The New York Yankees are tearing up baseball right now and the fans are flocking in droves to see this new version of the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees had no idea that their under-the-radar plan for the future would take hold so quickly. Maybe that’s why they scheduled Derek Jeter Night on Mother’s Day in hopes of drawing a larger crowd.
The Bombers will take time out from bopping the rest of the major league to honor Jeter in a ceremony before Sunday night’s contest against the Houston Astros. He will have his iconic No. 2 retired and a plaque mounted in his honor out in Monument Park. The fan favorite will get his just desserts in what should be a raucous affair.
Jeter will become the 22nd player in franchise history to have his number retired and first since teammates Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte had their numbers retired during the 2015 season. His No. 2 will be the 21st number retired by the Yankees and will leave no single-digit uniform numbers available for future use (sorry, Clint Frazier).
Yankees’ retired numbers: 1 (Billy Martin), 3 (Babe Ruth), 4 (Lou Gehrig), 5 (Joe DiMaggio), 6 (Joe Torre), 7 (Mickey Mantle), 8 (Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra), 9 (Roger Maris) 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 20 (Jorge Posada), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Mariano Rivera and Jackie Robinson), 44 (Reggie Jackson), 46 (Andy Pettitte), 49 (Ron Guidry), 51 (Bernie Williams).
No one knew the impact Jeter would have on the Yankees, and baseball for that matter, when he broke into the majors back in 1995 and won the AL Rookie of the Year the next year in helping the Yankees win their first World Series championship in 18 years.
The Yankees must have known something, they assigned Jeter a single-digit number, which was usually reserved for player they planned on keeping around. He was asked if he thought the number had any significance at the time back in 1995 before he played his first game in Seattle.
“No,” Jeter said in an interview with Jack Curry of the YES Network. “You walk into the clubhouse, you’re scared to death, you’re nervous, you’re intimidated…I never played in a dome before let alone the major leagues and all the way on the other side of the country. Looking at the number – the last thing I looked at was the number. I’ve said it time and time again, I think they gave it to me because it was the smallest uniform. Mike Gallego, you know, wore it before me. I think that’s the only reason why. There are some other stories out there but I personally though it was because the size of the uniform.”
Well, he filled up that uniform and then some. The kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan played a franchise-record 20 seasons with the Pinstripes, retiring with a personal career winning percentage of .593 (1,628-1,117-2) and five World Series championships (1996, 1998- 2000, ’09). He was a 14-time American League All-Star and is sixth in baseball history with 3,465 career hits.
Jeter tops the Yankees’ all-time list in hits, games played (2,747), doubles (544), stolen bases (358), at-bats (11,195), singles (2,595) and hit-by-pitches (170). He recorded eight seasons with at least 200 hits and is one of two players in franchise history along with Lou Gehrig (eight) with as many as four. He was named the Yankees’ captain in 2003, a position he held until his retirement in 2014.
Like everyone else around him, he had a feeling he’d be a star, but not this big a star. Like all the great ones, Jeter remains humble and reserved. He is still a bit numb when talking about the honor that is about be bestowed upon him this weekend.
“You never look that far into the future,” Jeter told Curry. “I obviously had a dream of being a shortstop for the Yankees and once you get there, you just want to stay as long as possible. You never even think about having a 20-year career.”
“I came up in an era with the Boss (George Steinbrenner) where you’re trying to keep your job,” said. “I felt I was playing for my job every year. But I guess if you do it long enough and you’re consistent. good things happen,” he said. “But I still can’t imagine what it’s gonna feel like to have my number retired.”
Curry asked him what he plans on doing once the moment arrives Sunday night to what will undoubtedly be a full house at Yankee Stadium. Jeter wants to keep it organic.
“I want to go in there with no preconceived notions whatsoever,” he said. “I don’t want to try to think of what it may feel like or what I’m going to say or what I’m going to do. I just want to go. A lot of times when I was playing I never really say back and tried to enjoy the moment, I was always ‘what’s next, what’s next’, well, there’s nothing next after this so I’ll just sit back and enjoy it.”