Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Night Jeter Broke Gehrig's Record

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Two nights later, a rainy September Friday, the Yankees staged a pregame ceremony to mark the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed the world. The crowd of 46,771 honored the fallen, waited through an eighty-seven-minute rain delay, and then listened as Jeter walked to the plate with the elegant sound of Bob Sheppard booming over the public address system in his voice-of-God way.

At ninety-nine, Sheppard was no longer strong enough to work the Yankee games he had been working since 1951, but Jeter was not about to take a cut in the Bronx without that voice introducing him to the crowd. He asked Sheppard to record his voice so it could be played for the balance of the captain’s career, and the P.A. announcer called that request one of the greatest compliments he had ever received.

So Sheppard shepherded him to the plate one more time. Now batting for the Yankees, Numbah 2, Derek Jeter, Numbah 2. The fans were standing and the camera lights were flashing until the mighty Casey struck out.

The captain went down on a curve ball from Baltimore’s Chris Tillman before he ended the newspaper countdowns in the third inning, with puddles forming on the warning track and fans huddled under their wet ponchos. Jeter cut loose his classic inside-out swing on Tillman’s 2-0 fastball and laced it past first base, past a diving Luke Scott, and into a deep corner of Yankee lore. The hit was nearly a carbon copy of the one that had tied Gehrig’s record two nights earlier, nearly a carbon copy of a thousand other singles (or so it seemed) in Jeter’s career.

The shortstop rounded first base, extended his arms wide, and clapped his hands together. It was 9:23 p.m., and Derek Sanderson Jeter stood as the most prolific Yankee hitter of them all.

Jeter approached the first-base coach, Mick Kelleher, and rested an arm on top of his head. The Yanks came pouring out of the dugout, led by Alex Rodriguez, and one by one they hugged their captain as the crowd roared its approval. Jeter raised his helmet high, waved it to all corners of the Stadium, and pointed and pumped his left fist toward his family’s suite above the on-deck circle, where his parents, sister, and his serious girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, had lifted their arms to the sky.

Wearing a military cap with the interlocking “NY,” Kelly grabbed the pendant around her neck and looked up adoringly at the woman some close to Jeter expected to be her mother-in-law. Nick Swisher, up next, dug into the batter’s box, but the fans kept chanting Jeter’s name, forcing him to wave that helmet one more time.

Once again, Charles and Dot had ordered their son to enjoy this moment. “It’s still hard to believe,” Derek would say. “Being a Yankee fan, this is something I never imagined. Your dream is always to play for the team, and once you get there, you just want to stay and try to be consistent. This wasn’t a part of it. This whole experience has been overwhelming.”

Jeter was surprised by the sight of his teammates coming over the dugout railing, and he was touched by the number of fans who had waited out the rain. “They’re just as much a part of this as I am,” the captain said.

George Steinbrenner would call his shortstop during a second rain delay, and the failing Boss would release a statement through his publicist that began like this: “For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter.”

From The Captain

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Day Derek Jeter was Discovered

In honor of Dick Groch, who is in attendance tonight to watch his blue-chip recruit chase history

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Dick Groch first saw Derek Jeter at a baseball camp in Mount Morris, Michigan, where the shortstop fi elded ground balls, showed off his arm, and ran the sixty-yard dash. Groch was standing next to an assistant coach at Michigan State who was taken by the teen’s talents and who wanted to get Jeter on his mailing list.

“You’d better save your postage,” Groch told the coach. “That kid’s not going to school.”

The Yankees’ scout had been watching Jeter for only half an hour when he ruined that Michigan State assistant’s day. Groch had been a junior baseball coach for eighteen years, and he had seen dozens of prospects come and go as a scout. He knew a star when he saw one.

“When you look in the window of a jewelry store,” Groch said, “it doesn’t take long to see that big ring. If you’ve been in it as long as I had, you know the difference between going to the Kentucky Derby and the county fair.”

From The Captain

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Day in Cleveland Jeter Proved Clyde King Wrong

George Steinbrenner's trusted aide, Clyde King, wanted rookie shortstop Derek Jeter benched before the '96 season opener in Cleveland

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Jeter was batting ninth in Torre’s order, and he represented the Yankees’ sixth different Opening Day shortstop in six years. Jeter was facing a forty-year-old Cleveland pitcher, Dennis Martinez, who had been signed by the Baltimore Orioles before Derek was born.

The rookie felt the butterflies in his stomach, butterflies with condor wings. He struck out looking in his fi rst at-bat when Martinez used a sidearm delivery that caught Jeter by surprise. Up again in the fifth inning, Jeter got ahead 2-0 in the count and waited to see if the ageless Cleveland starter would make a mistake. Sure enough, Martinez threw a high fastball, and Jeter turned on it as few thought he could.

He hit it 395 feet and into the left-field stands, giving the Yankees a 2–0 lead. “Wow!” Torre said. “I didn’t see that all spring.” Joe Girardi had the same reaction, as did most of the Yanks.

Clyde King, watching on TV, suddenly had an appraisal that sounded nothing
like the one he had issued in Torre’s Tampa office.

“When he hit that home run,” King said, “I went, ‘Wow, this could be
some kind of player.’ ”

From The Captain

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jeter and Tiger and Scandal

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The captain’s rocky 2010 actually started near the end of 2009, when his friend Tiger Woods was exposed as a serial adulterer in a scandal that would cost Woods his marriage and good name.Reports said that Jeter had introduced Tiger to one of his mistresses at the center of the storm, Rachel Uchitel, and that Jeter had also dated her at one time.

With so many superstar sports figures engulfed in scandal, Tiger and Jeter had represented the last men standing. That all changed when Woods crashed his Cadillac SUV into a fire hydrant and tree outside his home in the hours after the first Thanksgiving dinner of the rest of his life, unleashing a bimbo eruption to end all bimbo eruptions.

For Jeter, seeing his name connected to the Woods story in any way was an unfortunate development much too close for comfort.

“Man, they’re trying to bring me into this thing with Tiger, and I’ve
got nothing to do with it,” Jeter told a friend. “You see why I didn’t get

From The Captain

How Jeter Got An Extra 4-5 Million Off Randy Levine

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

They met in the skyscraping Trump World Tower home Jeter had put on the market for $20 million, this while Cashman met with his other future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, to work on the closer’s free agent deal in Rivera’s suburban Westchester home. The Rivera talks were as quiet as Rivera himself, even as the Red Sox were making an attempt to extricate him from the Bronx.

Jeter was the one who had to scratch and claw for his money while millions of fascinated fans looked on. Inside his Trump home, Jeter told Levine he wanted more money added to the incentives clauses in the proposal. At the time the offer included bonuses for winning awards such as league MVP, World Series or League Championship Series MVP, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove.

Jeter spent a couple of hours arguing that those awards are very difficult to win, and that the contract numbers didn’t reflect the degree of difficulty. He made persuasive arguments. Levine absorbed the captain’s points, called Cashman and Steinbrenner while Jeter called Close, and the two sides ended up a yard or two away from pay dirt.

As it turned out, Jeter made himself about $4 to $5 million in extra money in that meeting with Levine. The Yankees agreed to raise the ceiling on the incentives plan to $9 million, and that night the parties set up a meeting for late the following afternoon to close the deal at the Regency in the city.

From The Captain