October 14, 2014 – Two days after Derek Jeter’s emotional send-off at Yankee Stadium, I traveled with my family to Boston for the final game of the captain’s career.
In my “From the Press Box” column in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine, I share my experiences from that special weekend with my wife, Tiana, and our son, Alfred.
Below is an excerpt from that column about what was a most unforgettable and enjoyable time.
–Alfred Santasiere III
On the eve of Jeter’s last game, [my family and I] strolled into a popular family-style Italian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for dinner. When we arrived at East Side Bar & Grille, Harold Medeiros, a middle-aged host with a strong Boston accent, greeted us. Upon asking us where we were from, Medeiros promptly revealed his baseball allegiance.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” Medeiros said. “But from the first time I saw Mickey Mantle play, I was a Yankee fan. The Yankees have had great players since Mantle’s days, but no one could ever match his grace or power.”
After we got to our table, Medeiros stopped by to tell us that he would be at Fenway Park the next day to see Jeter wrap up his storied career.
“I wouldn’t miss that for the world,” Medeiros said. “He’s a hero, one of the greatest players who will ever live, and certainly one of the best Yankees of all time. But, in my heart, no-one will ever be as special as The Mick.”
As I sat next to my 6-year-old son, Alfred, on a picture-perfect afternoon at Fenway Park and watched with him as Jeter walked to the plate for the final time and collected his 3,465th and final hit, I thought about Medeiros’ words about Mantle.
More than ever, I realized how powerful and long lasting an impression an athlete can have on a young fan. On a day that was filled with mixed emotions, I left the ballpark filled with happiness. That joy came from knowing that my son’s favorite player had left the same indelible mark on his heart that Mantle left with the millions of youngsters who watched him play a half-century ago. I also left Fenway Park with pride, knowing that Alfred’s baseball hero is not only a legend on the field, but a perfect role model off the field and someone who made my young boy feel as if he was the most important person in the world each time he met him.
Thank you, Derek Jeter, for 20 years of great play and for inspiring your fans forever.
October 14, 2014 – All of the excitement that Derek Jeter created in the first inning of his final game at Yankee Stadium (see blog entry below) was just the beginning.
The events that took place on the field in the latter part of the game made it a night for the ages.
For Jeter to be the hero in his own swansong was even more improbable than the rainy weather clearing up moments before game time and giving way to a beautiful rainbow over the Bronx skies. But, then again, this was Jeter’s night, so maybe it was more appropriate than improbable.
Regardless of how the captain’s game-winning, ninth inning hit — which was made possible by a comeback by the Baltimore Orioles in the top of the frame — is described, one thing is for sure: It will be written about and talked about forever.
From my seat in the press box, I recorded all the details I possible could for the cover story of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine. Following the game, Jeter spoke about the emotional night in a press conference, and I also caught up with his former manager, Joe Torre, moments after that. In my exclusive conversation with Torre, the skipper shared his thoughts on meeting up with Jeter in the home dugout seconds before the captain left the field for the final time. In my opinion, that was the perfect ending to a perfectly unscripted goodbye.
“Just like a lot of other things tonight, that certainly wasn’t planned,” Torre said. “All the other guys were leaving, and I noticed that Derek was going back onto the field, and I wanted to take that all in. I didn’t realize he was going to be back in the dugout so quickly, and I didn’t expect to be there when he came off the field. I was glad I was there because it was a special time for me.
“What he represents, we don’t have enough of in sports,” Torre continued. “I’m not just talking about his ability to play baseball, but also what he represents as a man. Sports will cry out for more people as respectful as Derek Jeter.”
A few days later, I spoke with Jeter about his Yankee Stadium finale, and those quotes are also in my story.
This story does not only include exclusive words from Jeter and Torre, but it also features a unique collection of photographs. Our team of photographers had unparalleled access to the field on Sept. 25, and they made the most of it.
One of my favorite images from the night is below. The photo, taken by Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht, captures Jeter’s final stop at the shortstop position.
