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Jeter Reached Legend Status Before Our Very Eyes

Derek Jeter walked off the Fenway Park field in Boston on Sunday.

Derek Jeter walked off the Fenway Park field in Boston on Sunday.

It was the third inning and the New York Yankees' captain had just delivered an infield RBI single.

Jeter left the field to a standing ovation suitable for framing from the fans. As expected, the Boston Red Sox and Yankees players joined in.

Enter Goosebumps City.


Jeter, 40, finished his career with 3,465 hits, the sixth most in MLB history. He is the only Yankee to record 3,000 hits in pinstripes, and he finished his career with a .310 batting average.


And with that, a legend exited Major League Baseball.

It's one thing to hear about players that were larger than life, to Google stories about athletes that played before our time, or to even watch a Hollywood-made movie depicting a great player from yesteryear before there was color video to capture his historie career.

In this case, even those in their early twenties know Jeter; they cheer for him, admire him, respect him, and wear his jersey with pride in every bar and on every street.


They've witnessed a skinny kid begin a career with high hopes blossom into a full-blown star and retire a living legend all before their eyes.

Along the way, they also saw Jeter win, and win, and win, and win and win. Yes, Jeter won in 1996, his first season as the Yankees' every day shortstop, the first of his five World Series titles.


The Captain made signature plays, especially defensively, that remain in the minds of every baseball fan. "The Flip", when Jeter, running to a position that he wasn't even supposed to be in, took a relay throw and tossed it to catcher Joe Girardi to nail the Oakland A's Jeremy Giambi at the plate in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.

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In 2004, there was "The Dive" when he dove head first into the stands for a foul ball. He came out bloody, but more importantly, he made the catch and the out.

He also played the hero with the bat, being dubbed "Mr. November" when he hit an extra-inning home run to win the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 as the stroke of midnight as the October 31st game proceeded into the next day.

Jeter's 3,000 hit was a classic too. He went 5-for-5 on that day in 2011, the magical hit coming on a home run off of Tampa Bay's ace, David Price, which enabled Jeter to reach a plateau that NO Yankee had before

Just when we thought he couldn't top his past heorics, Thursday September 25th arrived, his last game at Yankee Stadium. The night seemed to play out better than a scripted Hollywood production. In his final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth against the Baltimore Orioles, the score tied at five a piece, Jeter delivered an opposite field, game winning walk-off RBI single that brought down the house in "Da Bronx".



It was what fans paid big bucks to see and prayed for the rain not to ruin- for The Captain to go out like The Captain.


And Jeter did not disappoint.

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The always calm and collected Jeter didn't shed any visible tears, but many others around the city certainly did.

"There were a couple of times where I almost lost it," said Jeter to the media after that miracle ending. "In the first inning, I was thinking 'Please don't hit it to me.' In the last inning, I almost lost it."

Jeter ended his Yankee Stadium career as the career leader in hits, runs, doubles and steals at home.


"He has played on the brightest stage in baseball for basically two decades and probably has represented the game as well as almost anyone that's ever played the game in the history of the game." Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's as classy as a guy and as tough a competitor as I've ever seen. He deserves all the praise he's getting."

Some said it was wrong to cheer a visiting player in your own ballpark, especially a Yankee.

But this was different. Jeter was different. Yes he was wearing the pinstripes and was on the team that most in MLB America love to hate. But Jeter was bigger than just the uniform he word. He was on par with Michael Jordan, one of the greatest players of our lifetime.

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"There's only one other guy in baseball that I had more respect for- Stan Musial and Derek Jeter" Tigers' Hall of Famer Al Kaline said, "Becasue they are both class, class, class, class all the way."


And Jeter went out with class, playing in his final game in Boston instead of sitting it out. He got a hit in his final at-bat and the Yankees beat the rival Red Sox.


So the ultimate winner went out as a winner. No surprise. That's what legends do. Best of all, we got to see this entire story from start to finish.

And that, to fans, is worth it all.

RE2PECT
 

Rob Parker is a columnist for The Shadow League. He is also an analyst for Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles. He co-hosts The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California.