Results tagged ‘ Derek Jeter ’

Yankees, A-Rod settle dispute & get 3,000th-hit ball

The Yankees and Alex Rodriguez had a good day Friday on the eve of the Fourth of July. They amicably resolved their potential dispute regarding the designated hitter’s entitlement to bonus monies under the provision of his player contract covering historical statistical accomplishments.

As part of the resolution jointly announced Friday by Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association, Rodriguez and the Yankees have agreed that $3.5 million in charity contributions will be made by the club, with $1 million going to the following charities that have long enjoyed the support of one or both: the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, Fla., and Pitch In For Baseball; and $2.5 million going to the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which will use the money to further programs and initiatives aimed at increasing youth participation in baseball, particularly in cities.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will determine the initiatives to be supported by the $2.5 million contribution after consulting with Rodriguez and taking into consideration the focus of his past charitable contributions.

In addition, Zack Hample, the fan who retrieved Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit June 19, presented the ball to A-Rod at a press conference before Friday night’s game. The Yankees also donated $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity which Hample has supported since 2009 that is dedicated to maximizing the ability to play baseball in under-served communities.

Founded in 2005, Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB) collects and redistributes new and gently-used baseball and softball equipment to communities in need across the globe. To date, PIFB has distributed equipment and uniforms to more than 80 countries worldwide and more than 450 communities around the United States, which has impacted more than 500,000 children in need. Based in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, PIFB is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. To learn more about Pitch In For Baseball, visit http://www.pifb.org.

With a solo home run in the first inning of the Yankees-Tigers game at Yankee Stadium Friday, June 19, Rodriguez became the 29th player all-time to reach the 3,000 hits plateau. He was the second player to record his 3,000th career hit with the Yankees, joining Derek Jeter, who did it July 9, 2011 against the Rays. They are the only individuals to have reached the plateau at the Stadium – original or current.

A-Rod’s 3,000th hit also his 667th home run

In his previous quests for landmark hits such as his 500th and 600th home runs, Alex Rodriguez went days without achieving them as at-bat after at-bat piled up. Not so with his 3,000th hit, however.

A-Rod wasted no time in becoming the 29th member of the major leagues’ 3,000 Hit Club Friday night when he hit the first pitch he saw from Detroit’s Justin Verlander for an opposite-field home run with two out in the bottom of the first inning. Rodriguez’s first big-league hit was 21 years ago as a rookie with the Mariners.

His 3,000th hit was also his 667th career home run. The only players other than A-Rod with 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs are Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Willie Mays.

Rodriguez joined former teammate Derek Jeter as the only players to reach the 3,000-hit plateau wearing Yankees uniforms. Four other 3,000 Hit Club members played for the Yankees during their careers: Paul Waner, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs.

A-Rod also became the third player whose 3,000th hit was a home run. The others were Boggs with Tampa Bay in 1999 and Jeter against the Rays at Yankee Stadium in 2011. Rodriguez acknowledged the fans’ applause with a curtain call.

That A-Rod’s 3,000th hit came against a pitcher the caliber of Verlander, a former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, was not a surprise. Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, entered the game with a .357 batting average and four home runs in 28 career at-bats against Verlander.

Here’s a number you’ll never forget, Bernie

In terms of profile and temperament, Bernie Williams and New York would not seem a comfortable fit. The city that never sleeps was the incubator that gave the culture such over-the-top performers from Cagney to Streisand to DeNiro, not to mention such flamboyant out-of-town athletes who conquered the Big Apple’s hard core, from Dempsey to Mantle to Namath.

But Bernie Williams? Bob Sheppard, the late majestic voice of Yankee Stadium, noted that even the syllables of Williams’ name failed to conjure up images of greatness. Except for his Puerto Rican heritage, which he shared with many Bronx residents, Williams did not appear to have much in common with the population of the borough that the Yankees call home which traditionally has revered players who thrive on being the center of attention.

Towards the end of the 2005 season when his tenure with the Yankees was drawing to a close, fans at the Stadium finally stood up and took notice at Williams on a regular basis with standing ovations before and after each of his plate appearances. Bernie Williams was at center stage at last. The outpouring of affection was a belated tribute by Yankees fans for all Williams meant to the franchise in one of the most significant periods of its glorious history.

