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Turns out Fenway Park was a perfect place for Jeter send-off

The Yankees' Derek Jeter is taken out of

The Yankees' Derek Jeter is taken out of the game after getting a hit in the third inning to close out his career as a Yankee during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sept. 28, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

BOSTON - What happened Sunday at Fenway Park, where Derek Jeter played the final game, all 2,747 of them in a Yankees uniform, was not a TV commercial.

It was not scripted, edited or choreographed.

There was no Sinatra soundtrack. No message or sales pitch.

At the end, it was only Jeter, and a stadium full of 36,879 admirers who just wanted to see him one last time.

Not Red Sox fans. Not Yankees fans.

Just a crowd of people packed into a tiny, ancient ballpark who felt the need to show their appreciation for Jeter, if for nothing more than simply playing the game the right way. Regardless of where you stood in this rivalry, whether you wore red or midnight blue, whichever team you loved or despised, what Jeter represented for two decades was universal.

Work hard. Play to win.

And above all, show respect. For the game, for opponents, for yourself.

Give people that, as Jeter did over two decades, and they will return that respect a thousandfold, in every stadium, as they did every day this season.

Even behind enemy lines, at the manufacturing headquarters of Yankees hate, Fenway Park. After Thursday's magical night in the Bronx, we believed that Jeter should have called it quits right then. But the scene Sunday at Fenway convinced us that it was important for Jeter to play there, to be more than a ceremonial figure.

As much as the fans came to express their appreciation, it was Jeter who wanted to say thank you. And this was the only way he knew how.

People will rally around that. Even in Pedroia and Ortiz jerseys, they'll stand and clap for that, which they did often. They'll even join in the "DE-rek JE-ter" chants until those four syllables boom louder than "Sweet Caroline."

Back in April, we wondered if these normally hostile surroundings would be an appropriate setting to say goodbye to a Yankees great.

Turns out, Fenway Park was perfect. But only because it was Jeter.

"I don't know how many people could really unite a crowd like he did today," Joe Girardi said. "Such big rivals, so much history between the teams. You would have thought it was one team today. And I don't think many players can do that -- in any sport."

The Red Sox did their part by doing everything but renaming the street out front Jeter Way. The team spelled the message "With Re2pect 2 Derek Jeter" in the Green Monster scoreboard during the pregame ceremony. The Sox rounded up three captains of title teams by having the Bruins' Bobby Orr, the Celtics' Paul Pierce and the Patriots' Troy Brown stand alongside Jeter near the shortstop dirt.

On this day, Jeter was treated like a Boston icon. Like he was family.

That doesn't get thrown around lightly. It's saved for the ones who deserve it. And that further helps to explain why Jeter pushed himself to play at Fenway. Even though his body and mind were telling him not to.

"It's similar to the way we see him handle everything that has gone on in his career," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "It's with a grace and a dignity and an integrity that probably is unmatched by others."

The baseball component to this weekend was minuscule. The Yankees and Red Sox are going nowhere but home for October. But as long as Jeter had a uniform on, the score still mattered, and he treated the last two hits of his career like they were the first.

On Saturday, Jeter legged out a sky-high chopper for an infield single. Then he did it again Sunday, squeezing whatever was left in those 40-year-old legs. Maybe a home run over the Monster would have been more majestic. But those two max-effort hits were the essence of Jeter, and more emblematic of the attitude that will send him to Cooperstown five years from now.

"You want to be known as someone who had respect for the game," Jeter said. "But for me, I'm happy to be known as a Yankee. That's the only thing I ever wanted to be. So being remembered as a Yankee is good enough for me."

A few minutes later, Jeter got up from the podium and left Fenway Park for the final time as a Yankee. But Sunday, nobody noticed the uniform. And really, that was a greater tribute to Jeter than anything else.

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