A very intentional and inspirational walk

Richard J. Albero, a formal naval officer and educational professional, began a walk Monday from the plate at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa with the destination the plate at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx – a course of more than 1,200 miles – in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.

To honor his nephew Gary Albero, who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Richard Albero wanted to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project while incorporating Gary’s love for the Yankees. To do this, each mile of the walk will be dedicated to a different Yankees player in the team’s history.

Mr. Albero’s intent is to raise $25,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, with $9,000 already having been reached. Donations may be made in the form of “Designated Hitter,” “Base on Balls,” “Single,” “Double,” “Triple,” “Home Run” or “Grand Slam.”

“My goal is to support the soldiers who have bravely fought to protect us,” Albero said.

Walking an average of 20 miles a day, Albero, 65, plans to complete the journey within three months with support drivers by his side.

To make a donation, please go to richardsyankeeswalk.org.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir coming to Stadium July 3

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has entertained audiences all over the world and will add Yankee Stadium to its list of prominent venues as part of its Atlantic Coast Tour schedule this summer. The 360-person Choir will perform a brief medley of patriotic songs Friday, July 3, on the field at the Stadium before singing the national anthem prior to the start of the Yankees’ 7:05 p.m. game against the Rays.

The Choir, which was founded more than a century ago, has performed at World’s Fairs, inaugurations of United States presidents and in concert halls around the globe. It is dedicated to the universal language of music that has the power to bring joy, peace, and healing to listeners.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will embark on its 2015 Atlantic Coast tour June 24 through July 7, its first trek into the east coast in more than a decade. As part of this year’s tour, the group will visit Bethesda, Md., Bethel Woods, Saratoga Springs, New York City and Boston. Made up strictly of volunteers, the Choir typically tours just once every two years.

“The saying goes that there’s nothing more American than baseball and apple pie, and I would add, having America’s Choir lift its voices in patriotic songs to celebrate the birth of this great nation,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir president Ron Jarrett said. “It is an absolute thrill and honor for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing in such an iconic venue like Yankee Stadium for thousands of Yankees fans.”

Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the Yankees-Rays game July 3, may save up to 50% on select seats by visiting http://www.yankees.com/MTC and using discount code: YANKEEDOODLE.

Tickets for all Yankees 2015 regular season home games are now on sale and may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at 877-469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at 800-943-4327 and at all ticket offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call 212-YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.

Yanks to honor LL program in Tampa

The Yankees’ exhibition season in spring training got underway Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla., while those of us here in New York were dealing with yet another winter storm. As we freeze, the Yankees will continue to get ready for the 2015 season Wednesday with their first home game of the spring at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

This week the Yankees will also kick off their announcement of HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) with a pregame ceremony Friday at Steinbrenner Field prior to their 7:05 p.m. game against the Pirates. In the spirit of the initiative, the Yankees will honor Palma Ceia Little League Challenger Baseball, which is a baseball program designed for the needs of children that live with physical or mental disabilities.

In the Palma Ceia Little League (PCLL), players learn and grow while having fun. Challenger Baseball provides an essential opportunity for kids to develop stronger emotional and social skills, and the program instills a “can do” attitude in the players. The experience helps children gain confidence and self-esteem. Participation is stressed over competition, and every player gets to bat, field and run the bases.

PCLL games take place at 4501 South Himes Avenue, not far from the Yankees’ minor league complex.

By involving every one of their players and coaches, manager Joe Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman and front office staff during the celebration of HOPE Week, the Yankees send the message that all can give of themselves to make their community a better place. Equally significant during HOPE Week is garnering publicity for the highlighted causes and organizations. The greatest challenge facing many not-for-profits is generating interest, awareness and funding for their missions.

At the conclusion of the last five HOPE Weeks, the Yankees organization has been honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, given “in recognition and appreciation of commitment to strengthening the nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.” The awards were bestowed by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation in conjunction with the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The Yankees have additionally been honored with the “Just Cause” Award at the PromaxBDA Sports Media Marketing Summit Nov. 15, 2011 and the “DMF Champion of HOPE” Award from Daniel’s Music Foundation Nov. 8, 2011. HOPE Week was also recognized by the National Sportsmanship Awards in 2010.