And the penultimate experience occurs Sunday night when a packed Stadium will shower Williams with an abundance of affection as the Yankees will honor him with a plaque in Monument Park and officially retire his uniform No. 51. No player has worn that number since Williams’ last season 10 years ago, even the two who had worn it with distinction in Seattle, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. After coming to the Yankees in trades from the Mariners, Johnson wore No. 41 and Suzuki No. 31.

Bernie Williams'  No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

Bernie Williams’ No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

While other teammates drew greater cheers and headlines over the years, Williams was the calming center of a team that went from spit to shinola in the 1990’s to complete a resounding history of baseball in the Bronx. The quiet, contemplative, switch-hitting center fielder batted cleanup in lineups that produced four World Series championships, including three in a row, over the last five years of the 20th century and the first year of the 21st.

Of all the players who took part in the Yankees’ extraordinary run during that period, Williams was the only one who was there when it all began, when the club started to make strides toward decency in 1992 and improved to such an extent that by the middle of the decade was on the verge of yet another dynastic era.

Yes, that Bernie Williams, whose way with a guitar rivaled that of his handling of bat and glove. Williams’ love of the guitar was so strong that he was just as much in awe of meeting Les Paul and Paul McCartney as he was shaking hands with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Yet it is in the latter’s company that Williams will always hold a special place in Yankees lore.

It is a past as eventful as any in franchise history. Williams’ rankings on the Yankees’ career lists include third in doubles (449), singles (1,545) and intentional walks (97); fourth in at-bats (7,869); fifth in plate appearances (9,053), hits (2,336), bases on balls (1,069), times on base (3,444) and sacrifice flies( 64); sixth in games (2,076), total bases (3,756), extra-base hits (791) and runs (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and runs batted in (1,257). He is one of only 10 players who played 16 or more seasons only with the Yankees. The others are Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Not bad for an unassuming man who was often the cruel butt of jokes by veteran teammates when he came into the majors in 1991. “Bambi” was the nickname Mel Hall, Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield and others hung on Williams, a suggestion that his non-confrontational demeanor and love for classical guitar music somehow made him unfit for the rigors of professional sports.

As it turned out, Williams not only turned the other cheek but also left the gigglers in the dust. He carved out for himself a career that is superior to all his old tormentors and one that just might make him a serious candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame some day.

Williams batted .297 over those 16 seasons, with a .381 on-base average and .477 slugging percentage. He won a batting title, four Gold Gloves for fielding, a Silver Slugger for hitting and was named to five All-Star teams.

Even more impressive are Williams’ post-season numbers. He ranks second in most major offensive categories – games (121), at-bats (465), runs (83), hits (128), total bases (223), singles (77) and total bases (202). In each case, Williams is second to long-time teammate Derek Jeter. Williams is also the runner-up in post-season home runs (22) to Manny Ramirez and walks (77) to Chipper Jones.

Williams is the only player in post-season history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, and he did it twice, in the 1995 American League Division Series against the Mariners and in the 1996 AL Division Series against the Rangers. Also in ‘96, he was the Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series victory over the Orioles.

The World Series victory over the Braves that followed remained a key moment in Williams’ career. Years later, he noted, “The World Series gives you confidence. Whenever a team goes through adversity, every player who has been to the World Series knows that this is the beauty of the game, how great it is. We don’t just play for the money or the records. There’s a reason to be the best. We realized it [in ‘96], not just because we won it, but the way we won it. We were down by two games, and we went down to Atlanta and swept the Braves. That taught us a lot about the game, what it means.”

Williams was distraught in the 1997 post-season when he was 2-for-17 in the ALDS loss to the Indians, a setback that seemed to galvanize the Yankees as they came back to win three straight World Series. They were memorable seasons for Williams, who won his batting title in 1998 with a .339 average to go with 26 home runs and 97 RBI and had an even better year in ‘99, batting .342 with 25 home runs and 115 RBI. His best overall season was in 2000, batting .307 with 30 home runs and 121 RBI.

Not even Yankees scout Fred Ferreira, with the recommendation of Roberto Rivera, who signed Williams to a contract Sept. 13, 1985, his 17th birthday, could have foreseen such a career, particularly in the heady atmosphere of center field at the Stadium that had been patrolled by Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer and Mickey Rivers.

Bernabe Figueroa Williams was born in San Juan in 1968 and grew up in Vega Alta, P.R., where he played high school ball with future two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez. Williams’ parents also instilled in him a love for music, which proved a sustaining force at times when his baseball career became over-challenging.

One of the oddities of Williams’ time with the Yankees was that he was frequently the only player in the batting order who did not have a special song played for him when he came to bat, a practice that became prominent at ballparks in the ‘90s. Williams’ interest in music was so intense that he considered listening to a “theme song” before a plate appearance a distraction.

During Williams’ rise through the minors, the Yankees weren’t quite sure how to use him. Despite being fleet afoot, Williams lacked the larcenous behavior to be an effective base stealer, which made him less than an attractive leadoff hitter despite an excellent on-base percentage. His legs helped him run down any fly ball, but his throwing arm was never particularly strong or accurate

But in the early ‘90s, the Yankees were in no position to be over picky about prospects. When injuries cut into the playing time of outfielders Roberto Kelly and Danny Tartabull, Williams was summoned to the majors and the slow apprenticeship began. Brought along slowly by managers Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter, Williams came into his own in 1993 and took control of center field at Yankee Stadium, the most sacred patch of ground in the majors, for the next 10 years.

His breakthrough year was 1995 when Williams batted .307 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI and followed that by hitting .429 with two home runs and five RBI in 21 at-bats in the grueling, five-game ALDS loss to the Mariners, an exciting series that helped “sell” the new concept of an expanded round of playoffs.

Joe Torre arrived the next season, and while some of Williams’ eccentricities had the new manager shaking his head on occasion was won over by his almost childlike enthusiasm.

“I don’t think there is anything about Bernie that could surprise me – take that as a plus or a minus,” Torre told MLB.com last year. “That’s just his personality, just him, basically. He’s very different in that he is not your typical baseball player. That’s probably why he was a little more sensitive than other players.”

But with that sensitivity also came with Williams a sense of loyalty. Despite being wooed by the Red Sox and the Diamondbacks when he was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, Williams contacted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the sides worked out a seven-year contract for $87 million that kept Bernie in pinstripes.

Williams had been hopeful he could have played for the Yankees in 2007, but there was no longer a role for him. So the soft-spoken center fielder, now 46, enjoys a satisfying retirement and continues to write music. His 2003 CD, “The Journey Within,” drew praise from the likes of McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon.

“Don’t let your job define who you are,” Williams once said. “Your relationships will define who you are. No matter what you do in life, you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody’s life. In my experience with the Yankees, these are a few of the thing that I have learned. You’ve got to have a plan of action, you have to stay focused on the things you can control, and don’t get discouraged or distracted by the things you cannot control.”

Ellsbury & Gardner ideal table setters

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both reached base to begin the Yankees’ game against the Blue Jays Tuesday night, and they both scored. So what else is new? Ellsbury and Gardner have been the most effective top-of-the-order hitters in the majors.

Remember last year when manager Joe Girardi tried numerous lineups to figure out the best way to utilize each’s skills? For quite a spell, Girardi used Gardner in the leadoff spot and Ellsbury in the 3-hole with since-retired Derek Jeter positioned between them. That gave Ellsbury RBI opportunities but was a deterrent to his stealing bases with the meat of the order right behind him.

For the times Ellsbury batted leadoff, Girard put Gardner at the bottom of the order. Almost never did the two of them together. Part of that was the resistance to moving Jeter lower in the order, but the major factor was that Girardi was uncomfortable having two left-handed hitters back to back.

One of the best 1-2 combos at the top of the order that I recall was that of Vince Coleman and Willie McGee with the Cardinals in the 1980s. What made it easy for Whitey Herzog to leave them where they were each game is that they were both switch hitters.

Yet Ellsbury and Gardner have proved not to be the sort of left-handed batters that are overly vulnerable to left-handed pitching. Ellsbury entered this season with a .294 career batting average overall and .292 against lefties and Gardner .266 overall and .260 against lefties.

So there was not a great risk in experimenting with the two side by side atop the order. If anything, it has worked perfectly. Let managers bring in lefties late in the game against them. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Ellsbury was hitting .419 in 31 at-bats against lefthanders and Gardner .400 in 25 at-bats vs. lefties.

Tuesday night’s starter for the Blue Jays was righthander Marco Estrada, a reliever getting a shot in the rotation, and Ellsbury and Gardner wasted no time in driving the pitcher crazy. Ellsbury ran his hitting streak to eight games with a single through the middle. He got a workout on several hit-and-run trots as Gardner fouled off Estrada offerings to extend the at-bat to 11 pitches. Brett’s last swing of the at-bat produced a liner to right-center on another hit-and-run play that got Ellsbury to third base with Gardner hustling all the way into second for a double.

The Yanks’ table setters did their job for Alex Rodriguez, who responded in kind with a double to left field for a 2-0 lead. A-Rod was caught off second on a tapper to the mound by Mark Teixeira that thwarted any continued scoring that inning.

Struggling Beltran comes through in clutch

Yankees fans have been patient with Carlos Beltran in hopes of seeing the player that had put together a Hall of Fame-bound career with the Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants and Cardinals. He was eager to play for the Yankees when he joined the club last year but had his season reduced by a third because of an elbow injury that required surgery.

A healthy Beltran has gotten off to a sluggish rather than a slugger start for the Yankees in 2015, which is why it was so important to see him get a clutch hit Wednesday night in the finale of the Yankees-Orioles series at Camden Yards.

Beltran, who took a .152 batting average into his third-inning plate appearance against Baltimore righthander Bud Norris, thrust the Yankees into the lead with a two-out, two-run double. The ball was smoked by Beltran, who was batting left-handed, and came within inches of a home rub as the ball hit near the top of the wall in right-center field.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has kept Beltran in the 3-hole in the lineup despite his slow start because of the confidence he has in a player with so strong a track record. Beltran got the opportunity when the Yankees rallied with two out behind a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to Chase Headley.

Alex Rodriguez expanded the Yankees’ lead to 3-1 with a long home run to left field with one out in the fourth. When A-Rod touched the plate, it was his 1,923rd run scored, which tied him with former teammate Derek Jeter for 10th place on the all-time list.

Select the Yankees’ “Mount Rushmore” players

Got an idea which four players in Yankees history should qualify as the “Mount Rushmore” of the franchise? You will have the opportunity to express your opinion in Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” campaign that begins today.

Fans may visit MLB.com/FranchiseFour to select the four most impactful players who best represent the history of each franchise
out of eight choices from its lineage. An additional write-in option will be available to fans on the ballot, which can also be accessed on their mobile devices. The balloting runs through Friday, May 8.
categories in the sport’s history. The winners of the month-long period of fan voting on MLB.com/FranchiseFour will be announced during pregame ceremonies at the 86th All-Star
Game Tuesday, July 14, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

The eight players on the ballot were selected based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel in consultation with the 30 clubs. The panel was asked to identify “the most impactful
players who best represent the history of each franchise [or special category”] for the ballot. Panelists were MLB’s official historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official
statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau; MLB.com; MLB Network; and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). In addition to the 30 franchises, fans may vote for three special categories: the “Greatest Living Players”; the greatest Negro Leagues Players; and the sport’s greatest Pioneers, encompassing players whose careers began more than a century ago.

“The All-Star Game is a celebration of the National Pastime, and Cincinnati’s rich baseball heritage makes it a perfect venue to highlight the great players who are synonymous with our clubs and those who played pivotal roles in the game’s history,” MLB chief operating officer Tony Petitti said. “We believe that the ‘Franchise Four’ campaign will engage fans in a fun and meaningful way and will link the past and the present in the manner that Baseball does so uniquely.”

