Jeter starts Bronx farewell memorably

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm •  Published: April 7, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter arrived for his last Yankee Stadium opener fashionably early at 9:35 a.m., attired in a gray suit, white shirt, purple tie and black Prada lace-up shoes.

His performance, if not stylish, was memorable.

Jeter missed a home run by about 2 feet in Monday's 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. After he left the batter's box slowly leading off the fifth inning, the ball hit off the "8'' in the 318-foot sign in the left-field corner and Jeter hustled into second with a headfirst slide.

"I had to pick up the pace a little bit," he admitted. "Yeah, there were some guys laughing — until a couple of them hit some balls and the wind got them, too."

It was a rare mind cramp for a player known for hustle and an unfailing ability to be in the right place.

"Maybe you get caught up in opening day," he said. "You probably haven't seen it, probably won't see it again. But what can you (do)? I was safe. It would be a lot more embarrassing if I was out."

Jeter scored one run, sent another home with a double-play grounder on a 1-for-4 day and was applauded every time he came to bat and fielded a grounder to shortstop.

This was Jeter's first appearance in New York since announcing Feb. 12 that his 20th season will be his last. With the retirements of Jeter's No. 2 and former manager Joe Torre's No. 6 likely, the 48,142 adoring and slightly frosted fans on hand during a cool and overcast afternoon almost surely were the last to witness a single-digit pinstriped uniform on opening day.

Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte formed a Core Four reunion for the ceremonial first pitch ceremony, a reminder of the five World Series rings earned during Jeter's era.

And Yogi Berra, the Yankees' 88-year-old symbol of post-World II dominance, was in the clubhouse in his wheel chair for some opening-day schmoozing.

Since first coming up to the big leagues in 1995 and establishing himself the following year, Jeter had been model Yankee, continuing the line of greatness that began with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and was extended by Joe DiMaggio, Berra and Mickey Mantle. He became captain in 2003 and still talks of owner George Steinbrenner instilling the compulsive obsession to win, recalling "if you didn't do your job, the Boss would get rid of you."