Call it a stroke of baseball irony. Days after Derek Jeter's dramatic walk-off hit in his last home game at Yankee Stadium, he puts a close to an historic 20-year career not donning the pinstripes but, rather, on the road, against the team’s most prolific rival, the Boston Red Sox.
But any boos or sneers once reserved for intense playoff battles of the past were silenced as the teeming Fenway faithful stood with cameras clasped when number two dug in at home plate for his final at-bats — and chants for the name of a true baseball legend echoed through the stadium, as if the Yankee captain was one of their own.
Derek Jeter has left an indelible impression on baseball.
His appeal is obvious: a great player, a class act, a sports celebrity who never got caught up in the limelight — even in New York, a World Series champion and a man that simply had so much respect for the game. (Video via Gatorade)
It’s something Nike paid tribute to recently in a commercial chock-full of players, fans, celebrities and public figures giving a tip of the cap to the iconic Yankee.
Jeter’s career stats alone likely make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
A life-time batting average of .310, more postseason hits, games played and runs scored than any other player in history and 3,465 career hits — the most of any Yankee ever and 6th on the all-time list.
And year after year his name was etched into the lineup card of the mid-Summer classic with a staggering 14 trips to the All-Star Game.
Despite the incredible numbers though, the Yankees icon likely won't be remembered for any digit you can load into a spreadsheet.
JOHN ANDERSON VIA ESPN: “Jeter’s statistics are remarkable, and, yet, when discussing why Jeter is one of the greatest players ever people rarely recite any sort of Sabermetrics. It’s always just about, hey, winning, leadership and representing the team and the game.”
For Jeter, his fandom seemed to be more about the way he carried himself, how he held the Yankees banner with pride and how he always managed to say and do the right thing.
And for the catalog of memorable moments attached to his resume that defined him as Captain Clutch.
Whether it’s a play dubbed by sports writers as “The Flip,” his incredible mad dash across the infield to cut off a throw and toss it home for a pivotal out in the 2001 playoffs.
Or "The Dive" — where he barreled into the stands after lunging to catch a foul pop up and emerged with the ball in his glove and a bloody face.
Or collecting his 3,000th career hit with a homerun blast over the left field wall, sending his adoring New York fanbase into hysteria.
Or, fittingly, how the final chapter of his storied career at Yankee Stadium came to a close Thursday night with one last game-winning thrill.
CHRIS MEYERS VIA FOX SPORTS: “Have you ever wondered, not that you'd want to, but wondered what it would be like to play in another city?"
DEREK JETER: “No. No. I've never imagined that. You know, I was a Yankee fan growing up. ... This is the only team I've ever rooted for, the only team I've ever wanted to play for and I just can't picture myself anywhere else."
Winning and Derek Jeter are nearly synonymous.
He helped the Yankees’ dynasty of the late 90s capture four World Series titles in his first five full seasons.
And for all the years many fans grew tired of New York's so-called “Evil Empire” ruling baseball, a sports writer at The Boston Globe concedes, “Jeter is the Yankee you can’t hate."
“He is all that is good in baseball. ... He should have been promoted more as the face of baseball, because through the steroid era, through all of the muck and mire, he stood as the epitome of pure.”
BARBARA WALTERS VIA ABC: “There’s never been a scandal, there’s never been anything that’s been controversial. How do you manage that?”
DEREK JETER: “I try to watch what I do. I’m not perfect. No one’s perfect. … And, I also try to stay private, as private as possible.”
JIMMY FALLON VIA NBC: “Welcome back, everybody. We’re here with Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter, right here.”
Perhaps, ultimately, it’s why he’s so likeable — and his character so enduring. A sports celebrity who avoided the tabloids.
A soon-to-be Hall-of-fame player who flourished untarnished in an era mired with scandal and shortcuts.
A man who’s managed the intense public scrutiny of the rabid New York City fanbase and earned their respect seemingly with ease.
A perennial All-Star who’s been a workhorse and put up great numbers throughout his entire 20-year career.
Derek Jeter won’t go down as the best player of all-time or even the best Yankee of all-time.
Number two will, however, lodge itself aside the many legends donning Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, and the “Face of Baseball” for an entire generation will be remembered for generations to come.
BOB SHEPPARD VIA WPBS: "Now, batting for the Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter."