Book review: The Captain — The Journey of Derek Jeter


I know I’m a couple of months late on this, but I finally got around to finishing Ian O’Connor’s book The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter.

O’Connor makes it known in the introduction that the book is his and Jeter had nothing to do with it, besides granting interviews. I can understand why he wrote that, seeing as how the whole thing is a slurpfest on Derek. Ian pretty much preforms literature fellatio on #2 throughout the whole thing, but it is a good biography that covers Jeter’s early life through his contentious contract negotiations this past offseason.

Read more about my thoughts on the book after jump.

The first line reads “Like all good stories about a prince, this one starts in a castle.” So that should tell you everything you need to know about this biography. The story begins with Jeet’s childhood summers spent on Greenwood Lake. The stories about his youth are OK, but the book, obviously, gets better when he makes it as a professional. Apparently, throughout his childhood Jeter predicted that he would become the shortstop for the Yankees, which, of course, he did. He is quite the soothsayer because he would also boast that he would one day marry Mariah Carey. He didn’t marry Mariah, but, as I’m sure you know, he did date her during his rookie season in 1996.

Ian also mentions that when scouts would come to watch him play in high school, damn near all of them said that he would one day make it to the Hall of Fame. Nothing is set in stone, but it looks like that will eventually happen as well.

The book gets better during the ’92 draft. It is incredible how many things had to fall in place for Jeter to get drafted by the Yankees at the sixth pick. Hal Newhouser, a scout for the Astros, pleaded with Houston to take Jeter with the first pick, but they were concerned he would want too much money to sign and went in another direction. Newhouser was so salty that the team passed that he quit his job.

The next three teams also chose not to draft Jeet and the Reds had the fifth pick; it was a foregone conclusion that they would take Derek. However, Julian Mock, a life-long Yankee fan and the Reds official who was in charge of making the selection, thought it was a foolish decision to take a shortstop when the team had Barry Larkin. Mock instead selected outfielder Chad Mottola. Chad who, you ask? Exactly. The Yanks took Jeter and the rest is history.

There are some good stories about Jeter’s time in the minors, especially how he made 56 errors one season (including one behind a furious Andy Pettitte) and hit .210 during another season. The book really gets good when he begins his career with the Yanks. It touches on his first call up in ’95 and his time with the team during that year’s ALDS with the Mariners, and how well he carried himself while on the roster.

Then O’Connor talks about how Jeter was almost traded prior to the ’96 season, that would have been catastrophic for the franchise. In addition, there were talks within the organization at one point or another of also trading Mo, Pettitte and Bernie Williams. If you were a fan back then and really followed the team, some really cool stuff is in the book. It also talks about the Jeffrey Maier play and how he shouldn’t have even been at the game.

Obviously the juicy stuff occurs when A-Rod is traded to the team. That chapter is pretty good, but if you watched Sportscenter when the book was released I’m sure you heard all the good gossip.

Other interesting facts from the book:

  • When Joe Torre returned to the team after beating prostate cancer, Red Sox fans gave him a standing ovation.
  • There’s a page or so on how he would talk to women at bars or clubs. While out “Jeter would often ask a wingman, teammate, or staffer to approach a woman he would like to meet and extend an invitation on his behalf. If Jeter and the woman were interested in taking the evening elsewhere, they would often leave separately, through different doors. Sometimes Jeter would leave a club in a separate car while his driver transported the woman to their meeting place.” That, my friends, is what you call a baller.
  • O’Connor also makes this interesting analogy — Jeter : A-Rod :: Thurman Munson : Reggie Jackson. He points out some crazy parallels between the two sets of relationships. He also points out how the shortstop and third baseman didn’t get along before finally reconciling in 2009.
  • O’Connor also has some great quotes from Sheffield bashing Torre.
  • There’s an interesting part about Girardi and how everyone thought he was a putz in ’08. “Girardi did not have Torre’s people skills, either, did not have his talent for working a room. That was never more evident than on a road trip in early September [2008], a trip the Yankees started 12 1/2 games out of first place. Girardi told his players they were not hustling and walked up to a table in the middle of the visitors’ clubhouse in Detroit, a table most observers thought was about to get flipped. Instead of turning it over, Girardi ran around the table three or four times at a cartoonish speed. When he finally stopped, a sweating, panting Girardi told a clubhouse full of stunned and silent Yankees, ‘That’s how you hustle.'”One witness, according to the book, said the stunt was among the most embarrassing things he had seen a manager do. A second witness said, “Joe tried something, and it fell flat. It looked like he was losing it a bit.”

There are plenty of other good stories and anecdotes in the book, I just wanted to point out  a few. If you are a Yankee fan, I highly recommend this book; it has some interesting stuff. If you’re not a fan don’t waste your time, Ian O’Connor will just give you more reasons to hate the team and its fans.