Derek Jeter was THE player of a generation. Every kid in America knew who he was and looked up to him as a symbol of greatness and hope. He played with a mysteriousness that always kept you wondering what was going on his head, or what game altering play was he going to make next? He had his own signature play that is mimicked by players from T-ball to the pros. Add 3,456 hits and 5 World Series titles and one can see why he was a Hall of Fame candidate. But, the stats and raw talent were not what almost made Jeter the second unanimously voted Hall of Famer. For Jeter, it was the possession of an X-factor that does not have a word. It was an intangible that if watching, a viewer couldn’t say what it was, but knew there was something different about the man. Sort of like a girl that’s not anything out of the ordinary with her looks, but her presence is everything and you can’t get enough.
Leadership, poise, calmness, and swag. All these words can be heard from former teammates and coaches describing the Hall of Fame shortstop. Mr. November and Captain Clutch are two of the greatest nicknames of a generation and he possessed them both. Being clutch was one of the intangibles that Jeter had and was unparalleled by anyone he played with.
Let’s set the scene for you! It was the night of October 13th, 2001. The New York Yankees were playing the Oakland A’s in game three of the ALDS. During the seventh inning, Mike Mussina was pitching to a 1-0 Yankees lead in a series where New York was down 2-0. The following play will forever be remembered as an all time great. With a man on first, the A’s ripped a line drive down the first base side. If the play was executed correctly, one of the two cutoff men would be thrown too, then a relay would make a close play at home. However, both cutoff men were missed and the ball fell well short of the catcher about halfway up the first base line. However out of absolutely nowhere, Derek Jeter comes all the way over from shortstop, fields the throw with his glove, and at full speed running he flips the ball to the catcher to get the out and save the game! This play was the ultimate summary of his career. The intangible of being clutch and also doing things no would expect.
Now Talent wise Jeter was nothing more than solid. He was a five tool player, however did not blow anyone away athletically. He had a below average range at shortstop and never was the fastest, or strongest player on the field. Derek Jeter once said, “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do – and I believe that.” Work ethic was another intangible that Jeter had and quite frankly possessed better than anybody. He was always the hardest worker on the field.
Leadership and calmness were Jeter’s most distinct and easy to notice traits. Here’s some quotes about the Leadership of Derek Jeter from his former colleagues,
“He represents all that is good about a leader. I’m a great believer in history, and I look at all the other leaders down through Yankee history, and Jeter is right there with them.” — The Late George Steinbrenner
“He led by example,” Martinez said. “His whole career has been that way. Plays hard, plays to win. Expects the most from his teammates. When you’re in battle with a guy like that, it’s important not to let him down. From superstars to the 25th man on the roster, we all felt a responsibility to play hard and play to win because of Jeter. That’s rare.” –Tino Martinez
“He protects the other players that he plays with. There’s all sorts of stress and stuff that comes with playing. But he puts that on his shoulders and lets the other guys play. He’s able to take that stress on without spitting it out. Basically handle it internally and still be able to produce and do what he does.” – Ichiro
A special congratulations to Derek Jeter from the Game Changer Sports Network for making the Hall of Fame. You were everything that’s good about baseball and for that we Thank You. Winning 5 World Series Titles, hitting for three thousand hits, and being the Captain of one of the greatest dynasties this league has ever seen is quite the resume. Not because of talent, but because of work ethic and leadership. Because of being the man in the room that rallied the troops together and stayed calm when stress abounded. And always coming through during the biggest moments. This is what truly made you great.
Photo Credit: The Latin Times
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