The seventh consecutive season of HOPE Week will take place in New York Aug. 17-21. Each day over the five-day stretch, the Yankees will reach out to an individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support, surprising honorees with a day celebrating their accomplishments. Outreach will often take place away from Yankee Stadium, which will allow the Yankees to connect personally with individuals in settings that highlight their greatest successes.

This year’s event will mark the fourth year that all of the organization’s U.S.-based minor league affiliates will hold their own HOPE Weeks, allowing the initiative to reach five additional cities and touch more than two dozen additional individuals and groups.

HOPE Week is rooted in the fundamental belief that acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to more than just the recipient of the gesture. Fans can learn more about the initiative and nominate inspirational individuals for HOPE Week recognition by visiting the official website at hopeweek.com.

Four new residents coming to Monument Park

Following the path of last year’s honoring of Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park, the Yankees in the coming season will do likewise for Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Willie Randolph. Joining Torre, whose No. 6 was retired last year, the uniform numbers of Williams (51), Posada (20) and Pettitte (46) will be put away for good.

Williams will be honored Sunday, May 24, before the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers. Randolph will be feted during Old-Timers’ Day festivities Saturday, June 20, prior to the Yankees’ 7:15 p.m. game against the Tigers. Posada will take his place in Monument Park Aug. 22 and Pettitte Aug. 23.

Williams played his entire 16-season major league career with the Yankees (1991-2006) and batted .297. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits, sixth in games played (2,076) and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the AL batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.

A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000), Williams is the Yanks’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series MVP after batting .474 with six runs, two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series victory over the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning, game-winning home run.

Posada also spent his whole major-league career – 17 seasons – with the Yankees from 1995-2011 and batted .273 with 900 runs, 379 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 1,829 games. As a player on five World Series title teams (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘09), Posada finished his career among baseball’s all-time postseason leaders in games played (second, 125), doubles (third, 23) and hits (fourth, 103). His 119 postseason games behind the plate are the most all time. In 2011, the Puerto Rico native became the first big leaguer to catch at least one game with the same team in 17 straight seasons (1995-2011) since the Reds’ Johnny Bench did so over the same stretch of seasons from 1967-83.

A five-time AL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner (each in 2000-03, ’07), Posada twice finished in the top 10 in AL Most Valuable Player balloting (third in 2003 and sixth in 2007). He is one of eight players to appear in at least one game with the Yankees in each of 17 different seasons, along with Derek Jeter (20), Mariano Rivera (19), Yogi Berra (18), Mickey Mantle (18), Frankie Crosetti (17), Bill Dickey (17) and Lou Gehrig (17). Along with Jeter and Rivera, Posada is part of the first trio of teammates in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history to appear in a game together in each of 17 straight seasons, a feat they accomplished from 1995-2011.

Pettitte was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft and pitched in 15 seasons with the club (1995-2003, ‘07-10 and ‘12-13). As a Yankee, Pettitte posted a 219-127 record with a 3.94 ERA and 2,020 strikeouts in 447 games (438 starts). The lefthander, who is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,020), is tied with Whitey Ford for most games started and trails in victories and innings pitched only to Ford (236; 3,171) and Red Ruffing (231; 3,168) in club history. Pettitte made at least one start in each of his 15 seasons with the Yankees, tying Ruffing for second-most all-time in franchise history behind Ford (16 seasons). The three-time AL All-Star (1996, 2001 and ‘10) is the only pitcher drafted by the Yankees to win 200 games in the majors. Pettitte was the runner-up to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award in 1996.

In 40 postseason starts for the Yankees, Pettitte was 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA and is the club’s all-time playoff leader in victories, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts (167). He appeared in eight World Series (seven with the Yankees and one with the Astros) and earned clinching victories in Game 4 at San Diego in 1998 and Game 6 against the Phillies in 2009. He was also on Yankees staffs that won World Series championships in 1996, ‘99 and 2000. In 2001, Pettitte was ALCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against the Mariners.