Full disclosure: I was on the BBWAA voting committee and submitted my eight choices for the Yankees. They were precisely the eight players who made the ballot — alphabetically Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera and Babe Ruth. If I were voting for a ninth player, I would go with Bill Dickey by a slight margin over Don Mattingly.

The Yankees’ franchise is so rich with success that narrowing the field down to eight was a chore. I felt bad about having to leave off Dickey or Mattingly, not to mention such worthy choices as Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Dave Winfield, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. As for stars like Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson, their time with the Yankees was not long enough to qualify, in my view. But your view may be different, so give your opinion by logging on to MLB.com/Franchise Four.

The full ballot:

American League East

Baltimore Orioles (including St. Louis Browns): Paul Blair, Dave McNally, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson.

Boston Red Sox: Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young.

New York Yankees: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera, Babe Ruth.

Tampa Bay Rays: Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, David Price, James Shields, Melvin Upton Jr., Ben Zobrist.

Toronto Blue Jays: Roberto Alomar, Jose Bautista, George Bell, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, Tony Fernandez, Roy Halladay, Dave Stieb.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox: Luis Aparicio, Luke Appling, Harold Baines, Eddie Collins, Nellie Fox, Paul Konerko, Minnie Minoso, Frank Thomas.

Cleveland Indians: Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Alan Trammell, Justin Verlander.

Kansas City Royals: George Brett, Alex Gordon, Hal McRae, Amos Otis, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, Frank White, Willie Wilson.

Minnesota Twins (incl. original Washington Senators): Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Walter Johnson, Jim Kaat, Harmon Killebrew, Joe Mauer, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett.

American League West

Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jimmy Wynn.

Los Angeles Angels: Garret Anderson, Brian Downing, Chuck Finley, Jim Fregosi, Vladimir Guerrero, Nolan Ryan, Tim Salmon, Mike Trout.

Oakland Athletics (incl. Philadelphia and Kansas City): Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Rickey Henderson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Al Simmons.

Seattle Mariners: Jay Buhner, Alvin Davis, Ken Griffey Jr., Felix Hernandez, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Jamie Moyer, Ichiro Suzuki.

Texas Rangers (incl. expansion Washington Senators): Adrian Beltre, Juan Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Frank Howard, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, Michael Young.

National League East

Atlanta Braves (incl. Boston and Atlanta): Hank Aaron, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Eddie Mathews, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz, Warren Spahn.

Miami Marlins: Josh Beckett, Luis Castillo, Jeff Conine, Livan Hernandez, Charles Johnson, Mike Lowell, Gary Sheffield, Giancarlo Stanton.

New York Mets: Gary Carter, John Franco, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright.

Philadelphia Phillies: Richie Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Chuck Klein, Robin Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Schmidt, Chase Utley.

Washington Nationals (incl. Montreal Expos): Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero, Dennis Martinez, Tim Raines, Steve Rogers, Rusty Staub, Ryan Zimmerman.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Gabby Hartnett, Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, Billy Williams.

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun, Cecil Cooper, Prince Fielder, Rollie Fingers, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Barry Bonds, Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor, Honus Wagner, Paul Waner.

St. Louis Cardinals: Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith.

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks: Steve Finley, Paul Goldschmidt, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb, Matt Williams.

Colorado Rockies: Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, Carlos Gonzalez, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, Larry Walker.

Los Angeles Dodgers (incl. Brooklyn): Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Fernando Valenzuela.

San Diego Padres: Nate Colbert, Steve Garvey, Adrian Gonzalez, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Randy Jones, Jake Peavy, Dave Winfield.

San Francisco Giants (incl. New York): Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Mel Ott, Buster Posey.

Greatest Living Players
Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver.

Greatest Negro Leagues Players
Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Martin Dihigo, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige.

Greatest Pioneers (Pre-1915)
Grover Cleveland Alexander, Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Wee Willie Keeler, Mike “King” Kelly, Kid Nichols, George Sisler, George Wright.

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.

Louisville Slugger retires Jeter’s bat model P72

What Louisville Slugger did to honor Derek Jeter Wednesday was unprecedented in the 130-year history of the company that is the official bat maker of Major League Baseball. The manufacturers announced that it is retiring Jeter’s model P72.

