With Derek Jeter’s No. 2 all set to join the 21 other retired numbers (for 22 players) in Yankee history on Sunday night, an air of nostalgia has settled in for Yankee fans. There are the memories such as five World Series titles, 14 All Star selections, an All Star Game MVP and a World Series MVP, not to mention the numerous in-game moments as “the Flip” and “the Dive” into the stands during his 20-year career.
Having covered baseball in New York as a reporter for 38 years and worked the last 19 as an accredited Major League Baseball Official Scorer, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with Jeter on two different levels for his entire major league career.
As a reporter, I found Jeter to be an accessible and interesting interview. I was able to develop somewhat of a friendly/professional relationship with him. You came to learn that he didn’t really “give you a whole lot” and that he was very guarded with his answers, but he was cordial and he had a quick wit, which served him well with the New York media.
Jeter won five World Series with the Yankees. I was privileged to be in the winning locker room for four of those victories and would always make it a point to congratulate the future Hall of Famer.
Things began to change when I became a “scorer” in 1999. I wasn’t in the post game locker room as much and in the early years of my scoring career, I never really had any interaction with Jeter as far as filing or airing a complaint about a scoring call, but it all came to a head in 2006.
On Aug. 17, the Yankees were getting blown out by the Orioles in a getaway game at Yankee Stadium. In the top of the sixth, I called an error on Yankees’ third-baseman Alex Rodriguez for dropping a pop up. The replay showed Jeter had bumped Rodriguez from behind, so according to the scoring rules, he should get the error. I made the change and charged the error to Jeter but he didn’t know that had occurred until the reporters met with him after the game. Suffice it to say, he was not happy about it. I went downstairs to offer an explanation and we actually spoke about the call two times before the team got on the bus and went to Boston for a five game series. Some of the reporters witnessed our discussion and it got a lot of play in the papers because of the “feud” between Jeter and Rodriguez at that time. Associated Press mentioned my name in their game story (which they rarely do) and it made its way into many newspapers across the country.
Jeter was not one to complain about scorer’s calls but this was the one exception.
Then there was the indirect effect that Jeter had on the scorers. How many times can you remember Jeter busting his butt down the first base line after he hits one of those slow grounders or dribblers. His effort alone earned him points as far as awarding him a hit, but for those other scorers (or thought they were) in the press box, the feeling was to not award Jeter a hit. This facet alone got blown out of proportion as Jeter was approaching 3000 hits in 2011.
I had one of those calls for hit No. 2987 and the quote that appeared in the next day’s Daily News was, “If this is the kind of (official) scoring we could expect, Jeter might get his 4000th hit on this home stand.” Of course, no name was put to that quote. Some in the media felt we were favoring Jeter with the scoring calls so he would have a chance to get his 3000th hit at home. For a long time, many of the National media felt the New York scorers would favor Jeter, not only at the plate, but in the field as well. I assure you that this was not the case with any of us who have worked games that Jeter has participated in, nor would it ever be for any player in New York.
Directly or indirectly, Derek Jeter’s career had an impact on my professional career and what an impact it has been.