Randolph played in 13 seasons for the Yankees from 1976-88 and hit .275 with 1,027 runs, 259 doubles, 58 triples, 48 home runs, 549 RBI and 251stolen bases in 1,694 games. He appeared in 1,688 games at second base with the team, more than any other player at the position in Yankees history, and ranks third on the organization’s all-time list in steals. The five-time AL All-Star (1976-77, ‘80-81 and ‘87) was also the 1980 AL Silver Slugger winner in the award’s inaugural season. Randolph played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1977-81 and hit a game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. He and Ron Guidry were named co-captains of the Yankees March 4, 1986.

In addition to his 13 playing seasons with the Yankees, Randolph spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization. He was the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004.

Big Unit, Pedro have fond memories of Stadium

The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.

“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”

Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.

“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”

“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”

Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.

“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’

“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”

I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.

They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.

And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.

This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”

He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”

Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.

Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.

Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.

Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”

That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”

Special 2015 ticket deals for MasterCard holders

The Yankees have announced special holiday on-sale opportunities exclusively for MasterCard holders to purchase tickets for select 2015 home games in April, May and June.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Black Friday (Nov. 28) and continuing through 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24, all fans using MasterCard may purchase specially priced individual game tickets for those select home games in April, May and June as part of the “MasterCard Preferred Pricing” program, which offers discounts of up to $15 per ticket in select seating categories when purchasing using a MasterCard.

Additionally, from 10 a.m. Black Friday through 11:59 p.m. Cyber Monday (Dec. 1) only, there will be a special “Buy 2, Get 2” offer. Fans may save up to 50 percent off select seats with this opportunity by using their MasterCard and the code MCB2G2. The “Buy 2, Get 2” offer is valid for four games during the 2015 season (May 8, May 22, May 26 and June 18)

Fans interested in taking advantage of the special single-game MasterCard on-sale opportunities may purchase tickets by visiting www.yankees.com/priceless or www.yankeesbeisbol.com, or by calling Ticketmaster at 877-469-9849 or 800-943-4327 (TTY). This on-sale opportunity will not be available at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office or Ticketmaster outlets.

Existing Yankees Season Ticket Licensees using their MasterCard will have special advanced access to all of the ticket specials during an exclusive pre-on-sale from 8 a.m. to 10c a.m. Nov. 28.

Also on sale on www.yankees.com beginning at 10 a.m. Black Friday will be 16-game, 12-game and nine-game value plans for the 2015 regular season. The offers are available for all fans regardless of the form of payment. Nine-game plan offers are available starting at $90. Existing Yankees Season Ticket Licensees, regardless of the form of payment, may begin purchasing these value plans at 8 a.m. Nov. 28.

The specifics of 2015 regular-season ticket specials (eg: Senior Citizen, Student, Youth, Military Personnel), as well as the 2015 regular season promotional schedule, will be announced at a later date.  The on-sale for all other 2015 individual game tickets will be announced at a later time.

Select Yankees season ticket plans are now available on both a full-season and partial-season basis. For complete season-ticket information, please visit yankees.com or yankeesbeisbol.com, contact the Season Ticket Sales and Service Department via email at seasontickets@yankees.com, or call 212-YANKEES [212-926-5337].

For group tickets for individual games during the 2015 regular season, a Yankees group sales representative can be reached at groups@yankees.com or by calling 212-YANKEES [212-926-5337].  Individual-game suites are available by contacting the Yankees Premium Sales and Services department at premium@yankees.com or 718-508-3955.

Jeter runs it out as usual in final big-league game

Once you saw Carl Yastrzemski on the field at Fenway Park before Sunday’s season finale that marked Derek Jeter’s last major-league game you know this was a big deal. Yaz is one of the most reclusive former athletes in the world. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and has gone back for a ceremony only twice, in 2000 and 2009 for the inductions of former teammates Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice, respectively.

So there was Yaz on the Fenway infield with other Boston stars of the past – Rice, Luis Tiant, Rico Petrocelli, Fred Lynn, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek – all decked out in Red Sox jerseys to pay homage to a star of the Yankees. The Red Sox did it up big for the Yanks’ captain. Along with Varitek, DJ’s counterpart with the Red Sox, former captains of Boston’s other pro sports teams – Bobby Orr (Bruins), Troy Brown (Patriots) and Paul Pierce (Celtics) – were on hand for the pregame ceremony as well.

