Derek Jeter delivers to Hall of Fame induction
COOPERSTOWN, NY – The echoes last forever, but the real thing – that dizzying sound of mass admiration – rarely returns. The players are not rock stars; they can’t perform decades after their prime, can’t summon, over and over again, the same roars they won long ago.
This is how Derek Jeter began his Hall of Fame speech on Wednesday by commenting on the rhythmic chants that were once part of his daily life. De-rek Je-ter! De-rek Je-ter! He heard it again here, from the hills beyond the Clark Sports Center, before his career farewell.
“I had forgotten how good it felt,” Jeter said, and later guessed that he hadn’t heard such a tribute in five years, since a reunion of a championship team in Yankee Stadium. He’s now the general manager of the Miami Marlins, and fans aren’t cheering on the CEO
“It’s a lesson in humility,” Jeter said. “It’s a special feeling, and you tend to miss it when you can’t hear it anymore.”
Cooperstown had been looking forward to this day for years. As the “heartbeat of a Yankee dynasty,” as his Hall of Fame plaque indicates, Jeter was expected to attract more visitors to his speech than the record-breaking 80,000 that hosted Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. in 2007. Then the coronavirus kicked in, canceling last year’s ceremony and postponing this year’s ceremony until after Labor Day.
There was no parade on Main Street, no exclusive parties in the gallery of plaques. The Hall of Fame estimated 20,000 fans gathered on Wednesday to see Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller consecrated. In the last ceremony, for Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay and others in 2019, around 55,000 showed up.
But the rain resisted on Wednesday, flooding the village just about an hour after Jeter’s speech closed the ceremony. And for many of Jeter’s devotees, like Jon Ramos of Wyckoff, NJ, this was a day they just wouldn’t miss.
Ramos, 40, brought his sons – Matthew, 9 and Kyle, 7 – to watch his favorite player rise to the top of the sport. Ramos attended Jeter’s last game, in 2014, and brought his mother to Yankee Stadium three years later when the team retired No.2.
“It was the finishing touch, coming here,” Ramos said in a cafe Wednesday morning. “He came when I was in high school, and I saw him grow as I grew up – leadership, eagerness and just being a role model too.”
The boys, Ramos conceded, only know Jeter as a player through the highlights online. But the aura of the captain, the man who has played thousands of innings more than anyone in Yankee history, spans the generations.
“They look at him like we looked at Babe Ruth when we were younger,” Ramos said.
Jeter, indeed, is now a Hall of Famer in the inner circle, like many who have sat behind him on stage: Ken Griffey Jr., Rickey Henderson, Pedro Martinez, Reggie Jackson. The Hall reflected this in its gift shop prices on Tuesday, when a baseball autographed by Jeter was marked at $ 899. A fan could have bundled autographed balls from Walker ($ 249), Ryne Sandberg ($ 229), Jack Morris ($ 199) and Simmons ($ 149) and still have the budget for a good dinner.
In the gallery, Jeter’s plate will be side-by-side with Rivera’s, a fitting quirk shared by a few other former teammates, including Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who dazzled the mound for the Braves. Of course, the Jeter Yankees beat these teams twice in the World Series, effectively sweeping an Atlanta dynasty in the 1990s.
Jeter has won five championships in all, one fewer than Michael Jordan – who sat with Patrick Ewing behind Jeter’s family on Wednesday – but the most in baseball in his career. He was also joined at the event by friends of those title teams, like Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and CC Sabathia. And Jeter said he was welcoming requests from longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died in 2010.
“He pushed you, he challenged you, and sometimes he publicly embarrassed you, but he did it to bring out the best in me,” Jeter said in his speech. “He wanted to know if I had what it took to play and ultimately lead the Yankees. I was able to succeed because we had a common mindset: the only thing that mattered was winning. I had one goal in my career, and that was to win more than everyone else. We were doing.”
Jeter spoke of his days in his grandmother’s garden in West Milford, NJ, claiming it was Dave Winfield, who sat just over her left shoulder on Wednesday. He recalled moments of wonder early in his career – sitting next to Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, at an awards dinner; getting a pat on the shoulder from Hank Aaron during an All-Star game.
“I realized it was more than a game,” Jeter said. “The biggest people and players in this game, the Hall of Fame family, they’re watching, so I wanted their approval. During my career, I wanted to make Mrs. Robinson proud, I wanted to make Hank Aaron proud, I wanted all of you behind me proud – not statistics, but proud of the way I played the game.
The day was tinged with sadness as 10 Hall of Fame members have passed away since the last induction ceremony. Johnny Bench recounted a video tribute but was unable to attend because he had contracted Covid-19.
“Luckily he’s vaccinated,” Joe Torre told the crowd, “which should help him tremendously.”
Thirty-one Hall of Fame members attended the ceremony, including Fergie Jenkins, the only Hall of Fame member born in Canada until Walker joined him. Walker also became the first Hall of Fame member to play for the Colorado Rockies – and the first to wear a SpongeBob SquarePants pin for his speech, matching the shirt he wore in January 2020, when he wore a SpongeBob SquarePants pin for his speech. learned that he had done so on the 10th and last ballot.
Walker loaned this shirt to the Hall of Fame for his display case, but he gave the museum one of his golden gloves – with seven he had plenty to spare. He made over $ 100 million during his career, but his first paycheck, as an undrafted free agent from Maple Ridge, B.C., in 1984, made him feel the most rich.
“That US $ 1,500 was about two thousand Canadian dollars at the time,” Walker said, “and I felt like I had just won the lottery.”
Donald Fehr, the former executive director of the players’ union, spoke on behalf of Miller, his revolutionary predecessor, who died in 2012 and whose family did not attend, respecting his will. Miller’s mother was a high school principal, Fehr said, and Miller was like a teacher to the players, educating them about the issues and then following their lead.
“They respected him tremendously and trusted him completely,” Fehr said. “He was their guy.”
Simmons, a 1968-1988 star wide receiver who was elected by a veterans committee, said he woke up on Wednesday feeling the same as before Game 7 of the 1982 World Series for Milwaukee. The Brewers lost that night to Simmons’ first team, the St. Louis Cardinals, but Simmons was successful this time around, speaking with the delivery and scholarship of a full university professor.
Simmons, 72, ended with Beatles words for his wife and high school sweetheart, Maryanne.
“And in the end, the love you take equals the love you make,” Simmons said. “Peace and love, my darling. We are finally here.