Derek Jeter goes 2-for-2 in his final All-Star Game
The afternoon of Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game started with a ride in the back of a slow-moving pickup truck, waving to the crowds along the red-carpeted streets of Minneapolis as the vehicle rolled toward the players’ entrance of Target Field.
It concluded with the retiring Yankees captain doffing his cap to a standing ovation that lasted nearly three minutes, finishing 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored as the American League’s leadoff hitter before being replaced at shortstop for the fourth inning.
“Any player that says they don’t want to go to an All-Star Game is lying to you,” Jeter said. “It’s something everyone wants to be a part of. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a few of them and I’m happy that I had a chance to do it one last time.”
In February, when Jeter announced his intention to walk away at the conclusion of the season, he thought that it would be great to attend one last Midsummer Classic. Credited with his 14th selection and ninth fan-voted election, the Yankees captain rose to the occasion.
“You know what? He has a flair for the dramatic, as we know,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who piloted the AL squad in its 5-3 victory. “Two base hits and scores the first run; it worked out pretty well.”
Hearing some of the loudest ovations during pregame introductions, Jeter dirtied his uniform diving for Andrew McCutchen’s first-inning infield hit, then walked to the plate as the AL’s leadoff hitter in the home half of the frame.
As Jeter dug into the box, accompanied by a recording of the late Yankee Stadium legend Bob Sheppard, pitcher Adam Wainwright set his glove on top of the mound and stepped back. His hands bare, Wainwright led the rest of the NL squad in applauding.
“I just felt like that was what he deserved,” Wainwright said. “I wasn’t going near it. I’d still be standing there if the crowd kept cheering.”
Jeter tried to urge Wainwright to pick up his glove and start the game, but the Cardinals hurler refused, allowing the fans a few extra moments to cheer.
“I’ll always remember it,” Jeter said. “I have never faced Adam before, I haven’t really talked to him, and he’s one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. For him to do that during tonight’s game, it says a lot about him and how much of a class act he is.”
After a brief conversation with Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Jeter jumped on Wainwright’s second pitch — a 90-mph cutter — for a double down the right field line, then scored the game’s first run on Mike Trout’s triple.
“He said congrats, and then, ‘What does this guy have? I’ve never faced him,'” Lucroy said. “It’s not like he needed to know. He hit a double right down the line.”
Wainwright later created a stir by saying that he’d intended to give Jeter “a couple pipe shots” down the middle to hit, a remark that he later backed away from.
“I should probably hush up,” Wainwright said. “I completely was trying to throw a strike. I was fine with him putting it in play. I did not think he was going to get a hit.”
The double was Jeter’s first extra-base hit in the All-Star Game since he homered in the 2001 contest at Safeco Field, and Jeter defused the controversy with a splash of humor.
“If he grooved it, thank you,” Jeter said. “You still have to hit it. I appreciate it, if that’s what he did.”
Jeter’s second at-bat came in the third inning against the Reds’ Alfredo Simon, working the count full before dunking a 3-2 pitch into right field for a soft opposite-field single, advancing to second base on a wild pitch before being stranded there.
“I tried to get him out, but if he got a base hit, it’s no big deal,” Simon said. “It’s the All-Star Game. I’m happy for him.”
Farrell had planned to have Jeter take two at-bats and then replace him defensively in the fourth, something that Farrell said he conferred with Joe Torre about over the last week.
Former teammate Robinson Cano brought Jeter’s glove and cap out to the field, and Jeter went through the motions of pre-inning tosses to first base until Farrell sent Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox out to take over.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but the manager came up to me and asked me to go into the game in the fourth inning,” Ramirez said. “It’s such a great honor to have that moment with an a legend of American baseball. I’m really proud to have had that moment.”
The strains of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” began to play over the PA system, and during an ovation of more than three minutes, Jeter tipped his cap numerous times — a uniform piece he’d later donate to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I thought it was great. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Jeter said. “My back was turned and I heard Cano yelling, but usually when he yells I ignore him. Then I saw Ramirez coming out. It was a wonderful moment that I’m always going to remember. I appreciate John doing that for me.”
“When you’ve witnessed a guy have such a great career, there’s a moment of celebration, but I think we as fans know that every career can’t go on to infinity,” Farrell said. “There’s a point and time where things start to close out. He’s able to do things in such a class way that tonight was another example of that.”
With a TV cameraman capturing his movements for the home audience, Jeter hugged every person wearing an AL uniform, then took one final curtain call and watched the remainder of the game from the top step of the dugout.
“It makes me feel good. The All-Star Game is about everyone that’s here, not one particular person,” Jeter said. “I’ve always been uncomfortable, so to speak, when the focus is on me. I felt as though the focus should be on everyone that’s in this game.
“For the players to do what they did, you play this game and try to have respect for the game, for the players – both your teammates and your opponents – and for them to do that, that would be much better than if there was something that was scripted.”
Jeter finished his All-Star career with a .481 (13-for-27) batting average, which ranks fifth all time among players with at least 10 at-bats. At age 40, Jeter became the oldest player to have two or more hits in an All-Star Game. The previous oldest was Carl Yastrzemski, who was 39 when he had a pair of singles in the 1979 All-Star Game.
“You’ve got to be blessed,” Cano said. “Not everyone gets that kind of ovation. Seeing it, I played with him a long time, and I know what kind of person he is and what kind of player he is. He deserves it and I’m happy for him.”
Lauded on Tuesday by Commissioner Bud Selig as “the face of baseball,” Jeter said that he has appreciated everything in his career to this point. Nike aired a tribute commercial before Jeter’s first at-bat, with many celebrities and sports luminaries offering Jeter a literal tip of the cap.
“I’ll try not to mess it up over the next couple months,” Jeter said, with a smile.
The lights may be dark on Jeter’s All-Star career, but there are even more important games that Jeter wants to participate in. He will be back on the field with the Yankees on Friday in the Bronx, where he hopes they can begin a second-half surge toward October baseball.
“Even today, you try to enjoy it because it’s your last All-Star Game, but we have another game in two days,” Jeter said. “It’s kind of hard to juggle the two. I’m going to enjoy it, savor it, but the season still continues.”