The Red Sox had taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to Mariano Rivera’s farewell last year, and it laid a huge egg. They made up for that this year with a grand sendoff for Jeter. David Ortiz and Red Sox shortstop Zander Bogaerts presented Jeter with a sign made up of Fenway scoreboard lettering reading, “Re2spect,” and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who became friendly with Jeter when they were teammates on the USA team in the World Baseball Classic several years ago, handed the retiring icon second base with No. 2 in pinstripes across the front. The Red Sox organization also gave Jeter a $22,222.22 donation to the Captain’s Turn2 Foundation, equaling the largest check he received from an opposing team, that of the Mets. Major League Baseball had also given Jeter a check for that amount, but not surprisingly the Yankees came up with the largest donation of all — $222,222.22.

There had been some speculation that Jeter might pull a Ted Williams and not play in the three-game series following his triumphant final game at Yankee Stadium Thursday night when he had the game-winning hit. Teddy Ballgame homered in his final Fenway at-bat in 1960 and decided not even to go to New York for the last series considering the Yankees had already clinched the American League pennant. Well, the Yankees were out of contention this week, too, something Jeter was not accustomed to, but out of respect for the game and the supporters of the Yankees’ biggest rivals he made the trip to Boston.

There were no such things as farewell tours years ago. Players would receive a standing ovation and then just go home. In fact, Jeter’s last game came on the 46th anniversary of Mickey Mantle’s last big-league appearance, also at Fenway Park. The Mick started at first base but never took the field. He batted in the first inning, popped out to shortstop, and was replaced at his position by Andy Kosco. Unlike Jeter, however, Mantle did not announce his retirement in that season of 1968 but rather the following March before the start of spring training in 1969.

Jeter had made a pact with manager Joe Girardi that he would make two plate appearances as the designated hitter, the same as he did Saturday. Jeter did not play Friday night because he was exhausted from all the tension and excitement of his Stadium exit game as well as his last as a shortstop. DJ lined out to short in the first inning. Batting with Ichiro Suzuki on third base after hitting a two-run triple in the third, Jeter hit chopper off the plate and beat it out for a single that drove in a run, his 50th RBI of the season, and settled his career hit total at 3,465, sixth on the all-time list.

At that point, Jeter came out of the game for a pinch runner, of all people, Brian McCann, one of the slowest runners in the majors (he even lost a pregame footrace to Mark Teixeira). Unlike last Thursday night when his emotions nearly got the best of him, Jeter was calm and flashed often his signature smile. While he left the game, he did not leave the dugout and cheered on his mates through a 9-5 victory.

The Red Sox had one more cool surprise for Jeter. They arranged for Bernie Williams, former Yankees center fielder and current road musician, to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his guitar for his old teammate during the seventh-inning stretch, a poignant moment that echoed the end of an era for the Yankees. Perhaps that is why the Red Sox celebrated the day.

Jeter, not always comfortable with the out-of-town attention this year and under some criticism lately for what seemed at times an over-merchandizing of his farewell tour, was grateful to the Red Sox for this parting glass.

What I will take mostly from this game was Jeter’s hit itself. He ran hard to first base as he did from Day One in a Yankees uniform, forcing an infielder to hurry and eventually be unable to make the play. Most Yankees fans would have surely loved to see Jeet rip one over the Green Monster to finish off his career, but the dash to first base exemplified what Jeter was all about the past 20 years. You run everything out. It is the only way he played every day.

How appropriate; Jeter wins his last Stadium game

So it turned out what Derek Jeter needed most in his final game at Yankee Stadium was Mariano Rivera. Then again, if Mo had been available to close out Thursday night’s game, it might not have had the dramatic finish it did.

Appropriate is the key word to describe the finish of the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over the Orioles in the Captain’s last appearance in the home pinstripes. All week long Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked what gesture he was contemplating for Jeter’s farewell. The skipper kept saying he would consult with Jeter, who did the one thing he has always done over 20 seasons in the major leagues — play the game until the last out.

