Results tagged ‘ Cal Ripken Jr. ’

Derek Jeter Shines In Final Home Game of Career

The Yankees officially fell out of playoff contention on Wednesday, making it just the first time since the 1992-1993 seasons that they have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years. But at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, no one cared. There was a far more important reason that 48,613 fans (the most at any game this season) spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to jam pack the ballpark.

The reason was Derek Jeter.

Playing in his first home game in which the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs, Jeter went into this game knowing it would be his finalUntitled game in New York of his career.

Even with that on his mind, the .313 career hitter at Yankee stadium was still able to block out his emotions for the most part (something he’s been able to do extremely well over his career) and focus on the one thing he’s been concerned about for years — winning.

But things didn’t start off as planned, as the first two batters of the game went deep to give the Orioles a quick two-run lead. Taking the fans from an electric crowd to a somewhat stunned crowd, you still figured this was far from where things would end. Not in Jeter’s final game in the Bronx.

As has happened from stadium to stadium throughout this season, due to his preseason announcement that 2014 would be his final year, Jeter received a standing ovation when he made his way to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. The fans knew this would be one of their final opportunities to thank Jeter for the memories, and they took full advantage of it. But the memory making wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

After working the count a bit, Jeter drove a 3-1 fastball from Kevin Gausman deep to left center, and although everyone immediately thought it was a home run, the ball hit off the wall, allowing Jeter to coast into second with an RBI double — the 544th double, 3,462nd hit and 1,308th RBI of his career. You got the feeling that this was going to be a magical night.

However, the second and third at-bats of the night weren’t much to write home about for Jeter. A weak ground ball which resulted in a a fielder’s choice and a swinging strikeout, respectively, Jeter appeared to be headed for a memorable but fairly uneventful evening as the game rolled on.

But things would quickly change for The Captain.

Coming up with the bases loaded in a 2-2 ballgame for his fourth time at the plate, Jeter grounded to fellow short stop, J.J. Hardy, who made a wide throw to second base, allowing two runs to score on the throwing error. The score became 4-2, Yankees, with Jeter being responsible for two of the Yankees’ four runs. A sacrifice fly by Brian McCann then took the score up to 5-2, which is where things stood when the game moved into the ninth inning.

Before the game even began, many people speculated as to when Derek Jeter would be removed from the game. Many felt it would be with one or two outs in the top of the ninth, but the chance to replace him never occurred. Yankees’ closer, David Robertson, came on and gave up a two-run home run to Adam Jones, followed by a solo shot by Steve Pearce, and just like that the game was tied.

But no one seemed to panic as they normally would.

One look at the lineup card showed that Jeter was due up third in the bottom half.

After a single by Jose Pirela to lead off the bottom of the ninth (Pirela was promptly replaced by a pinch runner), Brett Gardner bunted the runner to second, bringing up Derek Jeter in a tie ballgame with one out.

Wasting no time, Jeter took the first pitch of the at-bat the opposite way into right field, bringing around the game winning run — the first walk off hit for Jeter since June of 2007. With everything having to go exactly right, there’s absolutely no better way the game could’ve ended for Derek FarewellJeter.

He’s a legend — simple as that.

Going down as one of the best short stops in history — right up there with Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., etc. — Derek Jeter will be remembered forever.

Not only as one of the greatest to ever play his position, not only as one of the greatest Yankees to play the game, but also as one of the greatest human beings to play the sport. Putting together a near spotless career on and off the field, few will argue that you will never see a player quite like Derek Jeter ever again.

And the fans let Jeter know it when he walked back onto the field after getting the game winning hit. Joined by fellow Yankees legends, Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, among others, Jeter took the time to thank the fans for their support, tipping his cap before taking off down the dugout steps and through the tunnel for the final time of his career.

Playing his entire twenty year career for the Yankees, the first ballot Hall of Famer didn’t have a whole lot to say after the game. As has been the case over his career, Jeter never says more than he wants to say. But he did let his emotions show through a bit, tearing up a bit at times. When asked what he would miss most, Jeter responded, “Everything. But most importantly, I’m going to miss the fans. They’re what made this special”.

The 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, fourteen time All-Star, five time World Series champion, and sixth place player on the all-time hit list accomplished nearly everything he ever dreamed of doing on a baseball field. Growing up, all Jeter ever dreamed of was being the short stop for the Yankees, and he was able to do just that. Dreams really do come true.

With that being his ultimate goal, Jeter made it official after the game that he will never again play short stop, saying he’s going to play in the final three games of the year up in Boston out of respect for the fans, but merely as the designated hitter.

As such, Jeter will undoubtedly get a standing ovation each and every time he steps to the plate up at Fenway park until his final at-bat occurs on Sunday. For a New York Yankee to get that type of respect from rival Red Sox fans, you know he had a truly remarkable career. As he always does, Derek Jeter put it best on Thursday night, simply stating, “I’ve lived the dream.”

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas — the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter — all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

MLB Hall of Famers I’ve Seen In Person

With the 2013 Hall of Fame class set to be announced tomorrow at Noon, on MLB Network, I thought it would be fun to post a blog entry on all of the Hall of Fame players I’ve ever seen in person. If my memory serves me correctly, I’ve only encountered a total of nine members of the baseball Hall of Fame. Furthermore–an interesting point to make–every HOF encounter I can recall ever having has taken place within the past seven months.

I might be forgetting a player I saw in one of the earlier years of my life, but I’m fairly sure that the following are the only HOF players I’ve been lucky enough to see in person:

JOHNNY BENCH-JOE MORGAN

Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were the first two members of the Hall of Fame that I can recall seeing. Admittedly, I was around 100 feet away from them, but it still counts, as we were all in the same live scenario at the same time. This particular interaction came on June 23, 2012, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (If you’d like to read all about the entire day–where I actually got to shake hands, and take pictures, with several Reds’ HOF’ers–feel free to check it out HERE.)

