Memorable Q&A with Derek Jeter and Ernie Banks
June 1, 2014 – During the Yankees recent series at Wrigley Field, I sat down with two of the greatest shortstops of all time.
Derek Jeter and Ernie Banks spent about 20 minutes with me in front of the visiting dugout at the Friendly Confines for a Q&A feature that will be published in September Issue of Yankees Magazine.
In the beginning of the conversation with the legendary shortstops, I asked Jeter to share his thoughts on the impact that Banks — who stands over 6 feet tall — had on the future of the position.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese, who where two of the other great shortstops from Mr. Banks’ era,” said the 6-foot, 3-inch Jeter. “Those guys epitomized who played that position back then, shorter guys without a lot of power. Mr. Banks redefined the position, and he really paved the way for taller players like me to get the opportunity to play shortstop.”
A few minutes later, Banks, who won two National League MVP Awards and finished his career with 512 home runs, spoke about his admiration for Jeter.
“He’s a remarkable player, and that’s proven by the fact that he is still playing shortstop,” Banks said. “We all slow down a little as we get older, and I moved to first base after about 10 seasons at shortstop. But Derek has done what no one else has, and that’s remarkable. He’s accomplished so many great things. He’s knowledgeable about every aspect of playing the game. He studies the opposing pitchers, and he learned how to hit the ball to all fields at a young age. He’s an amazing young player. When he got his 3,000th hit on a home run, that was really special for me to watch.”
The two greats also discussed how much it has meant to them to only wear one uniform during their respective careers.
“Playing my entire career in New York has always been important to me,” Jeter said. “I’ve been fortunate because in this day and age, it’s more difficult to stay with one team than when Mr. Banks was playing. With free agency, there is so much player movement, and teams get rid of players when there are younger players available who can play the same position a little better.”
“It means the world to me,” Banks followed. “We played all day games in Chicago back then because they didn’t have lights at Wrigley Field until 1988. That was something I got used to and really enjoyed. The only night games we played were when we were on the road. If I had played for another team and I had to play most of the games at night, it would have felt like every game was an away game for me.”
As the interview wound down, Jeter shared his feelings about playing in Wrigley Field during his final season, and when he concluded his thought, the ever-humorous Banks hit Jeter with a question he didn’t expect.
“You’re not really going to quit, are you?” Banks asked.
“After this season,” Jeter replied.
“You can’t do that,” Banks countered with a laugh.
Jeter paused for a second and responded.
“Yes I can.”
Don’t miss the rest of this historic interview in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, which will be dedicated to Derek Jeter.
–Alfred Santasiere III