Reliving Derek Jeter's 10 Most Immortalized Yankee Stadium Moments

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2014

Reliving Derek Jeter's 10 Most Immortalized Yankee Stadium Moments

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    For almost two decades, Derek Jeter has been a fixture in the Bronx. He's the face of the most well-known sports franchise in the world; the face of baseball.

    It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that Jeter took to Facebook to announce that the 2014 season would be his last. Now, there's only a few weeks left in his iconic career. Time flies when you're having fun, and Jeter has provided more joy for more people than he, or any of us, can ever possibly comprehend.

    He's done it his way—with class, dignity and respect. Respect for the game, for those who came before him, for his opponents and for the fans.

    From "Captain Clutch" to "Mr. November," Jeter's career is filled with memorable moments, many of them taking place in front of his hometown fans in the Bronx.

    With the Yankees set to honor Jeter on Sunday, Sept. 7, now is as good a time as any to tackle the daunting task of narrowing those moments down into a Top 10 list.

    Years from now, when a new generation of Yankee fans are introduced to No. 2, these are the moments (listed chronologically) that will be placed in front of them; the moments that help to tell the story of a baseball legend.

    Make no mistake about it, a legend is exactly what Jeter is—a point that wasn't lost on the late, great Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner: "For those who say today's game can't produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter."

Honorable Mention

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    There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of jump throws from deep in the hole (like the one above) on Derek Jeter's Yankee Stadium resume to choose from, and to be honest, we could probably put together a lengthy feature on those alone.

    You won't find any of them on the pages that follow, however, as they, along with the moments below, fall just short of cracking the Top 10. 

Sept. 21, 1996: First Walk-off Hit

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    It was the kind of game between Boston and New York that people like umpire Joe West (who wasn't working this particular contest) would come to detest, one that featured 15 different pitching changes and took nearly five hours to complete.

    The Yankees had their opportunities to put the game out of reach on multiple occasions, but went 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning and the game tied at 11, up stepped Derek Jeter to the plate to face off against Red Sox reliever Joe Hudson.

    With two strikes in the count, Jeter slapped the fourth pitch of the at-bat past Hudson and a diving Nomar Garciaparra into center field, allowing Wade Boggs to score the winning run from third base.

Oct. 9, 1996: The Jeffrey Maier Incident

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    When it came time for Baltimore to honor Jeter on his retirement tour around baseball, Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including Scott Allen of the Washington Post, that he had the perfect gift idea:

    I would give him a big picture of the home run. Well, it wasn't a home run. We know that. That’s what I’d give him. A big picture and have the whole Baltimore Orioles team sign it. That’s a good idea. That’s cheap, too, right? Make it in bronze or something. Not that we remember that at all.

    It was Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and Baltimore, with the Orioles holding a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. After Jim Leyritz struck out to start the inning, Jeter got a hold of the first pitch he saw from Orioles reliever Armando Benitez and drove the ball deep to right field.

    Baltimore right fielder Tony Tarasco positioned himself underneath the ball, which was coming down just in front of the wall when another glove appeared above his, snagging the ball and bringing it into the stands.

    Umpire Richie Garcia, standing only a few feet away, called it a home run, despite Tarasco's vehement protest that he had been interfered with. Both Benitez and Orioles manager Davey Johnson sprinted down the line to make their cases as well, to no avail.

    The mystery glove belonged to a then-12-year-old Yankees fan named Jeffrey Maier, who quickly became part of Yankees lore. Ironically, as Maier noted in an article he wrote for Bleacher Report earlier this year, he didn't come away from the fracas with the ball, having lost it at the bottom of a pile in the stands.

Oct. 15, 2001: The Original Dive

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    After dropping the first two games of the American League Division Series against Oakland at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees took both games on the road in Oakland to force a series-deciding Game 5 back in the Bronx.

    With one out, a runner on first and the Yankees leading 5-3 in the top of the eighth inning, Oakland right fielder Terrence Long popped a ball up down the left field line against Mariano Rivera.

