The year was 1995. The Yankees had endured some pretty rough seasons as the team was amid a 13-year playoff drought. That all changed on May 29, 1995 when Derek Jeter made his debut in pinstripes. Although he went hitless in his first game, Jeter became the heart and soul of the Yankee dynasty for the next 19 seasons. As Jeter’s 20th season with the Yankees is ready to open, he decided it would be his last.
Jeter leaves behind quite a legacy. He will forever live in Yankees lore amongst the greats of baseball’s past like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Berra. He built his reputation on the most timely of hits and awe-inspiring plays. To try and narrow down so many shining moments over his illustrious career to just a Top Ten was no easy task… But it sure was fun.
TOP TEN MOMENTS OF DEREK JETER’S CAREER
10. The 1996 Rookie of the Year Campaign.
It only took one full year in the bigs for Jeter to capture his first award. His season stats (.314, 10 HRs, 78 RBI, 104 runs, and 14 SBs) were modest compared to what was in store over the next 18 years. There is no coincidence that the Yankees won their first World Series in 17 years at the conclusion of the future captain’s rookie season.
9. The Jeffrey Maier “Home Run”.
Jeter needed a little help in hitting his first of many dramatic playoff home runs. Down 4-3 in the 8th inning against the Orioles in the 1996 ALCS, Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field. Enter 11-year-old Jeffrey Maier who reached over the wall and grabbed the ball as Tony Tarasco closed in for the catch. It stood as a home run and tied the game that the Yanks would later win. A dynasty was born.
8. The Speech.
“From all of us up here, it’s a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and come out here and play. Every member of this organization, past and present, has been calling this place home for 85 years. There’s a lot of tradition, a lot of history and a lot of memories. The great thing about memories is you’re able to pass them along from generation to generation.
“Although things are going to change next year and we’re going to move across the street, there are a few things with the New York Yankees that never change. That’s pride, tradition, and most of all, we have the greatest fans in the world. We’re relying on you to take the memories from this stadium and add them to the new memories we make at the new Yankee Stadium and continue to pass them on from generation to generation. We just want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world.”
He claims he ad-libbed that speech. Apparently he’s amazing at anything he does.
7. His first hit.
On May 30, 1995, Derek Jeter singled off of Tim Belcher of the Seattle Mariners for his first career hit. The first person to say anything to him was then-Mariner first baseman, Tino Martinez. “Congratulations, I hope you get many more,” Martinez said. Jeter obliged and has gotten exactly 3,315 more hits to date.
6. The 2000 MVPs.
At the 2000 All-Star Game in Atlanta, Jeter tallied three hits, including the game-winning 2-run single to become the first Yankee to take home the Game’s MVP Award. Later that same season, Jeter would claim the World Series MVP by batting .409 with 2 HRs as the Yankees defeated the cross-town rival Mets. He became the first player in baseball history to take home both awards in the same season.
5. Passing Gehrig.
On 9/11/09 against the Orioles, Jeter collected his 2,722nd hit on a single to right field to lead off the third inning. With that hit, Jeter surpassed Lou Gehrig to become the Yankees all-time hits leader. Think about the names he passed: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio. They aren’t just Yankees greats, they are legends of the game. It speaks volumes for what Jeter has accomplished in pinstripes.
4. The Dive(s).
The first time we saw Jeter fly into the stands was in 2001 against Oakland in the ALDS. It paled in comparison to what fans witnessed on July 1, 2004. In the 12th inning, Jeter chased a Trot Nixon fly ball down the third base line and literally flew head first into the stands. He came out of the stands bloodied and bruised but with baseball in hand. The Yankees would rally for the win in the 13th inning. It was another career defining play for Jeter, showing the heart and guts of a champion.
3. Captain 3000.
On July 9, 2011, Jeter clubbed a home run off of Tampa Bay ace David Price to become the 28th player in the history of the game to join the 3,000 Hit Club. He finished the day a perfect 5-for-5 as he left his mark on the new Yankee Stadium.
2. The Flip.
It’s one of the most memorable plays in baseball history; Jeter comes from nowhere to cut-off Shane Spencer‘s high throw and backhand the ball to Jorge Posada, who in turn tags out Jeremy Giambi. Some will argue Jeter was simply in the right spot doing his job. Most will agree that it was the most incredible defensive play they have ever seen. Whatever the case, it was yet another moment in the most important of situations that Captain Clutch embraced to the fullest.
1. Mr. November.
Of course the first November home run in the history of the game came off the bat of Derek Jeter. The game-winning homer tied the World Series at 2 games a piece. It was much more than that, though. The 2001 post-9/11 World Series was always more about New York than it was about the Yankees. New York needed a hero, and Jeter stepped up and became one.
Derek Jeter has a flair for the dramatic unmatched by any other player in baseball. By season’s end, this list will probably change because you can bet a beer at Stan’s that Jeter will add a last few memorable moments as he walks off into the sunset.