About Last Night

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI agree that Derek Jeter’s “farewell tour” has been overhyped (although I enjoyed seeing it in Texas, just like I enjoyed Mariano Rivera’s “farewell tour” last year). This was largely due to the overcommercialization of it (last night they were already collecting dirt from the Yankee Stadium infield at short … remember the shift, guys … get that dirt, too) and the excessive analysis, some of which explains the unwarranted extreme backlash comments of Keith Olbermann and others (of course, Olbermann was getting over his Goodell rants, so maybe he forgot to change gears). Moreover, one would be clueless to think that Jeter himself was not aware of this and even contributed to it (exhibit A: the ads). And yes, other guys are departing the game with less fanfare, although they were classy and memorable in their own way.

All of this is true.

And yet you can’t take away last night. Indeed, last night, complete with the crowd chants, Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s decision to pitch to Jeter, and Jeter’s own memorable (if, indeed, flawed) game performance suggests that had people just let things play out, we’d still be left with a moment many of us will recall fondly, with a smile and a tear. Certainly Jeter was moved, and it was good to see that. He had also delivered in the moment, and it was good to see that.

For me … the last time I remember a walkoff hit like that in a meaningless regular season game made memorable by circumstances?  August 6, 1979. That was another game against an Orioles team headed for the postseason, where an Orioles pitcher decided to pitch to a Yankees hitter wearing #2, with a result that brought a similar explosion of cheers, tears and yells. Jeter himself said last night that this year has been like a funeral. Back in 1979 the team had just attended one for another captain whose number is now to be found at Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

Some things are intangible. This is especially the case with Mr. Intangibles. No, he’s not one of the top five Yankees, although I think he’s easily in the top ten (the top five are 3, 4, 7, 5, and 8 from St. Louis). So, for that matter, is Rivera. And one can cite all sorts of numbers pro and con. But something about Derek Jeter transcended all that, much like something about Joe DiMaggio made him so much more than the sum of his parts. In Jeter’s case I’ve always thought it was a combination of his effort, his intelligence, his style, and his humanity (I’d argue that Jeter’s greatest skill was his ability to be calm in clutch situations, and last night he admitted that didn’t come easily). His postseason body of work is what counts for most of us, and five rings ain’t bad in today’s game. He always worked hard and tried to do his best. Who can ask for more?

We don’t need the hype. The reality last night was amazing enough. To borrow from someone else, I could not believe what I just saw … and yet, as Yankees announcer Michael Kay put it, fantasy became reality. What we could not have anticipated we nevertheless expected. It is at the heart of our joy of sports, and it will last as long as memory endures. Enjoy.

9 thoughts on “About Last Night

  1. hankc9174 September 26, 2014 / 9:07 pm

    The first ‘farewell tour’ I recalll is John havlicek in 1980 (?). Teams gave him golf clubs, rocking chairs and similar items. Anyone remember an earlier tour?

  2. John Foskett September 27, 2014 / 8:05 am

    Personally i see no need for him to have even one at bat in the series this weekend except for the over-the-top hype by the Red Sox end. Lucchino’s, Henry’s, and Werner’s need for an excuse to lure folks in to watch two bad ball clubs play a bunch of no-names in meaningless games. And it will be over the top. Jeter should have left it open and then just decided finis after that game. He ain’t Ted Williams and he wouldn’t have gone out quite the way Williams did overall (.329 at age 42) but the last memory would have been a walk off hit.. Instead it’s just more media-driven, contrived hype for the umpteenth time this season. Olbermann’s attack is ironic. Much of this artificial hype is fomented by the sports media. Jeter is not one of the all-time greats, but given his longevity, consistency, and championships he belongs in the Hall. But if you landed here from Mars this year you’d think we were saluting Willie Sandy Henry Cy Babe Ty Mayskoufaxaaronyoungruthcobb.

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 27, 2014 / 11:12 am

      Frankly, he’s more like Yaz. Some great career moments, several iconic moments (with far more opportunities), but not the first name (or even first half-dozen names) if I asked you to list greatest outfielders. I say this as someone who loved Yaz, and who found his fouling out to Nettles to end the 1978 playoff game bittersweet.

