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Cal Ripken understands what Derek Jeter is going through

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter greets Cal Ripken Jr.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter greets Cal Ripken Jr. on Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 7, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

There are few people alive in better position than Cal Ripken Jr. to understand and sympathize with Derek Jeter, who ended Tuesday night's game against the Rays in an 0-for-26 slump.

Like Jeter, Ripken was an iconic figure (mostly at shortstop) in his franchise's history when he wound down his Orioles career in September 2001, and he said the attention, the emotions and the distractions affected his play.

"I had an experience where emotionally you need your focus and your emotions to be intact to play every single day and when that started to be pulled in different directions it was extremely difficult for me down the stretch," he said Tuesday at an event in Manhattan to promote Turner's coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Ripken said it only got more difficult as his final game neared, and his emotions were further complicated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which delayed the end of that season.

"That changed the perspective altogether," he said. "I remember meeting a lot of the kids that lost dads in 9/11 at Yankee Stadium and that kind of just threw me for another emotional thing."

Like Jeter, Ripken overcame an injury-shortened penultimate season to play regularly in 2001. But in 128 games, he batted only .239 with 14 homers and 68 RBIs.

"I don't know if we'll see Derek cry . . . but I think what you're starting to see is a little bit of the emotion overtaking him a little bit," Ripken said. "As you start to say goodbye and come to the realization this is it, this is one last time, you try to allow yourself to take in everything and I think that's the hard part.

"No matter if you think you're ready for it or not, it still affects you."

Even though Ripken's farewell was a national story, as Jeter's is, it played out in Baltimore, not New York.

"Yeah, it's two or three times what it is for anybody else who plays outside of New York," he said of the focus on Jeter.

Another Turner analyst, Gary Sheffield, compared his former teammate Jeter to Ripken.

"It was one of those things where it's like an iconic figure," Sheffield said. "He represents the game like that's the guy you want to pattern yourself after, and when you have guys like that, the game needs them. To know he's on his way out, you're always looking for that next player that's going to be the next Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken.

"All the things he's done for New York and all of baseball, I was just honored to play with him."

Sheffield will work in Turner's postseason studio with former Red Sox and Mets (among others) pitcher Pedro Martinez, who said of Jeter, "The guy is a grinder. The guy is a professional. The guy is it. He's the symbol of the Yankees."

"A true pro in every aspect, and I have nothing but respect for him."

New York Sports