James Sass, director of professional baseball sales for the company based in Louisville, Ky., said, “Derek has swung one bat model from one bat company his entire career. He has made more than 12,500 plate appearances in his 20 MLB seasons, and every single one of them has been with a Louisville Slugger P72. With Derek’s impending retirement, we thought it was fitting to retire his bat model in recognition of his brilliant career.We are grateful for his enduring and unwavering loyalty. In honor of Derek’s tremendous career and impact, we won’t be making the P72 anymore.”

Company officials surprised the Captain with their decision in a presentation of “The Last P72” before Wednesday’s Yankees-Orioles game at Yankee Stadium.

The P72 has been one of the more popular models with players over the decades. In addition to Jeter, who ranks sixth on the all-time career hits list, it has been swung by Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Robin Yount, among others.

The specifications of the P72, with its medium barrel and balanced swing weight, will still exist for players to order, but under a new model name. It will be called the DJ2 in recognition of Jeter’s and his career. There is one potential exception where Louisville Slugger could use the P72 name on bats again;the company says it will invoke a grandfather clause to use P72 for any descendent of the player the bat was originally made: Les Pinkham

In addition to retiring the P72 model number, Louisville Slugger will give the final 72 P72 bats to be produced to Jeter to raise funds for his Turn 2 Foundation, which he founded in his rookie season.

“We know how much Derek’s Turn 2 Foundation means to him, so we wanted to do something significant to help the organization as it works to positively impact young lives,” Sass said. “So we’re giving Derek the last 72 of his P72’s to use for Turn 2. These bats will be amazing collectors’ items and should help raise a lot of money for his foundation.”

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory will purchase back the first of the final 72 bats to exhibit in its main gallery in Louisville. The museum provided a check for $5,000 to the Turn 2 Foundation.

Jeter ordered 33.5-inch, 31-ounce P72 model bats in 1995 and 1996. He went to a longer and heavier 34-inch, 32-ounce model P72 Louisville Slugger in 1997 and has stayed with it ever since. In his 20-season career, Jeter has ordered more than 2,500 P72 model Louisville Slugger bats.

Previous players who swung the P72 in addition to Ripken and Yount, both former two-time American League Most Valuable Players (Yount in 1982 & ’89, Ripken in 1983 & ’91), include another two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez (1996 & ’98), 1999 AL MVP Ivan Rodriguez, 1977 National League MVP George Foster, 1982 World Series MVP Darrell Porter, Yankees bench coach and former catcher Tony Pena, Athletics general manager and former outfielder Billy Beane, as well as Andy Van Slyke, Gary Gaetti, Glenn Hubbard, Jose Cruz, Mike Easler, Sandy Alomar Jr., Von Hayes, Nomar Garciaparra and two of Jeter’s closest friends, Gerald Williams and Harold Reynolds.

Orioles second baseman Kelly Johnson, who was a teammate of Jeter with the Yankees this season until he was traded in July, used a P72 model bat when he homered Tuesday night at the Stadium.

Louisville Slugger created the P72 in 1954 for Leslie Wayne Pinkham, a minor league player from Elizabethtown, Ky., who was playing Triple A baseball in Columbus, Ohio. The “P” denotes the first letter of Pinkham’s last name. “72” means Pinkham was the 72nd pro player whose last name started with “P” for whom Louisville Slugger made a specific model bat, thus the “P72.” His son, Bill Pinkham, also used his father’s bat model when he was a player in the Reds organization.

Louisville Slugger presented Jeter with a special award to commemorate the retiring of the P72 model number. The award features the last P72 ever made for Jeter. These are the words engraved on the award presented to Jeter:

THE LAST P72
Louisville Slugger® created the P72 model in 1954 for Leslie Wayne Pinkham. It became one of professional baseball’s most popular bats.

Derek Jeter swung a Louisville Slugger P72 for every plate appearance he made over his 20-season MLB career.

In honor of the Yankee Captain’s retirement, and in acknowledgement of his unwavering loyalty, Louisville Slugger officially retires the P72 at the conclusion of the 2014 MLB season, 60 years after it was created.

The Derek Jeter signature model bat mounted here is the last P72.

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