Sep 27, 2014 12:36 AM
Jeter sits out Game 1 of final series in Boston
The Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) Nineteen years into his Hall of Fame career, Derek Jeter may have produced his final "first."
The New York Yankees shortstop asked out of the lineup for Friday night's 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox something neither Jeter nor manager Joe Girardi could remember him ever doing before.
Jeter watched the opener of his final major league series from the dugout, taking it easy a day after his walk-off single finished off an emotional farewell to Yankee Stadium.
"I don't think I really slept maybe a couple of hours," Jeter told reporters. "I don't know if I could play tonight if I was playing tonight. Last night was as special as it gets."
Since announcing in spring training that this would be his final season, Jeter has been celebrated across the major leagues, collecting gifts at each stop and applause from former opponents and their fans. Then came his final home game, when the pregame cheers were surpassed by the postgame celebration after he led the Yankees to another win.
"I was thinking how fitting it was, what a great night it was," Girardi said before Friday's game. "I'm sure he's emotionally drained, probably physically drained."
With both the Yankees and Red Sox eliminated from playoff contention, Girardi compiled a lineup missing many of his regulars and joked that it looked more like spring training roster. Eury Perez batted in Jeter's familiar No. 2 spot and collected his first major league hit and Brendan Ryan played shortstop.
Jeter said he would be back in the lineup on Saturday and Sunday but as designated hitter, so his final memories as a shortstop would be in Yankee Stadium. Girardi told Jeter he could play any position but pitcher or catcher this weekend if he had the urge including manager.
"I don't pay attention enough," he said. "When I'm not playing, I'm all over the place."
A 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, Jeter has collected 3,463 hits in his career along with the near-universal respect from teammates and opponents alike. Even in Boston, where fans hate the Yankees like no other team, most of the animosity was reserved for Alex Rodriguez or Red Sox defectors like Johnny Damon and Roger Clemens.
The sold-out crowd, peppered with fans in pinstriped No. 2 jerseys, chanted Jeter's name in the second inning something that would not have been tolerated a decade ago, when Bostonians wore profane T-shirts about Jeter and argued that Nomar Garciaparra was a better shortstop.
Since then, though, the Red Sox have ended their eight-decade World Series drought winning three titles in 10 years, in fact and the rivalry has lost some of its edge.
"I think after they won I don't want to say they softened up, I would say I think they're kinder," said Jeter, who ventured onto the streets of Boston for lunch on Friday afternoon and was greeted warmly. "People were saying, 'Congratulations for the career. I'm a Red Sox fan and I hate the Yankees, but I respect you.'
"Even when I was walking here through the stands, people were cheering. I remember in 1999, when I was here for the All-Star Game ... I remember getting out of the car and I thought they were going to kill me. Funny how things have changed."
And the feeling is mutual.
Although his night off no doubt disappointed those who bought a ticket for an otherwise meaningless game hoping to see a part of history, Jeter said he would play the final two games of the season out of respect for the rivalry.
"It's always difficult at this point because everybody wants to see him," Girardi said. "I think Derek understands the magnitude of the rivalry and the importance of it in the game of baseball. ... I think there's a huge amount of respect too for what these organizations have done for the game of baseball."
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Jeter's Yankee Stadium finale was special, and he expects the good feelings to surround this weekend, too.
"The game has an incredible way of creating unique opportunities," Farrell said. "His 3,000th hit is a solo home run, his last at-bat at Yankee Stadium is a walk-off. The game provides us opportunities that embed memories, and that's certainly one of them."
Elsewhere in baseball, they were also talking about Jeter.
"When you look at great players, you look at them as the heat turns up, they get calm," Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "Not everybody can do that. But he's one of them that can. ... That's why he got the hit last night. Because the situation is never too big for him."
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington, D.C., and freelancer Ken Powtak in Boston contributed to this report.