    Both third baseman Scott Brosius and Jeter gave chase. As Brosius pulled up, running out of foul territory, Jeter continued his pursuit. He'd leap at the last possible second, catching the ball before spinning around on the half-wall and falling backwards, head over heels, into the stands. Third-base umpire Jeff Nelson signaled Long was out.

    A quick-thinking Brosius grabbed the ball from Jeter, who was still in the crowd and fired to second base, nearly catching an advancing Eric Chavez for what would have been an inning-ending double play.

    "I guess that's the reason he's wearing so many rings. This kid is as good as they come," Oakland manager Art Howe told reporters about Jeter after the game. "Whenever they need a big play, he's there to make it. Whenever they need a big hit, he gets it." (via ESPN)

     

    *Game 3 of this series, a 1-0 Yankees victory, featured perhaps the greatest play of Jeter's career, simply known as "the flip." But that play happened in Oakland, not in the Bronx, so we only mention it in passing here.

Oct. 31/Nov. 1, 2001: Mr. November Is Born

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    Less than two months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, emotions were running high at Yankee Stadium, and it looked like the pressure of representing New York—and trying to win their fourth consecutive World Series crown—was getting to the Yankees.

    They found themselves one out away from falling behind Arizona three games to one in the 2001 Fall Classic before Tino Martinez delivered his heroics in the bottom of the ninth inning.

    An inning later, Jeter, who was mired in a 1-for-11 slump, would steal the spotlight.

    As the clock passed midnight, signaling the first time that playoff baseball had been played in the month of November, Jeter dug in against Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim, who was on the mound for his third inning of work.

    Jeter worked a 3-2 count, fouling off pitch after pitch until Kim left one right where Jeter wanted it. He swung, the ball sailed into Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field, giving the Bombers a 4-3 victory.

    After the game, Jeter tried to explain how his blast transcended the on-field action (h/t USA Today):

    First of all, you have to understand the context that it happened in.

    It was a very emotional time. We felt we were playing that World Series for more than ourselves. It was for the city. We wanted to do something to maybe ease people's suffering a little bit. A lot of emotion came out with that home run.

    I really remember the noise. It was so loud. My only regret is that I didn't fully take in the moment. I just ran around the bases like I normally do after a home run. That's the one time I wish I would have slowed down just a little and really absorbed everything.

    For a brief moment, the weight that New Yorkers had been carrying on their shoulders was lifted.

July 1, 2004: The Dive

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    Perhaps no other play in Jeter's career is as revered as his dive into the stands against Boston on Fourth of July weekend in 2004.

    In the top of the 12th inning, with the game tied at three, two outs and runners on second and third, Boston's Trot Nixon, pinch-hitting for Gabe Kapler, popped a Tanyon Sturtze offering into short left field.

    Jeter, who was playing on the bag at second base with a left-handed hitter at the plate, took off in pursuit, catching the ball just before crossing the foul line. Had the ball dropped in, Boston would have taken the lead. 

    Having run as far as he did at full speed, Jeter's momentum was taking him into the stands. He had two choices: drop down and crash into the half-wall or lie out and fly into the crowd. Jeter chose Option B.

    He'd soar over the photographer's box, into the first row of seats, smacking his face against one of the arm rests. When he emerged from the crowd, he had a welt under his right eye and a gash on his chin.

    As then-Yankees backup catcher John Flaherty recounted for the Yes Network, his teammates were simultaneously amazed and worried for their leader:

    I remember having a great view from the bullpen. We were amazed that he covered as much ground as he did to get there; then, all we saw was Derek disappear, and it went from amazement to concern he was hurt. Like everyone else, seeing his face bloody and bruised raised a lot of concern, because we didn't know how bad it was or if we'd lose him for a period of time.

    Jeter, like the warrior he is, was in the lineup against the New York Mets the next day.

May 26, 2006: Hit No. 2,000

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    Whether Jeter's 2,000th hit was actually a hit or not wasn't up to Jeter, Kansas City pitcher Scott Elarton or the baseball gods. It was in the hands of official scorer Bill Shannon.

