From The Babe to The Mick to Mo, we're talking about sports immortals.
But who's the best?
Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio. Mantle. Let's call them the core four. Most would say Ruth is the greatest, as I did a couple of months ago.
But I have to reconsider.
More and more I'm thinking about the case for Derek Jeter, who announced yesterday that 2014 would be his final season. Maybe No. 2 is No. 1 on the list of Yankee legends.
Jeter has 3,316 hits and is the only player to get to 3,000 while wearing pinstripes. His career batting average is .312. But with Jeter, there's so much more than just the numbers.
Like the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1996. The flip in the 2001 ALDS. Being named captain in 2003. The catch into the stands in 2004 against the Red Sox. The farewell to Yankee Stadium in 2008. The 3,000th hit in 2011. The five World Series titles, postseasons every year except for two, and 13 All-Star Games. The clutch hits and the clutch plays. The leadership. The fact that he was a model player on the field and a model man off it.
"As far as being Mr. Yankee, he is in the same class as Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle," Hank Steinbrenner told the New York Times. "He will always be the No. 1 representative of those great teams of the '90s, just as those other guys were for their great teams. That's his legacy."
This is also his legacy.
In the home run era, he hit singles. In a day and age when players go from team to team without batting an eye, he played his entire career in pinstripes. In a look-at-me culture, he was always about the team. In dirty times, he was clean.
As the Times' national baseball writer Tyler Kepner points out, when Jeter made his Yankee Stadium debut on June 2, 1995, 16,959 were in attendance. When Jeter closed Yankee stadium 13 years later, the Yankees were averaging over 53,000 per game.
Before Jeter (the Yankees took him sixth overall in 1992), there had been no October baseball in the Bronx since 1981. Since he made his debut, they've been a fixture.
We might never see another Derek Jeter again. A guy who spends his entire career in one place and performs at the level that he did. A player who meant so much to his organization. Growing up, Jeter's dream was to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. He accomplished that. He accomplished so much more.
Everyone has their idea of perfection. When it comes to professional athletes, Jeter is it.
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