Derek Jeter didn’t quite catch the Dalai Lama, but he placed just below Jeff Bezos as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Not bad for a youngster from Jersey, who grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and came of age in the white-hot media spotlight of New York City, as the shortstop for its American League franchise, the New York Yankees.
I was a fan of baseball before I was a fan of New York Yankees baseball and it’s been close to five and half decades since my father brought home an Alvin Dark autographed leather baseball glove from Rawlings for me. One sniff of the glove, with apologies to Spinal Tap, was all it took. Alvin Dark was a New York Giant when they played at the Polo Grounds and managed the San Francisco Giants when they called Candlestick Park home. All of that is gone, to never return.
Today, weather permitting, the defending World Champions, Boston Red Sox, practically the first team eliminated from the playoffs this year, will close a disappointing season in what would have been a quiet afternoon game at 1:30 against Jeter and the Yankees. This will be last time any of us see Jeter play. I'm thinking the Red Sox know this and nothing short of a storm force ten will cause this game to NOT be played.
My brother Adam had some transcendent words on Jeter, on the field and beyond the field, earlier in the week that you should really read. Keith Olbermann of ESPN has some words that are best avoided, but if you insist; I would offer that Keith has a point (but when he wears a hat, you can’t see it).
I’m still digesting the cover story from the current Sports Illustrated (yet another issue without Kate Upton on the cover wearing a smile, a come hither look and little else). I’ve convinced myself that by delaying the full reading of it, and (of course) DVRing (is that a gerund now? I hope so) the game, I can avoid that final goodbye when this all stops.
Except when it’s over, and end it must (and shall), Derek Jeter will still be Derek Jeter. Baseball will still, and always, be baseball, and you and I will have our memories of a thousand moments large and small that helped mold a career but could never define a life.
It will be a long winter but as the song suggests, diamonds are forever and Spring Training 2015 will be waiting for us even as the snows melt. There will be one less set of footsteps out there between second and third base but the game, and the man whose joy in playing it was so evident, will carry on.