One by one, the Yankees of the late ’90-early 2000s dynasty have had their moments in the Bronx.
Bernie Williams. Paul O’Neill. Tino Martinez. Andy Pettitte. Jorge Posada. Joe Torre. All have had their numbers retired and/or were honored with plaques in Monument Park over the last few years.
Finally, on Mother’s Day, the Yankees held the mother of all ceremonies.
Derek Sanderson Jeter, the captain, had his number retired — it’s 2, in case you didn’t know — and was honored with a plaque that joins those of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and some of the Yankees’ lesser legends.
Why Mother’s Day? Jeter, in the aftermath of the emotional ceremony between games of the Yankees’ doubleheader with the Astros, explained how Mother’s Day came to share top billing in the Bronx with Jeter Night.
“I got to choose,” Jeter said. “I chose Mother’s Day because I have a very special relationship, not only with my mother, but with my whole family. I chose Mother’s Day and the first thing my dad said was, ‘What are we going to do on Father’s Day?’ But my mom especially has been very supportive ever since I was younger, but not just playing baseball. It was with anything that me or my sister wanted to do where she was very supportive. So I thought it would be nice to have this special day on Mother’s Day to honor her and all that she’s meant not only to my career, but she helped shape who I am today.”
Who is Derek Jeter today? He’s an entrepreneur, perhaps one day a baseball team owner, although that was not a subject he wanted to discuss amid reports he’s part of a group that is trying to buy the Miami Marlins.
Jeter is also an impending father. In his speech to the adoring sellout crowd, Jeter opened with a shout-out to all the moms out there and his pregnant wife, Hannah, who joined him on the field for the 40-minute lovefest.
Later, Jeter was asked about becoming a father for the first time at the age of 42. Before the ceremony, special guest after special guest had gushed about how calm Jeter always was in the biggest games, in the toughest spots, on the largest stages in sports.
Jeter played in an unfathomable 158 postseason games, almost a full 162-game season, and had a major-league record 200 hits. In the regular season, Jeter hit .310 with an .817 OPS. In the postseason — with the pressure ratcheted up in every at-bat — he hit .308 with an .838 OPS.
But Jeter’s apparently not sure whether the ice water in his veins matter when it comes to changing diapers.
Asked if he was ready for the challenges of being a dad, Jeter said: “No. I prided myself in my career to be prepared at all times. Anytime I’m unprepared it makes me uncomfortable. I’m unprepared. From what people have told me, you just do it and see what happens . . . I’m excited, but at the same time I’m nervous.”
Something tells us he’ll be all right. Jeter has always handled things well, from being the shortstop of the World Series-winning Yankees as a rookie in 1996, to his four other championship seasons, to his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium when he had a fairy tale-like Jeterian walkoff single to right.
At the end of his speech, in front of his soon-to-be-larger-by-one family, Jeter talked about how lucky he was to be part of the Yankees family. For the fans in the stands, awash in Jeter love, it was a perfect note, and a perfect end to the honoring of the team of that era.
“I was always the youngest,” Jeter said, “so I figured I’d be last.”
The Yankees, as it turned out, saved the best for last.