Class and Character

Watching the end-of-the-season games between the Sox of Boston and the Bronx Bombers, the TV cameras would frequently cut-away from the action to catch a glimpse of Yankee Captain Derek Jeter.

Jeter (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The 40-year-old Jeter has amassed enough stats to easily make Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot. According to Baseball Reference, a website devoted to tracking stats of a number of sports players, Jeter is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits, 3,464; doubles, 544; games played, 2,746; stolen bases, 358; to name but a few. Honors include: 14 All-Star appearances, 5 Gold Glove awards, 5 Silver Slugger awards, 2 Hank Aaron awards, and the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits.

But there’s more to Jeter than his stats.

In a career spanning 20 years, playing exclusively with the high-profile New York Yankees, it’s remarkable to note that the man fans dubbed “Captain Clutch” has a stellar record when it comes to his behavior off the field. In fact, the only incident I could find was reported by the New York Daily News (Dec. 29, 2002):

“…Jeter’s activities off the field also have irked Steinbrenner, who believes the star is doing too many commercial endorsements and saying yes to too many charitable events. ‘As far as trying and being a warrior, I wouldn’t put anyone ahead of him,’ Steinbrenner said. ‘But how much better would he be if he didn’t have all his other activities? I tell him this all the time. I say, ‘Jetes, you can’t be everything to everybody. You’ve got to be focused on what’s important.’

“But while spearheading charity functions and pitching Gatorade is one thing, late nights on the town are something Jeter might definitely have to tone down. ‘When I read in the paper that he’s out until 3 a.m. in New York City going to a birthday party, I won’t lie. That doesn’t sit well with me,’ Steinbrenner said. ‘That’s a violation of [manager Joe Torre’s] curfew. That’s the focus I’m talking about.’ ”

In an age where athletes are regularly caught on-camera acting out in everything from stupid words to knocking-out their fiancées, Derek Jeter’s biggest offense is… violating curfew?

“Derek Jeter has always been above the fray,” pitcher Curt Shilling said. “As someone who’s wallowed in it, ‘foot-in-mouthed’ it hundreds of times, said dumb things and backed up dumber ones, it’s refreshing. He’s shown up, played, and turned in a first-ballot Hall of Fame career in the hardest environment in sports to do any/all of the above.”

At Saturday’s game at Fenway, Jeter was the designated hitter against Boston. In the fifth inning, of what can only be described as a “laugher” for the Yanks, Jeter was pulled from the lineup for another hitter. Boston fans immediately reacted with chants: “We want Jeter! WE WANT JETER!”

The die-hard Boston fans coming off of a difficult season, well-known for their dislike of New York ever since the Babe was sold to the Yankees, wanted more Jeter, not less!

“There is sadness for me,” Yankee Manager Joe Girardi said. “You never want to see great players leave.”

In a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times (Sept. 28), Jeter ended his career with his own special words to his biggest fans:

“New York, you’ve been with me for the past 20 years. Your grit fueled my will. Your history strengthened my resolve. Your scrutiny exposed my flaws. Your expectation was my inspiration. From my first at bat until my final out, you helped make me who I am. For that I am forever thankful.”

That’s class and character!

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