    In the bottom of the fourth inning, Jeter hit a slow roller in front of home plate. Royals catcher Paul Bako popped up out of his stance, discarded his mask, spun and threw the ball to first base, but it landed in the dirt and bounced away, allowing Jeter to advance to second.

    The Yankee Stadium crowd stared at the scoreboard, waiting to see whether Bako would be charged with an error on the play or if Jeter had indeed pulled off the feat. Shannon ultimately decided that both events had occurred: Jeter would be awarded a hit, Bako an error on the throw.

    "When you ask the fielder to make an above-average play to get an out, I think you have to give credit to the hitter for creating that situation," Shannon told Sam Borden of the New York Daily News after the game.

    The Yankees would go on to lose the game 7-6, putting a dampener on the festivities and leading to a typical Jeter-esque response from the Yankees captain: "It's nice, definitely, but to be honest with you, we're just trying to win games."

Sept. 21, 2008: The Speech

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    Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when it's to a place as storied as the second Yankee Stadium, forever known as "the House That Ruth Built."

    Jeter knew that he wanted to address the crowd after the team's 7-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, but, as he told the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand, that was all he knew.

    To be quite honest, I didn't know what I was going to say. When I came out of the game with two outs in the ninth, I had to hurry up and think of something. I wanted to acknowledge the fans. All the memories here are because of the fans, so that's the message I wanted to get across.

    Jeter found the right words, delivering a completely unscripted, nearly two-minute speech that covered all the bases and will forever live on in Yankees lore.

Sept. 11, 2009: Passes the Iron Horse to Become Yankees All-Time Hits Leader

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    For more than 70 years, Lou Gehrig's 2,721 hits wearing the Yankee pinstripes stood as the franchise's all-time mark. There was never a thought that someone might one day come along and beat it.

    Jeter did just that to lead off the bottom of the third inning against Baltimore on a rainy, miserable day in the Bronx. Using one of his patented inside-out swings, he sent the ball screaming down the right-field line, just under the glove of a diving Luke Scott at first base for career hit No. 2,722.

    His teammates poured out of the dugout, the stadium exploded and Jeter, once again, found himself as the center of attention.

    "I didn't know that they were going to do that, so that sort of caught me off-guard," Jeter told reporters after the game. "It's a special moment for me, it's a special moment for the organization. To get an opportunity to share it with my teammates was a lot of fun." (h/t Associated Press via ESPN)

July 9, 2011: Mr. 3,000

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    Widely regarded as one of the premier pitchers in the game, nobody expects to find much success against David Price.

    So when the talented southpaw was toeing the rubber for Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium, the odds were stacked against Jeter being able to record the two hits he needed to become the 28th member of the 3,000 hit club.

    But Jeter has never been one to care about the odds, and after a single in the first inning, there was a palpable buzz in the Bronx as Jeter stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning. 

    "After 2,999, his next at-bat the dugout was full. All our support staff, everyone...it was packed," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News. "You knew that something special was about to happen."

    Nobody, not even Jeter, could have expected what came next.

    After battling Price to a seven-pitch, 3-and-2 count, Jeter, with the entire stadium chanting his name, got a hold of Price's eighth offering and sent it screaming into the left-field stands. He'd join Wade Boggs as the only players to hit a home run to gain entry into the exclusive club.

    "I knew [Matt Joyce] wasn't going to catch it, but I wasn't sure it would be a home run. I was hoping," Jeter said after the game "You want to hit the ball hard. I didn't want to hit a slow roller to third base and have that be replayed forever."

    Jeter also set another milestone this day, becoming the first player to record five hits at the new Yankee Stadium.

July 28, 2013: First Pitch

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    After breaking his ankle in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against Detroit in 2012—and re-fracturing the ankle in spring training—Jeter's 2013 debut was delayed until mid-July.

    He'd make his first appearance of the season on July 11 against Kansas City but went right back on the disabled list after straining his quadriceps. When he was deemed healthy enough to play and was activated on July 28, nobody was quite sure what to expect.

    Certainly not a home run on the first pitch he'd see from Tampa Bay's Matt Moore.