“I say a little prayer before every game, and when I got out to short, I just said thank you because this is all I’ve ever wanted to do and not too many get an opportunity to do it,” Jeter said. “It was above and beyond anything I’ve ever dreamed of. I’ve lived a dream, and that dream is over now.”
Enjoy “A Dream Gone By” on the pages of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
September 25, 2014 – There are millions of people who have undoubtedly echoed these sentiments, but I can’t believe tonight is Derek Jeter’s final game in pinstripes. It feels like yesterday when DJ caught our attention for the first time time. That was 20 years ago.
I have had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the Yankees captain for the final twelve seasons of his career, and it’s been one of the great honors of my life.
When I found a minute in which Jeter was alone at his locker yesterday, I shared those thoughts with him. I told him how lucky I felt to have been one of the people — in what is a small group — to have gotten to know him. The fact that Jeter took the time to offer a thoughtful response and reminisce with me for a few minutes added to what is a lifetime of fond memories I have. It also underscores his class and patience, which is unwavering — even at a time when the whole world is trying to talk to him.
After a day full of rain — during which it seemed as if tonight’s game might never get played — the storm clouds made way to an orange and blue sky over Yankee Stadium, and a rainbow covered parts of the Bronx.
The capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium filled every seat before Jeter was introduced for the final time in pinstripes. And, with a large contingent of press photographers assembled in front of the outside part of the home dugout, Jeter led his team onto the field. Out of respect for their captain, Jeter’s teammates waited until he got to his familiar position at shortstop before running out of the dugout.
When Jeter emerged, the crowd roared, and began to chant “Der-ek Jee-ter” until the shortstop tipped his cap several times.
Nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. Not the weather. Not the two home runs that Baltimore Orioles batters Nick Markakis and Alejendro De Aza hit before Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda recorded the first out of the game.
When the voice of the late Bob Sheppard echoed through the Stadium in the bottom of the first inning, the crowd was already standing and cheering.
Jeter took the first four pitches of the at-bat from lefthander Kevin Gausman.
Then, the captain did what I believe he has done better than anyone in the history of the game. He delivered in a big moment. Jeter showed his flair for the dramatic by smacking a line drive to left-center field, missing a home run by a few feet and putting the Yankees on the board.
As Jeter stood on second base, the volume in the Stadium remained on high. For the Yankees faithful, it was one of many moments to remember. He’s authored a lifetime worth of those moments in his career.
–Alfred Santasiere III
September 23, 2014 — On August 8, Yankees staff photographer Matthew Ziegler snapped the last New York Yankees team photo that Derek Jeter will appear in. The photo (below) will serve as the poster for the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.
You can purchase a print of the 2014 New York Yankees team photo by calling (800) GO-YANKS or by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications.
When I asked Jeter about his memories of the 20 Yankees team photos he has posed for, the captain began to laugh.
“I should be pretty good at it by now,” Jeter said. “I have certainly done it enough times. I know exactly where I’m supposed to stand before you tell me. But it’s fun to see the younger guys try to figure out where they need to be.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
September 19, 2014 – A little more than a week after I interviewed the greatest basketball player of all-time, I sat down with arguably the greatest football player in history.
On September 17, I interviewed Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice at NYY Steak in Manhattan for an Art of Sport Q&A feature that will appear in an in issue of Yankees Magazine next season. I will preview that piece before the start of the 2015 campaign. But for now, take a gander at what Rice said about Derek Jeter. Unlike my interview with Michael Jordan ten days earlier, my conversation with Rice took place after we printed the DJ Commemorative — meaning that you can only read the gridiron great’s words about Jeter below.
–Alfred Santasiere III
What a great career Derek has had. The way he has conducted himself on and off the field is an inspiration to all of us. He has been a great role model to kids throughout the world. Derek has always played the game the right way, and he stands for everything that’s good in sports. There are not enough athletes like Derek, and he is someone that you don’t take for granted. He’s a class act.
September 19, 2014 — As I wrote in a blog entry below, the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine includes a photo essay from Derek Jeter Day.
Below are a few of my favorite photos from the September 7 festivities at Yankee Stadium. If you like these images, be sure to pick up a copy of the DJ Commemorative, because there are several more incredible photos of Jeter throughout the pages of the special publication.
