Derek Jeter: No Need to Perpetuate the Legend
MSG Network is running a series of promos on its MSG+ channel titled "Greatest Days." In these ads, New York sports fans (actors) recount their greatest memories of their favorite teams.
The spot I saw most recently features a Yankees "fan" celebrating the memory of Derek Jeter diving into the stands to catch a foul ball against the Red Sox on July 1, 2004. The fan goes so far as to use a railing to illustrate Jeter reaching for the ball as he dives into the stands to make the catch. The catch has become part of Yankee lore.
Only it never happened. At least, it didn't happen the way the baseball hype machine would have you believe it did. And with that, much to my annoyance, MSG perpetuates a myth that extends well beyond the Yankee fan base.
Even ESPN.com's recap of the game bites hard on the myth: "The All-Star shortstop made one of the greatest plays of his championship career, hurtling headfirst into the stands at full tilt for a catch that ended the 12th inning."
Feel free to take a look at the video yourself, if you can still find it (I no longer can—this page on MLB.com has a link but the video does not load). What you'll see is Jeter get a great jump and make a very good, hustling play. But he certainly does not dive into the stands to make the catch.
In fact, he made the catch right near the foul line.
You could realistically argue that the ball would have landed in fair territory. On a full sprint, Jeter was unable to slow down after securing the ball and consequently fell over the wall into the stands.
It was a remarkable effort in a big spot. Commend Jeter for his instincts, his hustle, and his focus in holding onto the ball. But the ease with which the play has been mischaracterized has always bothered me.
How does one make a diving catch into the stands on a ball that looks like it might have been fair? The history of baseball has been written to make it so.
Jeter has already accomplished enough in his career to be considered a legend. Even if you want to downplay his offensive abilities or criticize his defensive range, he has been one of those special players whose aura (yes, Curt, I said aura) is even greater than his wealth of accomplishments.
That's what happens when you're an All-Star shortstop and captain who wins the World Series four out of five years and spends, so far, his entire career with the Yankees.
We don't need to make Derek Jeter any greater. We don't need to add to Yankee lore by inventing plays that didn't happen. The genuine stuff is convincing enough.
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