|AUGUST 2014||OCTOBER 2014|
Song of the Day: My Way, with English lyrics written by Paul Anka, was set to music by Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux, for the French composition, "Comme d'habitude." It was popularized by the Chairman of the Board, and though it was never my favorite Frank Sinatra recording, there is a dignity to the lyrics that cannot be denied. Derek Jeter used the song for a Gatorade commercial, in which he says farewell to his many fans. Check out that Gatorade advertisement on YouTube as well as the full song as recorded by Ol' Blue Eyes. Today, Derek Jeter completed his exemplary career in baseball with his 3,645th hit (a lifetime .310 average). He was replaced by a pinch runner, Brian McCann, after hitting a Baltimore chop in the third inning, at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. His infield hit drove in a run, and the Yanks went on to win the game 9-5. The Red Sox fans gave him a standing ovation, not only when he departed the game, but also in a pre-game ceremony honoring him (where even Yaz showed up!). The seventh inning stretch featured a rendition of "God Bless America" by Ronan Tynan (who often performed the song at Yankee Stadium) and a gorgeously arranged version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," by guitarist Bernie Williams, a former Jeter teammate. This was a classy sendoff to one of the greatest ballplayers to grace any sports field, and the Fenway crowd showed the respect and appreciation one would expect from any crowd so steeped in the history of baseball. Okay, and yes, I've been crying, and I'm going to miss one of my all-time favorite Yankees. Bless you, Derek, in all your future endeavors.
I have seen many remarkable moments in Derek Jeter's remarkable career. From his 1996 "Rookie of the Year" season to his 2012 season, when, at the age of 38, he led the major leagues with 212 hits, before opening the postseason with a fractured ankle.
But as that great baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said: It ain't over till it's over. And this season is still most definitely not over, though, mathematically speaking, the New York Yankees have been eliminated from contention in the postseason.
But Derek Jeter and the Yanks still have one more weekend of regular season baseball left to play, the last weekend, to be played on another stage, in another storied field: Fenway Park. I'd call it "enemy territory"---except in this season, Derek Jeter has had no enemies. Everywhere he has gone, on this farewell retirement tour, his opponents have shown him the "RE2PECT" he has earned over a two-decade career of consistently extraordinary achievement. Every opposing team, in every ballpark in which he has appeared across this country, has honored him, and given generously to his Turn 2 Foundation.
So last night, several weeks after the Stadium celebrated an almost funereal Derek Jeter Day (September 7, 2014), Yankee fans knew this would be their last opportunity to see this future Hall of Famer play in his home pinstriped uniform on his home field.
There isn't a Jeter fan I know that didn't want this man to leave this grandest of sports stages without the kind of "last hurrah" that each of us has come to expect. Jeter provides us with a legacy that transcends self; for all his self-achievement, it has always been about The Team, in his view; he has marked his career with an obsessive concern for winning, and it is only with an integrated team, one with professionalism and passion, one that embraces a stoic celebration of tradition, history, and pride---and a youthful exuberance.
Last night, partly through Jeter's efforts, the Yankees entered the top of the ninth inning, leading the 2014 ALDS victors, the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2. But reliever, David Robertson, pitched up a few home runs, and by the time Jeter came up in the bottom of the inning, the Orioles had tied the score, 5-5. With two men on, the Voice of God, the late Bob Sheppard announced Number 2, Derek Jeter, for the last time at Yankee Stadium; and it was a youthful Jeter who seemed to approach the batter's box on this field of dreams. He lined a first pitch to right field, demonstrating the inside-out style that has come to be called "Jeterian", and drove in the winning run, unleashing an explosive ovation from the soldout stadium crowd as if the Yanks had just clinched the World Series. He even got a Gatorade Baptism for this walk-off single, usually reserved for the walk-off HR.
Jeter would later crouch down by his shortstop position, kneeling as if in prayer, and later announced that he had just completed his last game as shortstop for the New York Yankees, opting for the Designated Hitter role at this weekend's Fenway Fest.
By Sunday night, I should be all cried out.
My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," turns this year to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the latter of which had not yet opened when I visited the site in 2012. It is an extraordinary experience in contrasts: ranging from sensitivity to loved ones to the barbaric savagery that snuffed out the lives of nearly 3000 people.
I invite readers to take a look at that pictorial; it can be found here.
Here is an index for those who would like easy access to the previous entries in this annual series:
2001: As It Happened . . .
2002: New York, New York
2004: My Friend Ray
2005: Patrick Burke, Educator
2006: Cousin Scott
2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves
2010: Tim Drinan, Student
2011: Ten Years Later
Religious fan that I am of the great shortstop of the New York Yankees, I am glued to my television set today, watching the festivities in celebration of the achievements of the Captain of the team, who retires at the end of the 2014 season: Derek Jeter.
To say it's been emotional is an understatement. But in true Jeter fashion, at the end of his speech thanking the fans and his professional colleagues and friends, he reminded the roaring crowd of the Sports Cathedral that is Yankee Stadium that 'we have a game to play.' However that game turns out, however much his game has suffered since that devastating injury in the 2012 postseason, he remains the Yankee of his generation. I have been a Yankees fan my whole life; that wasn't easy in the late 1960s and through the mid-1970s, when they were perpetual losers, or in the 1980s, when they lost after winning back-to-back World Series championships in 1977-1978, with guys like Guidry, Nettles, Randolph, and Bucky "Fu__king" Dent" as he is known in Boston, who hit a home run in the 163rd game of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox one-game playoff that propelled the Yanks to the American League Championship Series, an AL pennant win, and another World Series win, their second consecutive Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But in the 1980s, the New York Mets owned this town; so most of my growing up as a Yankees fan was not like rooting for "General Motors" as the Yankees detractors had always said. But in 1996, that all changed; Joe Torre took the helm; the New York sports pages called him "Clueless Joe," and Derek became the Yankees regular shortstop, the last regular season player to wear the last single digit available (#2), after all those retired numbers (#4, Lou Gehrig; #3 Babe Ruth, #7 Mickey Mantle, you get the picture). He became Rookie of the Year in 1996; he owns five World Series rings, and was an MVP of the All-Star Game and the Word Series in the same year (2000).
They didn't retire his number today, though that day is surely coming. As will the Hall of Fame; it isn't just that he is the player with the sixth most hits in Major League History (#3,449 and counting), or franchise records in most hits, most doubles, most at bats, most stolen bases, and so on and so on. It is that he is a consummate professional with all the charm of a New York celebrity, and all the quiet certitude in his talents befitting of a Howard Roark.
Three cheers for Derek on his special day; for me #2 will always be #1. But the Yanks are fighting for a postseason spot (a long shot, if you ask me). We'll have more to say about him as the season comes to its close. For now, I'm just taking every last minute in, and thankful to have witnessed the career of such a legendary sports figure in my lifetime.
Song of the Day: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work ("Opening Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Paul Brill with Amber Rubarth, opens the 2010 documentary about the life and career of a great comedian,author, and Red Carpet fashion critic. Over the last several weeks, I feel as if celebrities have been dropping like flies: Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Don Pardo, Richard Attenborough, and now, fellow Brooklynite, Joan Rivers, who died today at the age of 81. The music is spacey and haunting with snippets of the star's comic lines. Those lines were sometimes so over the top that only a big band could match the volume of the laughter she created. I last saw her critiquing the fashions at the VMAs and the Emmys, just last week. And ultimately, it was the melody of that laughter that endures; check out some of her greatest TV moments and an E! celebration of her work. Cultural icon, outrageous, and irreverent, she was the consummate entertainer. Few people have made me laugh harder; I will miss her. Oh, grow up!