Who else was better to win Jeter’s Stadium finale than Jeter? He fought back emotion in the last two innings after the Yankees had grabbed a three-run lead but reverted to the cool demeanor that has defined him to be in place to get the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was achieved with his familiar inside-out swing, a single to right field that delivered pinch runner Antoan Richardson to the plate to end as astonishing an evening as there ever has been at either Yankee Stadium.

David Robertson, who succeeded Rivera as the Yankees’ closer, had a nightmare of a ninth inning by giving up a two-run home run to Adam Jones and a solo shot with two out to Steve Pearce that tied the score and threatened to ruin the night for Jeter. Rivera as well as other old teammates Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Gerald Williams and former manager Joe Torre were in attendance as well as Derek’s parents and his sister and nephew among a crowd of 48,613, the largest this year at the Stadium.

The blown save actually created the possibility that Jeter could be the hero. He had already contributed to the Yankees’ attack with a run-scoring double in the first inning and an RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh when the Yankees went up by a 5-2 score.

Imagine if Girardi had sent Brendan Ryan out to play shortstop in the top of the ninth to let Jeter get a standing ovation leaving the field? What a revolting development that would have been.

Two minor-league call-ups helped frame the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees. Jose Pirela led off with a single past third base. Richardson ran for Pirela and was sacrificed to second by Brett Gardner. I will not use the phrase “those remaining in the crowd” because I doubt anyone left the game before it ended. Up came Jeter to another crescendo of cheers. That was nothing compared to what came next. Jeter’s single was worth the price of every expensive ticket, the hottest one all year in New York.

His current teammates mobbed Jeter on the base path between first while his former comrades looked on approvingly. Hugs and high fives abounded. Jeter walked around the infield waving his cap in acknowledging the fans in every section of the Stadium.

He then walked slowly to the shortstop position, the only one he has ever played on a major-league diamond, and squatted in an almost religious gesture. He said afterward that he will not play shortstop again. He will go to Boston for the Yankees’ final three games of the season and out of respect for Red Sox fans plans to play but as a designated hitter only.

Jeter’s last season was nowhere near his best, but at 40 playing one of the game’s most demanding positions he stayed healthy and made it through 143 of the team’s 159 games. His hit gave the Yankees victory No. 82, guaranteeing them a winning season for the 22nd consecutive year. Jeter never had a losing season in the majors. The Captain also saved his best for last. In his final home stand, Jeter batted .353 with five runs, four doubles, one home run and nine RBI in 34 at-bats.

His Stadium numbers are also impressive. Jeter played in 1,390 regular-season games in the Bronx — 1,004 at the old Stadium and 386 at the current Stadium. He combined to hit .313 with 1,012 runs, 273 doubles, 30 triples, 138 home runs, 666 RBI and 193 stolen bases in 5,514 at-bats.

It is hard to believe that this tremendous career has come to an end. I was able to get a quiet moment with DJ before the game. I am not going to Boston and wanted to say my goodbyes and tell him how much I enjoyed watching him play and thank him for his cooperation over the years.

It was also the end of an era. Jeter, Posada, Pettite, Rivera and Bernie Williams are the only players I have covered in a 40-year career as a baseball writer from their first day of spring training to their last game at Yankee Stadium. They are the Core Four Plus One. Jeter’s retirement ends all that. But what an ending!

Jeter’s last game features frantic 1st inning

Things were humming along smoothly for Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium. He fielded questions from reporters before the game and said he did not want to get into emotions with a game to play and would wait until after the game to express an opinion.

Outside, meanwhile, rain kept coming down as the forecasts had predicted. Imagine Jeter’s last Stadium game being rained out? Not a chance. The skies cleared about an hour before the game. The tarp was removed. Pitchers warmed up. Players ran sprints on the damp outfield grass. There would be baseball after all.

The Stadium filled up with camera- and cell phone-carrying fans prepared to record visually every moment of this special night. A farewell video to the Captain from the people of New York City ran on the center-field screen before the club took the field. The Yankees on Demand presentation from AT&T became available on yankees.com shortly after the first pitch.

