.

“We all had the same mindset. We had that mindset from the minor leagues coming up. We enjoyed winning. We were spoiled early on, but we worked really hard, and none of us made excuses.”

–Jeter on the Core Four, 2014

Jeter hit .334 in 2009 and then at age 38, led the AL in hits in 2012. Injuries would limit him to 17 games in 2013 and turned his 2014 season into an emotional farewell even while hitting .256.

“We can put on the uniform, and we can play in the stadium, but we’re not the New York Yankees unless Derek Jeter is playing shortstop.” –Mike Mussina, 2003

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