New York Yankees: Chad Curtis Was Right When He Laced into Derek Jeter

Harold FriendChief Writer IJune 22, 2011

Chad Curtis and the Yankees: Friends Again
Chad Curtis and the Yankees: Friends AgainJim McIsaac/Getty Images

Chad Curtis was a journeyman outfielder who batted .264/.349/.396 over his 10-year career, but Chad Curtis is an example of a winner.

Forget that he hit two pivotal home runs in the third game of the 1999 World Series to bring the New York Yankees back from a 5-1 deficit. Curtis' second home run in the 10th inning won the game.

What should not be forgotten is that after he hit his game-winning home run, he refused to be interviewed by sportscaster Jim Gray.  Curtis felt, as did most players, that Gray's interview of would-be Hall of Famer Pete Rose following the All-Century Team ceremony prior to the second game of the Series was too aggressive and in poor taste.

Curtis is a deeply religious individual who led the Yankees' prayer group and religious study. When he approached Derek Jeter with an invitation, the Yankees captain politely declined.

Curtis approached Jeter a second time, and according to Buster Olney, Jeter commented that Chad can do what he wants and I'll do what I want to do.

The two men couldn't have been more different. Curtis was always serious, intense and kept his emotions to himself, while Jeter always had a smile on his face (until the 2011 season) and often kidded around with the opposition.

During a game in early August 1999, Seattle Mariners pitcher Frankie Rodriguez (no, not the ace closer of New York's most beloved team, the New York Mets) screamed at some of the Yankees. New Yorker catcher Joe Girardi told Rodriguez that if he wanted to fight he should get out of the dugout and do it. He did.

The brawl ended quickly as the players separated the future Yankees manager and the hot-headed pitcher.

Jeter and Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez ignored the melee. They stood near home plate, joking with each other. Each had a broad grin on his face.

Chad Curtis was livid. To him, Jeter and A-Rod kidding around was a terrible breach of an unwritten but well-know baseball code: When your teammate is in a fight, you don't laugh with an opposing player, regardless of how friendly you are off the field.

In the dugout, Curtis and Jeter exchanged angry words. Curtis told him that he was a good player, but that he did not know how to play the game. 

Imagine Hank Bauer, who told any Yankee player who wasn't hustling that he'd better stop that garbage because it might cost Bauer his World Series check, kidding around with Jackie Robinson.

Curtis stood up to Jeter, who knew that television cameras were zeroing in on them. Jeter has always been good that way, hasn't he?

Jeter walked away.

After the game, Curtis again approached Jeter. The locker room was full of the New York baseball writers. Jeter waved his hand, indicating their presence. He told Curtis it was the wrong place and the wrong time to attempt to clear the air.

Curtis eventually apologized to Jeter, not for his feelings but for being indiscreet. He was convinced that Jeter acted improperly. Jeter accepted the apology but felt that Curtis had crossed the line.

In 2007, well after the days of Jeter and A-Rod being bosom buddies, Curtis spoke to New York Times writer Jack Curry.

“I constantly self-evaluate. Was I wrong? Did I do something wrong? Maybe what I said was proper. The way I said it, where I said it and when I said it, wasn’t proper.”

From the days of Ty Cobb and John McGraw to the era of the St. Louis Cardinals gas house gang to Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers, teammates stuck together and showed the opposition almost no quarter.

With the passage of time, free agency, interleague play and obscene, long-term contracts, the players have mellowed. They all belong to the same union.

Chad Curtis questioned his values recently, softening his position with respect to Jeter and A-Rod kidding around. Players want to win. To believe otherwise is foolish, but few of today's players are willing to win at any cost.

There is too much to lose, even when your team loses.

 

References:

Curry, Jack. "Jeter Was Once Rebuked for Ties to Rodriguez." New York Times. 22 Feb.2007.

Buster Olney ESPN

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