- August 28, 2013
It was March 1996. We were vaguely aware that a young skinny shortstop from Michigan was making his way through the minor league system and that he had come up for some games toward the end of 1995. The rumor was that new manager Joe Torre was going to give the kid a shot at becoming the starting shortstop (the most important infield position) for the NYY. He was Derek Jeter.
During that month, Peggy Wininger asked him for an autograph on a couple of occasions and on the second such, there was a large crowd straining against the ropes separating the players from the fans and an elderly woman had been standing there for quite a while and many of the younger ones had pushed in front of her. When Jeter approached the fans, Peggy Wininger said to him, “Derek, you signed a baseball for me a couple of days ago but there is a woman here who was standing out here before I got here today and now she has been pushed to the back by people who have broken in front of her.” The young ball player stopped, looked Peggy in the eye and said, “Could you get her up here?” They did so, the woman was thrilled, but even more importantly, the young man actually stood in front of her after signing her ball and engaged in a conversation with her and Peggy. This is almost unheard of in the world of celebrity autographs. Most often, the athlete or star does not even look the person in the eye while signing. Derek stood there for perhaps a minute or two and not only signed but engaged in conversation about how the woman was doing and if she was in any distress, etc.
I suppose I became a fan of his that day. I had no way of knowing that he would win the starting shortstop job and would hold it through the 2012 season. He would still be the starting shortstop as well as Yankee Captain in 2013 except for the injuries he has sustained beginning with a playoff game in October 2012 and continuing on with two additional injuries this season. As a matter of fact, at the time of writing this, he has only played in five games during the 2013 season. I read that it was 4% of the games which had been played by his team.
He recently said that he hadn’t been able to work out his legs since last October in order to let a bone heal. The only time he played four consecutive games in the 2013 season were July 28, 30, 31 and August 2 before straining his right calf and being on the disabled list again.
He has been a real hero. He is now the all-time leader in hits by a New York Yankee, he has served as captain for a long while and his name has been connected with virtually no bad publicity. He may recover to some extent but he will never be the player he was during the 90s and early 2000s. Still, he has been a role model when many players have not been and we have been blessed to see him play hundreds of games at shortstop for the New York Yankees.