–Alfred Santasiere III
September 19, 2014 — Two days after I sat down with the greatest hockey player in history, I had the privilege of asking the all-time greatest basketball player a few questions about Derek Jeter.
During the Derek Jeter Day festivities at Yankee Stadium, Michael Jordan spoke to me about the captain — at Yankee Stadium. Jordan’s words (below) are included in the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine — along with those of Wayne Gretzky.
–Alfred Santasiere III
One of the things that every professional athlete strives for is perfection. We work hard every day to try to improve our craft. If you do things the right way and you are as dedicated as Derek, you tend to respond under pressure. Pressure situations determine who has put forth the most effort, and it’s very obvious that Derek has. He has prepared the right way. When he gets into the workout area, he really works. That type of dedication is a gift that the best athletes have. Derek has been put into situations that he can succeed in because of the way he has worked. I was able to succeed in the big situations I’ve been in, and we all take pride in the dedication that made it possible to have that success. Great athletes thrive under pressure because they prepare themselves for pressure. Derek has always responded the right way under pressure. You have to give credit to him and to his parents, who instilled a strong work ethic in him.
I played alongside Derek in the Arizona Fall League. That was the first time I actually met him, and even back then, he was a great leader, just by the way he carried himself.
Winning happens because of great leadership, and it doesn’t surprise me that Derek has won five championships and been successful from the time he got to the big leagues. Derek is well-respected not just by his teammates, but by everyone in sports. He’s a champion and an idol.
September 19, 2014 – A few days before Derek Jeter Day, I traveled to Toronto, Canada to interview Wayne Gretzky for a first-person vignette on Derek Jeter that is part of the DJ Commemorative and for an Art of Sport feature that will appear in the April 2015 Issue of Yankees Magazine. I will preview my Q&A feature on the life and career of the greatest hockey player in the history of the sport before the start of next season. But for now, enjoy Gretzky’s words about Jeter.
–Alfred Santasiere III
There are professional athletes who understand that there is more to being a professional athlete than just playing the sport. Obviously, if you’re a professional athlete, there’s a lot that goes along with it. You play the game. You cooperate with the media. You treat your teammates well, and you understand that the fans are the most important part of it all. If you understand that those components are part of your everyday workload, things are a lot easier. Mark Messier used to say that there isn’t one thing about hockey that he didn’t love, and that included playing the game, the travel, signing autographs and answering the media’s questions. Derek is the exact same way. He understands the importance of what he brings to the Yankees and to the game of baseball.
I applaud Derek for announcing that this would be his last year. It gave baseball fans, Derek’s teammates and the players on other teams the chance to say goodbye to him. We can never get enough positive things in sports, and when you have someone who has done as much as Derek has and has meant as much to sports as Derek has, it gets no better than that. Derek deserves all the recognition he has received.
As a professional athlete, you want your last year to be parallel to your first year, but you can’t expect to have the same type of year you had when you were in your prime. Derek’s having a respectable season, and he’s leaving the game at the right time. If you give your heart and soul to the game the way Derek has, fans —especially those in New York — will support you to the end. They love Derek for what he has accomplished for the city and the team.
September 19, 2014 – As I detailed on this blog throughout the summer, I have had the opportunity to speak to several athletes throughout sports, as well as some special people in other walks of life, about Derek Jeter. I have captured their words for first-person vignettes about the Yankees captain, and I enjoyed every one of those interviews.
While the group of people whose words we published in the September Issue is impressive, we have assembled an even greater collection of vignettes for the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine (see blog entry below).
In an interview that I conducted at the beginning of September, baseball legend Hank Aaron shared his thoughts about the Jeter. As you’ll read in the text below, Aaron discussed the first time he met Jeter. Fittingly, that meeting took place in a ballpark that we also published a feature about in DJ Commemorative.
