Watch: Derek Jeter’s 10 greatest moments
New York Yankees captain and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter announced on Facebook on Wednesday his intention to retire at the end of the 2014 baseball season. As was the case last year for his teammate of 19 years, Mariano Rivera, Jeter’s final season is sure to be filled with tributes, accolades and reminiscences of his great career, which to this point has yielded 3,316 hits, 13 All-Star appearances, seven pennants and five World Series championships. Below is a look back at Jeter’s 10 greatest moments on the field.
1. The Flip Play
The Yankees lost at home in the first two games of the 2001 American League Division Series against the A’s and were facing elimination in Oakland in Game 3. That game proved to be a tense pitching duel between Mike Mussina and A’s lefty Barry Zito, then in his first full season. New York catcher Jorge Posada hit a solo home run off Zito in the top of the fifth, and the Yankees carried that 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Jeremy Giambi singled and Terrence Long followed with a double into the rightfield corner. With runs at a premium, the slow-footed Giambi was waved around third in an attempt to score the tying run.
New York rightfielder Shane Spencer corralled the ball and fired home but overthrew both cutoff men. As the ball hit the dirt more than half-way up the first base line, Giambi looked like he was going to easily tie the game. Then, in a flash, Jeter appeared, scooped up Spencer’s loose throw and shoveled it to Posada, who applied the tag to the back of Giambi’s right calf a split second before Giambi’s foot touched the plate. Giambi was out, and the Yankees went on to win the game by that 1-0 score. New York won the series back in the Bronx in Game 5 (with Jeter making another unforgettable catch by tumbling into the stands to grab a foul pop in the eighth inning).
After making the Flip Play, Jeter said that the Yankees practiced it all the time. In a dozen seasons since, we have yet to see anyone do it again.
2. Mr. November
The start of the 2001 postseason was delayed when baseball, and the country in general, took a week off to grieve following the terrorist attacks of September 11. As a result, Game 4 of that year’s World Series was played on Oct. 31. The Yankees trailed the Diamondbacks 2-games-to-1 in the Series heading into that game and 3-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning of that game. With two out, Tino Martinez tied the score with a two-run homer off Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim.
Rivera held the line in the top of the 10th, and Kim responded by getting two quick fly outs in the bottom of the frame. Jeter then came to the plate just as the clock struck midnight, marking the first time that Major League Baseball had been played in November.
Jeter quickly fell behind 0-2 but battled back to run the count full. He then hit Kim’s ninth pitch of the at-bat just over Yankee Stadium’s short rightfield wall for a game-winning and Series-tying home run. It was the first walk-off home run of Jeter’s career, and before the Yankees left the field he had already picked up the nickname “Mr. November.”
3. Leadoff World Series homer
In the first Subway World Series since 1956, the Yankees needed 12 innings to beat the Mets in Game 1 and barely survived a Mets comeback to lodge a second one-run win in Game 2. The Series then moved to Queens, where the Mets won Game 3, setting themselves up for a chance to tie the Series the next night.
Conscious of not letting the Mets do just that, Yankees manager Joe Torre moved Jeter up from his customary second spot in the lineup to have him lead off Game 4. On the very first pitch from Mets starter Bobby Jones, Jeter let his crosstown rivals know which team was tops in the Big Apple, lacing the pitch into Shea Stadium’s leftfield bleachers for a leadoff home run. The Yankees ultimately won the game 3-2 an wrapped up the championship in Game 5, with Jeter hitting another home run en route to winning MVP honors.
4. Opening Day, 1996
Though it’s hard to believe looking back, the Yankees front office — particularly principal owner George Steinbrenner — were not convinced that they should open the 1996 season with Jeter at shortstop. His fielding had been a problem in the minors, and even though he was a former first-round pick and highly touted by both scouts and their own baseball people, he was still a scrawny 21-year-old rookie. Steinbrenner, in fact, came very close to approving a trade in late March that would have sent Rivera to the Mariners for shortstop Felix Fermin, who would have pushed Jeter back to the minors. Fortunately, Steinbrenner was talked down by team vice president Gene Michael, the general manager under whom Jeter was drafted No. 6 overall four years earlier.
Nonetheless, the pressure was on Jeter (who had made 14 starts at shortstop the previous season) heading into the season. So what did he do on Opening Day in Cleveland? Just make a couple of exceptional plays in the field and homer in his second at-bat. The next day, he went 3-for-3 with a walk and a stolen bases. The Yankees won both games, kickstarting a season that ended with a Rookie of the Year award for Jeter and a World Series title for New York.
5. 3,000th hit
In 2010, Jeter had his worst season to that point in his career, hitting just .270/.340/.370 at the age of 36. That led to surprisingly contentious contract negotiations with the Yankees that winter, during which he was a free agent. Jeter eventually agreed to a three-year, $51 million contract and spent that spring working with hitting coach Kevin Long to rebuild his swing. Jeter never committed to Long’s new mechanics, however, and was even worse in early 2011, hitting .260/.324/.324 through June 12 when a calf strain put him on the disabled list.
During his time on the shelf, however, he reunited with his first professional manager, Gary Denbo, and when he returned to the Bronx in early July he seemed to have turned back the clock several years. Jeter hit .331/.384/.447 over his 314 plate appearances in 2011 but the signature performance of his comeback was the game in which he collected his 3,000th hit.
That came against the Tampa Bay Rays at the new Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2011, with Jeter just two hits shy of that milestone. The captain led off the game for New York with a single, then in his second at-bat pulled a game-tying solo home run to left off Rays ace David Price for hit No. 3,000. He later doubled and singled twice, including the game-winning hit in the eighth inning, to complete perfect 5-for-5 day that was just the fourth five-hit game of his career (and third in the regular season). Less than a month later, he added his fifth with a 5-for-6 performance against the White Sox. The next year he led the majors in hits and batted .316 while finishing seventh in the AL MVP voting.
6. Dive into the stands
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry hit a peak that coincided with Jeter’s as the two teams finished first and second, respectively, in the American League East every year from 1998 to 2005. They also met in the American League Championship Series in 1999, 2003 and 2004, with each of the latter two series going the full seven games. New York won the pennant the first two of those years — their Game 7 comeback in 2003 began with Jeter’s eighth inning double off Pedro Martinez — before famously blowing a 3-games-to-0 lead the next season.
New York led the division by just three games over Boston in 2004, and on July 1 was looking to finish off a sweep of the Red Sox at home despite starting rookie Brad Halsey against the great Martinez. Despite that apparent disadvantage, the two teams battled into the 12th inning with the game tied 3-3.
Yankees reliever Tanyon Sturtze faced Trot Nixon with two outs and runners at second and third. On a 1-2 count, Nixon lifted a shallow pop up behind third base that looked like a bloop double that would have scored both base runners. Instead, Jeter streaked over from shortstop to snatch the ball out of the air. Running full speed toward the stands and unable to stop in time, he went flying head-first into the crowd. He emerged with his face bloodied, but also with the final out of the inning securely in his glove. Jeter was removed from the game at that point, but the Yankees ultimately won, 4-3, in 13 innings.
7. Jeffrey Maier homer
Truth be told, it should have been a fly out to right, the second out in the eighth inning in which New York trailed the Orioles 4-3 in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. However, Jeter got the ball close enough to Yankee Stadium’s rightfield wall that 12-year-old Yankee fan Jeffrey Maier was able to knock it into the stands and, with a little help from rightfield umpire Richie Garcia, it became a game-tying home run. New York would ultimately win 5-4 on an 11th-inning walkoff homer by Bernie Williams. The Yankees wrapped up the pennant in Game 5 in Baltimore, with Jeter fielding a ground ball and throwing out Cal Ripken Jr. at first base for the final out.
8. 5-for-5 in Division Series opener
As mentioned above, Jeter has had five five-hit games in his career, and it should come as no surprise that the best of the bunch came in the postseason. The 2006 Division Series against the Tigers, which Detroit won in four games, is one the Yankees and their captain would rather forget. New York’s lone win came in Game 1, and Jeter led the way with five hits, including two doubles and a home run while scoring three runs. That game marked just one of three in Jeter’s career that he accumulated 10 or more total bases in a game, and helped him to what is currently a stellar .308/.374/.465 line in postseason play, including .343 in the Division Series.
9. All-Star Game MVP
In 2000 Jeter became (and remains) the only player ever to win All-Star Game and World Series MVP honors in the same year. In that year’s All-Star game in Atlanta, he started at shortstop and went 3-for-3 with a double and a pair of singles, scoring once and driving in two runs with his single off the Mets’ Al Leiter in the fourth as the American League won 6-3. He then tormented Leiter and the Mets some more in October, batting .409/.480/.864 in the World Series and helping the Yankees to their third straight championship, just the fourth time in baseball history a team won back-to-back-to-back Fall Classics.
10. All-time Yankees hit record
Only nine players in major league history have collected more hits in their careers than Jeter. With four more hits, he will pass Paul Molitor for ninth place all-time, and if he is able to stay healthy in the coming season, he could finish his career as high as fifth (120 hits would move him past Cap Anson, an extremely unlikely 199-hit season would move him past Tris Speaker into fifth).
Given that, it is no surprise that Jeter is the Yankees’ all-time hits leader, but when he collected No. 2,722 to surpass Lou Gehrig for that distinction on Sept.11, 2009, it was an indication that he truly belonged among the pantheon of the game’s legends. That season — New York’s first in its new ballpark — ended with Jeter celebrating his fifth World Series title, the most by any player since Yogi Berra retired in 1965.