Sunday, June 12, 2011

John Wooden's One Problem with Derek Jeter

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The scoreboard announced,“attention fans: welcome to november baseball,” and Jeter and Kim engaged in the longest duel of the night — nine pitches, four foul balls, and a full count.

As he fought to stay alive in the at-bat, Jeter represented the battered state of the Yankee offense. Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius were planning to retire, Martinez was approaching free agency and the realization the Yanks weren’t bringing him back, and the benched Chuck Knoblauch knew he was done in the Bronx, too. This was a dynasty running on fumes, trying to sputter its way home one last time. So the shortstop who had been hearing his mother implore him to “do something” all week finally did something no major leaguer had ever done: he hit a home run in November.

At 12:04 a.m., Kim’s 3-2 pitch had landed on the other side of the 314-foot sign in right, not far from Jeffrey Maier–ville. The Giants’ Barry Bonds had belted a record 73 homers in the regular season, and none of them packed a wallop like this Jeter shot that cleared the wall by a matter of inches.

A fan held up a sign that read “Mr. November,” and as Jeter approached the plate and the manic pile of teammates surrounding it, he decided to take the kind of lunar leap Bobby Thomson took to punctuate his Shot Heard ’Round the World half a century earlier; Jeter had better hang time.

“It was the only showboating thing I ever did,” Thomson had said. Jeter could have made the same claim. One of his biggest fans, John Wooden, who likened Jeter to his championship point guards at UCLA, watched from his California home and said he was surprised that baseball’s most selfless superstar engaged in this celebration of self.

“Joe DiMaggio would’ve just rounded the bases and touched the plate,” Wooden said.

From The Captain

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