Then came that first pitch with the crowd still chanting “De-rek Je-ter!” But the first-inning pitches by Hiroki Kuroda proved a little too inviting for the first two Baltimore batters, Nick Markakis and Alejandro De Aza, each of whom homered off 1-2 deliveries.

Talk about a pall going over a crowd. The only cheering heard at that time was when a fan threw Markakis’ leadoff homer back onto the field, the customary act of defiance against an opponent. The Yankees are already eliminated from post-season consideration, so Jeter was playing in a game in which the Yankees were out of contention for only the second time in his 20-season career. The only other such game was Sept. 26, 2008 at Boston, which turned out to be a 19-8 Yankees victory. The Stadium crowd would have loved such a score Thursday night.

Leave it to Jeter to step into the moment as he helped the Yanks get even with two runs in the bottom of the first. Brett Gardner, who has had a rough go of it this month, led off against Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman with a single to right field.

Jeter got the fans on their feet with a drive near the top of the wall in right-center for a double that sent Gardner scampering home. DJ had a satisfying hand-clap as he stood on second base while the crowd reacted with cheers of ear-splitting decibels.

The Captain negotiated the rest of the way around the bases on a wild pitch and an error by second baseman Kelly Johnson, who was stationed in shallow right field in an over-shift against Brian McCann but could not get the handle on grounder for an error as Jeter scored.

The Yanks’ rally negated the Orioles’ outburst and allowed fans to settle in to a game they hoped would continue to feature Jeter in a positive light.

Yanks’ elimination leaves Jeter in odd spotlight

For a while there Wednesday, it appeared as if Derek Jeter’s teammates would get him to the last game of his career at Yankee Stadium Thursday night being meaningful. Sure, the Yankees were on a death watch regarding post-season play, but so long as they were not eliminated mathematically Jeter could come to the Stadium knowing he was in a game that counted.

That had been the case for all but one game in his career, back in September 2008 when the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Every year since his call-up from the minors in 1995, Jeter played in games for the Yankees when they contended for the post-season. They did not make it last year, either, but he missed most of the season because of injuries.

An RBI double in the first inning by Mark Teixeira and solo home runs by Stephen Drew in the second and Shane Headley in the third had the Yankees out to a 3-0 lead before a frenzied crowd of 46,056. A victory would give the Yanks hope for a continuation of their goal unless, of course, the Royals or the Athletics won later in the day.

Then came the six-run Baltimore fourth. That hope began to fade. The Orioles pushed their lead to 9-3 in the eighth. The Yankees could only retaliate with a two-run homer by Teixeira. A three-homer game by the Yanks could not prevent a 9-5 loss that eliminated them from contention. That marks two straight years of no October baseball for the Yankees, a first since 1992 and ’93 — two years before Jeter arrived on the scene and settled into the center of a new era of pinstriped success.

In the end, it did not matter what Kansas City or Oakland did. The Yanks fell on their own swords. Thursday night’s season finale, weather permitting, will be all about Jeter now, although it is hard to describe a meaningless game in such a manner.

“Right now, I feel sad,” the Captain said after the game. “We didn’t play well enough. It’s tough. We had stretches where we played great and stretches where we didn’t.”

Questions came his way about Thursday, to which he answered repeatedly, “I don’t know; I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Of course he does not know. Jeter has so scant experience in playing a game when the Yankees are out of contention that he cannot be sure where his emotions will take him Thursday night when the Stadium will be jammed with people bearing cameras and cell phones directed at his every move.

After his final at-bat, in the eighth inning Wednesday in a 0-for-4 game, following a feeble groundout to first base, Jeter was urged by the crowd to make a curtain call. They kept it up after Headley singled and were still imploring DJ after Teixeira’s homer. But he remained in his seat, a blank stare saying it all.

“It wasn’t the time for that; we were trying to get back into the game,” he said later.

Thursday night will be the time for that. It is just tough for Jeter to think of any one game that actually could mean something for him yet not for his team. His desire to win never permitted him to think that way. Now he has no other choice but to absorb that fact and embrace the adulation Yankees fans will send his way one last time in the Bronx.

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