I lived in NYC from 1993 until 2001, when, as a growing family, we moved for some more space. During that time, the Yanks won four titles, including a Subway Series against the Mets, and Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera became MY Mick and Whitey. (Pettitte, Bernie and Posada were also key secondary figures, much like Skowron, Martin and Bauer.) And Mark Messier willed the Rangers to a title, still the most exciting fan moment of my life.
I don’t expect those of you who aren’t Yanks fans, or are Yankee haters, to fully appreciate what Jeter and Mo mean to me and many like me. These guys are OUR guys, OUR heroes. We’ll bore our kids and grandkids telling them about “The Flip” and “The Dive” and how automatic Mo was every year. These are OUR icons. When anyone will try to list the greatest Yankees ever, Jeter’s name will enter the discussion pretty darn quickly. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Berra. Jeter. And that order is flexible and will make a wonderful debate.
Mo hasn’t changed a thing in the last dozen-plus years. Probably weighs the same. Looks the same, minus some hair up top. Still has one key pitch that everyone knows is coming and yet no one can consistently hit it. He’s been human (1997, 2004) but he’s been a professional and humble throughout. And when he’s not showing that rare human moment, he’s as automatic as there ever was, the 9th inning silent assassin. No histrionics. Get the ball and throw the cutter. Game over. Next.
Jeter’s not perfect and I’m far from an apologist. He might be overrated, not the “clutchiest”, not the best fielder, has limited range, has limited power and as vanilla as they come. But he’s the Captain and has delivered to his fans four titles and countless memorable moments. And he’s done it in a way that has made all of us proud. He’s among the very few who I am happy to point my boys to and say “watch him and do it the way he does it“. His respect for the game is unflinching and the respect around the game for him is universal. I mean, wouldn’t every father want their young son to become the next Derek Jeter? I’m sure my father’s generation wanted their kids (us) to become the next Mantle, but off the field, Mantle was as flawed as any, even if they/we didn’t know the extent until afterwards as the media protected Mantle back then. When your child wants to buy a jersey or a shirt of a player today, do you have to consider the character of the name? Has he been associated with drugs, violence, etc.? Does he embody the values that you want to instill in your child? The list of players suddenly narrows. Jeter’s atop that list, in my book.
That Jeter has tied, and will soon pass, The Iron Horse is a major moment for us. Not that he wasn’t anyway, but he’s among the immortals right now and he’s OUR immortal. That’s what makes this so important. For those who aren’t fans, I don’t really expect you to fully get it and I’m not insulted in the least if you question it, mock it or chose to ignore it. But you should understand why we’re making this into something pretty big.
Because it is.