Special Feature on Derek Jeter — in Yankees Magazine Commemorative Home Run Edition
December 5, 2016 — In addition to the Q&A with Barry Bonds (see blog entry below), I also penned a story on Derek Jeter, exclusively for Yankees Magazine Commemorative Home Run Edition.
In early May, I traveled to Tampa, Florida, to meet with the Yankees great and to interview him about his epic home run, which decided Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.
In the meeting at Jeter’s office, the captain shared his thoughts about being in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
For Jeter, the memories of being in his New York City apartment when two commercial airliners that had been hijacked by terrorists crashed into the Twin Towers, killing nearly 3,000 people, were still very raw.
“Heartbreaking,” Jeter said, as he peered out the window of his downtown Tampa office. “You knew immediately that so many people were not going to make it. You knew that there were going to be so many children who would no longer have a mother or father around. Regardless of how much time passes, it’s still heartbreaking.”
When the Yankees resumed play, several days after 9/11, Jeter believed that each at-bat had a greater purpose.
“We felt as though it was our job to give New Yorkers something to distract them for a little while,” Jeter said. “We knew that nothing we could do would make them forget what happened, but we wanted to take their minds off of it for a little while.”
The Yankees certainly distracted New Yorkers by advancing to the World Series, where they would face the Arizona Diamondbacks. With his team trailing Arizona two-games-to-one in the Series and 3–1 in Game 4 at the old Yankee Stadium, Jeter watched as Tino Martinez tied the contest with a game-tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
“That was an incredible moment,” Jeter said. “With that team, we never felt as though the game was over. When Tino hit that home run, it felt as though we were meant to win that World Series. I got caught up in that moment. I was as excited as the fans were.”
An inning later, Jeter stepped to the plate with two outs to face Byung-Hyun Kim. In our conversation, Jeter spoke about facing Kim, whose sidearm delivery had baffled everyone but Martinez in the ninth and 10th innings.
“I can say this now,” Jeter said. “For my entire career, I could never pick up the release point on sidearm pitchers. I just could never figure it out.”
Seconds after midnight — and now officially Nov. 1 — Jeter figured it out. After fouling several pitches off, Jeter hit a 3–2 offering into the right-field seats to win the game.
“That was everything I had dreamed of as a baseball player,” Jeter said. “Part of the dream is that you’re in the backyard and you hit a home run to win a World Series game. That’s what every kid dreams of, and I did it.”
Even though the Yankees lost the World Series a few nights later — after a similarly dramatic win in Game 5 — Jeter is still mindful of the importance of his historic home run.
“People still come up to me and tell me where they were when I hit that home run, especially New Yorkers,” Jeter said. “Even if it was for a few seconds, I think it made a lot of people who were going through the toughest time in their lives smile.”
Yankees Magazine Commemorative Home Run Edition is available at Yankees.com/publications and by calling (800) GO-YANKS. The publication is also available at Yankee Stadium and at retailers in and around New York City.
— Alfred Santasiere III