If someone mentions 'baseball legend' to you, you probably think back to your early childhood. Chances are, you go back further than that, and think about mental pictures your parents or grandparents created when they mentioned guys like Mantle, or Mays, Duke Snider, or even Ruth or Gehrig. You may not want to think about it or realize it now, but the closest you may get to a moment like that, happened last night in the Bronx.
Think about it. Lou Gehrig's retirement speech that echoed every word when he said “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” Yoga Berra arguing after Jackie Robinson was called safe and stole home. Old footage of Babe Ruth homers, and you understand now why they called him the 'Sultan of Swat'. Those things all happened eons ago. You don't think of a guy who always dreamed of playing shortstop for the Yankees, and then doing it, and doing it for 20 years. A guy whose three thousandth hit was a home run, and who will be remembered for post season diving catches in the stands, and chasing a relay throw up the first base line and flipping it in one motion to the catcher to get an out at the plate. Derek Jeter is a guy who will be talked about by kids who haven't even been born yet, and we got to see him play.
Jeter had his legendary number two retired Sunday, and also now has a plaque in Yankee Stadium's fabled Monument Park—out there with guys like Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mantle. ESPN televised the entire ceremony as its pregame show before the Yankees faced the Houston Astros, of course, and if you are a cynical west coast fan and griping about ESPN's love for the Yankees, and east coast bias, etc., that feeling didn't last very long.
Broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay introduced the Jeter family, friends and former players, and Yankee Hall of Famers in their own right like Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Joe Torre. Jeter wanted the ceremony on Mother's Day, because it was his mother who took him to all of his little league games, and his grandmother that instilled his love of the Yankees as a child. Former teammates Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez were also there. The Houston Astros were the opponents, and all of them were watching from the visiting dugout.
Face it, if you grew up in California, you heard stories of Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal or Orlando Cepeda. In the Midwest, it was likely Ernie Banks or Stan Musial. It was Ted Williams in New England, Henry Aaron in the South, Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico, and Luis Aparicio in Venezuela. But, as hard as it is for a west coaster to admit, none of that is Yankee Stadium, and no other place has a Monument Park.
That park is getting a little crowded. Counting Jeter, 22 players have now had their Yankee numbers retired, but DiMaggio, Mantle, Billy Martin, etc. will have to make room. Jeter deserves it. He won five World Series (MVP in 2000), was an All-Star 14 times (in 20 seasons), had 200 career hits in the postseason alone, and 3465 total—sixth on the All-Time list.
Jeter addressed the crowd, and while it may not have been Gehrigian, he may be one of the luckiest men on the face of the Earth. However, while some players with that type of life tend to rub in your face a little bit, he doesn't, and he didn't. Simply thanking his family, and thanking the fans for turning out was enough.
As things turned out, because of a rainout Saturday, the Yankees and Astros played a single-admission doubleheader Sunday, with the Jeter ceremony between games. The Yankees got blasted in the nightcap by the way, and many fans left early, but how cool would it have been at any age, to see two games and the Jeter festivities all in a few hours? A memorable day indeed.
No show: Looking at all of the people in attendance for Jeter's farewell, you couldn't help but notice who wasn't there, and the New York tabloids seem to be having more fun with that than the actual ceremony. Alex Rodriguez was seen at dinner with his 'girlfriend' (I guess they are an item now) Jennifer Lopez. No clue if A-Rod was even invited to the festivities or not, and truthfully, it might have been more awkward if he did show up.
One strike and you're out: This is probably worth an entire column in the immediate future, but I still don't get why so many people are forgiving when it comes to athletes who cheat. Players who get caught trying to cheat the game they supposedly love should get more than an 80-game slap on the wrist, and really should get kicked out. A co-worker of mine called this view 'harsh', and my attitude 'cold' because I don't believe (in this case) in second chances. Fans seem to think that players guilty of using performance enhancing drugs is like getting a traffic ticket. Pay the fine, and it's over. I equate it more to someone either having an affair with your wife, or deliberately harming you or a loved one. Are you actually going to give someone like that a chance to do it again??
Tom Petty was right: The Marysville Gold Sox and Yuba City Bears begin their seasons two weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday) and still no word if, or where, their games are going to be broadcast. Yes, the waiting is the hardest part.
Hitting the lottery: Tuesday is the best night of the year for NBA Basketball. Not Spurs-Warriors game two, but the draft lottery before the game. Seriously, would you rather watch a bunch of missed three-pointers, or the commissioner open envelopes? We'll see if the Lakers tank job works out. They get to keep their pick if it's in the top three, otherwise it goes to Philadelphia. The Sacramento Kings and their fans are actually hoping to pick late, again. If they win the lottery, the Sixers get that pick automatically (part of a prior trade agreement). Lotto fever begins at 5:30 Pacific Time on ESPN. Whether you watch the Warriors game afterwards is up to you.
I bought a car this week. A 2016 Ford Focus. Buying one was nervewracking, but
exciting. I had my last vehicle since 1998--bought it when I lived in Utah.
The almost final mileage on my pickup. It got about ten more miles after this
picture, but didn't quite make it to 300,000. I guess it's time.