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Derek Jeter true 2 form even on his special day at Yankee Stadium: 'We've got a game to play'

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter looks on during a

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter looks on during a ceremony to honor him on Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Derek Jeter Day epitomized the retiring Yankees shortstop to the core.

He wanted to get to work, and Jeter was not going to let his retirement party -- in front of family, friends and more than 48,000 of his closest admirers at sold-out Yankee Stadium -- run any longer than absolutely necessary.

So Jeter ended the pomp and circumstance shortly after his less-than-three-minute speech Sunday by saying, "We've got a game to play."

Jeter later said he appreciated and "enjoyed every minute of it, but when I was done speaking and people were standing around, I thought it was time to say we've got another game. I was well aware the whole time that we had to play a game."

He did add, "It was awesome, something I'll always remember."

But with the Yankees -- who lost to the Royals, 2-0 -- trying to stay in the wild-card hunt, Jeter said being honored was "very strange. We have three weeks left in the season. We're trying to win games. You appreciate all the support, you appreciate all the kindness people are saying."

But he kept repeating, "You're still trying to play a game."

Jeter's teammates had one surprise for him when the game was about to begin. He usually leads them out of the dugout to start the first inning. This time, they all remained behind and Jeter took the field alone. "I was unaware of the fact that no one was behind me," he said.

Jeter endured the praise lavished on him during the ceremony and throughout the game with video tributes from the baseball world. Cal Ripken was on hand, and creating an air of distinction from outside baseball was Michael Jordan, the last in-person guest announced. Jeter wasn't totally surprised, saying he knew his friend and six-time NBA champion was in New York and thought "something might be up."

Jeter's gift basket from the Yankees included a trip to Tuscany, a Waterford Crystal and a check to his Turn 2 Foundation in the amount of $222,222.22.

Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez headed the list of former teammates. Joe Torre, Jeter's former manager, also attended.

Torre, speaking before the 45-minute program, correctly predicted Jeter's reaction. "This is important for obviously his teammates, his former teammates and for me to be here," he said. "But the most important time is when everybody gets off the field and they're throwing the first pitch. That's just the way he's wired."

Joe Girardi said he hoped Jeter would "take it in, I hope he has a chance to feel the magnitude of the moment. But it's not Derek's personality."

Rivera thinks that time will arrive shortly. "The last day will be the toughest," the retired closer said. "That, definitely, he will find out."

Jeter was asked about the end being in sight and said, "Today you think about it because of all the things that are being said."

Jeter did have a moment when he had to hold it all together. The most poignant part of his speech was when he said: "In my opinion, I've had the greatest job in the world. I got a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees, and there's only one of those. And I always felt as though it was my job, was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys, but it can't compare to what you brought me. So for that, thank you very much."

But Jeter never unraveled.

"I had to guard against being emotional," he said. "I think my hand was shaking a little bit."

As with the retirement of all great players, fans tend to think no one of their ilk will ever come along again. "The game will go on," Girardi said. "People have always said one individual is never bigger than the game. Even though he has meant as much to this game as I can remember over the last 20 years, we'll have to prepare and get ready. I'll have to decide who our new shortstop is, though."

Torre was very succinct when asked what he thinks the organization will miss the most about Jeter:

"Just the fact that he's not here."

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