Basically, as far as Bench’s and Morgan’s purpose goes for being in ‘Cincy’, Sean Casey and Dan Driessen were at Great American Ballpark with the sole purpose being that they were getting officially inducted into the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame. The Reds decided to bring back a couple dozen members of their HOF, and Morgan and Bench happened to be two of the players they brought out to the ballpark:

DSCN4717I realize it’s not the most flattering picture, but it’s the only one I took of the two of them together. In case you can’t tell, Johnny Bench is the one in the white shirt, putting on his jacket, and Joe Morgan is the one just to the left of him; also putting on his jacket.

The next six Hall of Fame encounters I’ve had came while on a trip out to Kansas City, Missouri, to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby:

CAL RIPKEN JR.-TONY GWYNN

I ran into Cal Ripken Jr. at around 6:30 in the morning, on July 9, 2012, shortly after chatting with Ryan Howard. Ripken was surrounded by several media members at the time and was having a conversation with Manny Machado:

DSCN4809Cal Ripken Jr. is on the right. (Manny Machado is on the left.)

I could’ve (and should’ve) waited until Ripken was finished doing was he was doing and approached him to ask for an autograph, but, in addition to it being early in the morning–with me still being half asleep–I regretfully neglected to take a ball card of Ripken out to Kansas City. I still kick myself about it, but you can’t go back in time. Perhaps I’ll run into Ripken again sometime down the road, but if not, at least I’ll always have the memory of our encounter.

My Tony Gwynn sighting came just a few hours later, only a couple hundred feet away from where my Cal Ripken Jr. encounter had occurred. Gwynn was set to sign autographs for an endless line of fans–many of which had been in line for a couple of hours–and I, in anticipation of his arrival, positioned myself off to the side of the crowd, as I waited for Gwynn. I ended up standing there for what seemed like forever, as Gwynn didn’t show up until 45 minutes after his scheduled appearance time. I was tempted to leave about 30 minutes into the wait, but I’m glad I didn’t. The extra 15 minutes of patience allowed me to be able to add another HOF’er to the list, as well as get a picture:

DSCN4870A bit obvious which one is Tony Gwynn.

BARRY LARKIN-REGGIE JACKSON-HANK AARON-GEORGE BRETT

Barry Larkin would be the next Hall of Famer I would come across while out in Kansas City. Just to the right of where I took in most of the All-Star workout day’s batting practice, Larkin was hard at work, as an episode of ‘Baseball Tonight’ was being filmed. There’s not much more I can say about my Larkin sighting, so I’ll go ahead and leave you with a photo:

DSCN4899Barry Larkin is the one just to the left of Terry Francona.

Reggie Jackson has the most interesting story (in my mind) of any other HOF player I’ve ever seen in person. My first (notice I said *first*) sighting of Jackson came shortly before the start of the home run derby, when he made his way out onto the field to throw out the first pitch:

DSCN5026Reggie Jackson, folks.

It was great to see such a great player–one of only four to ever hit three home runs in a World Series game–in person, but little did I know, at the time, that this story would only get better from there. The next morning, I was sitting in the Kansas City airport terminal, when who walks by? Reggie Jackson. That’s right, Mr. October himself just so happened to be on the same flight (he was in first class) as I was. How cool is that?! It’ll be hard to ever top the encounter I had with Jackson out in KC, but you never know….

Jumping back to the day before I saw Jackson in the airport terminal–with it still being July 9th–the next Hall of Famer I spotted was Hank Aaron. It wasn’t the best sighting ever, as it took me at least 30 seconds to locate him, after he was shown on the center field jumbotron, and I ended up with only a 5 second, or so, sighting; leading to a blurry photo:

DSCN5038Hank Aaron is the one in the white shirt, above the MLB.com sign, with his hand in the air.

Aaron is arguably the best player I saw out in Kansas City; perhaps the best of all the HOF’ers I’ve ever seen in person.

The last HOF encounter I had, on my trip to Kansas City, was George Brett. I first spotted Brett down by the field when he made his was to the broadcasting table to do an interview/play-by-play type thing, during a portion of the derby. Brett wasn’t out for long, thus I don’t have anything all that interesting to talk about, but he was, however, out in the open long enough for me to take a photo:

DSCN5061George Brett is the guy in the white shirt.

RYNE SANDBERG

The most recent story I have of a face-to-face encounter with me and a Hall of Fame member occurred on July 18, 2012, in Durham, North Carolina. The Lehigh Valley Ironpigs were in town taking on the Durham Bulls and Sandberg just so happened to be managing the visiting Ironpigs. Unlike the eight HOF’ers I had seen before, I was actually successful in getting an autograph from Sandberg–two if you want to be technical:

DSCN5493

The autographs I was able to get from Ryne Sandberg. (The Sharpie was running out.)

It was easier than I thought it would be, as I found it unusually simple to work my way down by the dugout, and to my surprise, Sandberg signed for nearly ten minutes; so that certainly helped out as well. I forgot to bring along my camera to this particular game, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I met Sandberg. (I suppose the above autographs are proof enough.)

So there you have it. Those are the nine Hall of Famers that I can remember seeing in person. If Mark McGwire, Bernie Williams and/or Sandy Alomar end up having their names called tomorrow, when the 2013 Hall of Fame voting results are announced, I can add anywhere from one to three more names to the list, as I’ve seen all three players before.

I have a feeling, however, that I’ll be stuck at nine players until at least the 2014 vote.

How many MLB Hall of Famers have you seen in person? I’d love to hear your answer, with the story behind it (if there is one), in the comments section below.

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