      Olbermann’s still at it on Twitter. I’m really disappointed, but then that’s Keith Olbermann. He undermines his own value by doing things that rightfully exhaust his discerning fans and provide fuel for his critics.

      • John Foskett September 27, 2014 / 11:48 am

        Exactly the guy I intended to mention as an analogy. Yastrzemski compiled the numbers he did in part because he stayed around for so long (itself no little accomplishment, of course). Had he done, say, 15 years I doubt I’d see him as HOF material – or marginal, at best. In fact, in the “longevity guys” category I’d probably put Jeter ahead of him because of the championships. Not Yaz;s fault but it’s relevant. Olbermann can;t help himself. He makes everything a cause and it becomes a rant with decreasing credibility.

      • Ira Berkowitz September 27, 2014 / 8:56 pm

        This is Olberman. Brilliant. Strongly opinionated and so passionate. Really knowledgable about baseball. I am not sure what he expected Posada to say. It seems that Olberman’s rant was really more focused on the over-coverage and hype around Jeter’s retirement. Olberman is not alone in criticizing Jeter as overrated and statistically speaking Olberman has some points. But 3500 hits over a career is a meaningful number and if somes of Jeter’s contemporaries and teamates overstate Jeter’s accomplishments I can live with that. Baseball remains a stat rich sport and to criticize an aging player for his decline in his later years seems like a cheap shot. Replace Jeter with who? To completely ignore his clutch play and solid, consistent contribution is unfair. So what to make of Olberman’s rant and hyperbole? In my view . . . Olberman is taking a contrarian view to get attention and ratings in a very competitive business. A lot of heat, not a lot of light. There is room in our national dialog for contrarian views like Olbermans and having them in sports is half the fun. But Jeter’s career accomplishments are something special and nothing Olberman has said will change that.

        • Brooks D. Simpson September 27, 2014 / 10:26 pm

          Entertainment is not analysis. Outrage is not insight. If anything, Olbermann cheapened his brand by going too far, raising questions about whether he’ll be as persuasive as he could be in other cases.

          It’s like Alan Nolan’s book Lee Considered. The book is as much about how certain historians and biographers overglorified Lee. Fair enough. But he mixed that with an assessment of Lee, until it was hard to tell the two apart.

          • Ira Berkowitz September 28, 2014 / 8:45 am

            I might try to give KO a pass and simply argue that he got carried away with his bluster. But he has subseqently doubled down on his arguments around Jeter which I think is too bad. Its hard to say how much his brand has been cheapened in the big picture. He is a niche player in the ESPN universe these days and given his temperment its hard to know how long he will last in any job. Its also interesting to note (at least to me) how ESPN has managed the journalistic aspects of its business these days. KO blistered Goodell on the big network channel over the Ray Rice controversy a couple of weeks ago. Called the NFL’s management of the situation part of a conspiracy and says the Commisioner, the Proscutors and pretty much anybody close to the situation has to be fired. Bill Simmons gets carried away on a minor podcast expressing outrage over the NFL’s handling of the situation and calls Goodell a liar and he is suspended for 3 weeks. I can understand the arguments behind Simmon’s suspension. But my point is that ESPN is trying to walk a fine line maintaining journalistic integrity and ethics and yet be entertaining and relavent to the culture. The bigger question may be whether they are cheapening the brand of the entire network, not just KO’s.

            I will need to look up Mr. Nolan’s work. I struggle with Lee as a historical figure. Lots of complicated and apparently inconsistent notions bundled together in the picture of this very grandfatherly looking fellow. Tough to figure out.

        • John Foskett September 28, 2014 / 8:14 am

          You’ve just articulated the problem with Olbermann and those who fall into the category of columnists. It’s not about facts or competent analysis – it’s about being “provocative”. “Taking a contrarian view” is a load of meaningless offal unless it’s based on facts.

  3. Lyle Smith September 27, 2014 / 11:55 am

    Well said and fair, I think.

    I was at Mariano Rivera’s second to last game in the Majors and when the Astros gave him his going away gift. Right before the game started he gave a really classy speech in English and then in Spanish. It was very nice of him to do, I thought.

    I like going to games with Yankees fans. They’re quite mouthy and gesticulate a lot.

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