–Alfred Santasiere III
When Derek was a young player, I got to meet him at the 1999 All-Star Game in Fenway Park. I was there to take part in the pregame ceremony, and I couldn’t wait to talk to him. I had already seen him play a few times, and I was impressed by the way he approached the game. You don’t see as many people in sports that take the game as seriously as Derek. I just wanted to find out what made him think the way he did.
When I got the chance to speak with Derek, it didn’t surprise me that he was just as I had imagined he would be. He’s a nice person, and that has stood out in my mind as much as his consistent approach to the game.
Derek has shown me the utmost respect every time I have been around him. He speaks to me as if my career was something that was marvelous. Derek really looks at history and says, “Hey, some guys before me did some great things, and I want to be as great as they were.”
Derek has always had the ability to play the game at a high level, but his ability to play the same way every day is remarkable. There are a lot of players who play the game one way on a Monday, and by Friday, they are just trying to get by. That’s never been the case with Derek.
Without that approach, without treating every at-bat as if it were the most important one of the game, Derek would not have collected more than 3,000 hits. You really have to sit back and admire Derek simply because he never says, “Well I got 200 hits last year. If I get another 200 next year, that would be great.” Instead, Derek always wants to improve on what he did the year before.
I had the same attitude when I was playing. If I hit 35 home runs and drove in 100 runs, I felt there was room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement, and it was nice to learn that Derek has had the same approach to the game as me.
Derek deserves all the accolades he’s gotten this year because he has worked hard throughout his career. He’s been a great fielder, a great base runner, and although he hasn’t hit a lot of home runs, he has hit a few very important ones.
What Derek has done — playing his entire career with the Yankees and winning five World Series championships — is unheard of these days. Right now, Derek is focused on adding to what he’s already done, but when he looks back on what he’s accomplished five years from now, he should marvel at it. He’s been a great ballplayer. He has carried himself perfectly, and I don’t know of any other ballplayer who can say that. He’s been one of a kind.
September 19, 2014 – In a recent post on this blog, I wrote that the September Issue of Yankees Magazine is the best one in the history of the publication. While I’m still beaming with pride about the September Issue, I believe that our most recent publication is equally as impressive.
The Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine is on sale now at Yankee Stadium, by calling (800) GO-YANKS or by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications.
This special edition of Yankees Magazine, which is dedicated entirely to the captain, is one of the great Derek Jeter keepsakes you will ever find.
The cover features a photograph of Jeter taken by contributing photographer Tom DiPace at the old Yankee Stadium. In the black and white image, Jeter is walking through the tunnel that led players to the home dugout, and as he did every time he walked down the passageway, he is touching the famous sign with Joe DiMaggio’s words from 1949: “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”
In addition to featuring some of the most exclusive stories on Jeter that were published in the September Issue — including managing editor Nathan Maciborski’s retrospective on the captain’s career, my Q&A with the Yankees shortstop and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and my first-person story with Jeter’s parents about their son’s childhood, this publications has so much more.
Contributing writer Mark Feinsand’s feature on Jeter’s memories of playing at Fenway Park is exceptional, and senior editor Jon Schwartz’ piece on how former Yankees scout Dick Groch found Jeter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and recommended that the team draft him is an absolute must read.
Speaking of Kalamazoo, I traveled there a few years ago and spent some time with Jeter on the field that he played high school baseball on (on the day it was re-named Derek Jeter Field). We included the story on Jeter’s hometown and his upbringing —originally published in 2012 — in this special publication.
We also re-printed the very first stories ever published about the captain in Yankees Magazine, including a feature from the June 1992 issue. In Yankees Magazine’s first mention of Jeter, former editor Tom Bannon details the young shortstop’s ability and potential in a draft re-cap story.
The photographs in the DJ Commemorative are also spectacular, especially the images in a photo essay on Derek Jeter Day, which took place on September 7.
Finally, one of the most special elements of the publication is an eight-page, pullout. The classy piece is a timeline that details Jeter’s greatest hits and most significant milestones in pinstripes.
This is a time to reflect on one of the great careers in baseball history, and through the pages of the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition, you will be able to do that during the captain’s final days in uniform and for years to come.
Enjoy this special publication.
–Alfred Santasiere III