Appreciating Jeter

Last Thursday I exchanged emails with my longtime reader and friend Hye Sun Canning, who’d been a little surprised I hadn’t written a column about Derek Jeter’s tying (at the time) Lou Gehrig’s Yankee hit record.

I told Hye Sun that I hadn’t commented because I like to avoid redundancy, and it seemed to me that others had already a done a very good job writing appreciations of Jeter’s achievement — which of course now includes actually breaking the Gehrig record. And make no mistake, his achievement is indisputably a great one, as there’s a small likelihood that Jeter’s franchise record will ever be surpassed.  Its celebration doesn’t ignore or diminish the records set by all-time hit leaders on other teams, as some have argued. That to me is taking a jaundiced view.  Other great players have had more hits in their careers, and some have had more hits with a single team.  But — and I hope you’ll excuse this one lapse into repetitiveness — Derek Jeter now has more hits as a New York Yankee than anyone who has come before.
 
It’s a very big deal, and I’m glad Jeter, his loved ones and Yankees fans have gotten a chance to enjoy and applaud  it.  Like Jeter, we sometimes have to stop and relish these moments when they happen.

But back to Hye Sun. After I wrote her to explain why I hadn’t shared my feelings about Jeter’s feat in this spot, she went and put down her feelings in an e-mail, stating them so beautifully that I asked her permission to share an excerpt here with other readers.  While her words were typed when Jeter had equaled Gehrig’s record, I think they’re no less apt now that he’s gone beyond it.

And so, from Hye Sun to me to you, an appreciation of Derek Jeter:

I was thinking about a baseball fate that allows a good player to shine on a good team. Yogi, for instance, with his ten rings. How is that possible to achieve? Would we have missed a talent like Jeter had he played for the Reds, who could have had him instead of us? How many stars aligned for Jeter, and for all Yankee fans, when a young kid’s dream actually came true after all his hard work. Drafted by the team he rooted for, he was allowed to blossom there along with other rookies, whom established a dynasty through the first years of his professional career. The mind boggles . . . .

Without a doubt, Jeter is my favorite ballplayer. I didn’t know it in the beginning, but there came a time when I would find myself a little disappointed if his name was not in the lineup. Somehow the Yankees didn’t look the same without him in those rare games. I love his single-mindedness in pursuing team wins instead of personal accolades. He seems genuinely embarrassed to be lauded so publicly for an individual accomplishment and I love that about him. Somehow, I feel Gehrig would have been the same way, though I know so little of him. When I saw his parents celebrating, I was wondering if any words could describe how proud they must be of their son. Jeter, in my mind, embodies everything a ball player should be. Bar none.

I was really glad he got over his mini-slump and got it done that one night, and I’ll be really happy if he gets a hit quickly tomorrow night and get this all behind him. There will be time enough after he finally hangs up his Number 2, when we can all gush ad infinitum about him and his achievements, and when all naysayers will have to begrudgingly agree that this ballplayer really was special and really did have those intangible qualities that can never be measured by numbers. When there will be no more games to be won for him and he can finally look at what he did.

May be he will never be able to stand with those players with gaudy numbers, because in the end, people are easily seduced by shiny things, but I think that makes his career all the more special. He has garnered respect from all not by flashy show of power and strength, but by hard work and everyday demeanor that allowed him to shine day in and day out, allowing us to notice him and truly appreciate what rare qualities he possesses. And no amount of home runs can ever overshadow his innate integrity and dignity, which exists in the rarest of baseball players , who have to cope with more failure than success every time they play.

Truly we were all blessed by the baseball gods when he came to us and I, for one, am grateful that I got to watch his wonderful career as a Yankee.

Thank you, Hye Sun.

7 Comments

JP, please thank Hye Sun for the marvelous words and thank you for posting them. Of course it’s the same way I feel about Derek Jeter but could have not expressed them the same way. There have been many posts these last few days about Derek but none better than this.
Don

JP, I agree with Don. Thank her for me also. Being a true baseball fan and female it is nice to hear comments like she wrote in her email and I don’t feel so alone. In my opinion Derek Jeter is everything that is right and good about baseball. He personifies what the legends of this game meant it to be. Hard work, perseverence, intergrity (so lacking in many of todays stars in all sports) putting your team before your individual accolades. I believe Jeter will go down in history as one of the top 5 Yankees to ever play the game when he finally decides to hang up his cleats. I personally hope that doesn’t happen for a long time. The Yankees need to make sure they resign him so he can finish his career where it started. One of a handfull of players that can say they played their whole career for one team. And a team that he loved from early childhood. What a great movie it is going to make someday!
Jeannie

Thanks Don and Jeannie, I’m glad I wasn’t alone in appreciating Hye Sun’s words, and will let her know about your comments (hopefully she reads them here).

Jeannie (are you Jeannie from Ohio?), I think there are huge numbers of female baseball fans. I don’t know the demographics, but can unscientifically attest to one thing. In the days before Deep In the Red went to its present blog format with comments, I’d tend to get a lot more reader mail to my Inbox, and easily 60% of it came from women who are as into the game as any guy I know. For whatever reason–there may be several–the composition of the media that covers the game, and specifically the print media, doesn’t reflect this, and I think it’s probably unfortunate.

Yes, JP I am Jeannie from Ohio! Although I can’t quite remember why you would know that? Care to enlighten me?
Thanks,
Jeannie

Jeannie,

Because if you’re THE Jeannie from Ohio, and not a different Jeannie from Ohio, you emailed me several times in the past, and once told a great story about the time you brought a grateful Scooter some cannolis. Now, if you’re not THE Jeannie, then we’ve now got two Jeannie from Ohios who are serious Yankee fans reading Deep In the Red. And if that’s the case, I’m going on a mission to make every single Jeannie from Ohio who’s a Yankee fan a reader of this column!

JP,
Well, then there are two of us! I didn’t not buy any cannolis. However, I have emailed several people in the past but couldn’t remember if you were one of them. Makes me wonder where the other Jeannie lives…..hmmmmm, maybe she and I could talk! I have MLB so I get to watch my Yankees play (much to my husbands chagrin!) every night possible. So, let your other reader named Jeannie know and maybe she can email me! Thanks for writing such good stuff!
Thanks,
Jeannie from Southern Ohio

How is it I just found this blog? I thought I read them all. I can appreciate Hye Sun’s feelings. Derek Jeter is a legend and we are all, Yankee fan or not, lucky enough to watch him play. I know how my mom fealt watching The Mick, history happening every single night.
Ruth,Gherig,Mantle,Jeter..they are all synonomous.

I love my Yankees,
Dawn P

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