NEW YORK – Standing on the field with a microphone, the end of his baseball career likely three weeks away, Derek Jeter remained as cool and collected as his play at shortstop over the past two decades.
The New York Yankees honored their retiring captain Sunday with a 45-minute pregame ceremony that included surprise appearances by NBA great Michael Jordan and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr.
Reserved as always and with no hints of tears, Jeter thanked people a dozen times as he spoke to a capacity crowd of 48,110 at Yankee Stadium for about 3 minutes before a 2-0 loss to Kansas City further damaged New York’s slim playoff chances.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that 20 seasons has gone by so quickly,” the 40-year-old Jeter said following a 1½-minute ovation. “You guys have all watched me grow up over the last 20 years. I’ve watched you, too. Some of you guys getting old, too. But I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid for the last 20 years.”
A 14-time All-Star who is sixth on the career hits list, Jeter sparked a Yankees renaissance that began with a World Series title in 1996 as he won the AL Rookie of the Year award. He led the team to three consecutive championships from 1998-2000, was named captain in 2003 and then won a fifth Series in 2009 that raised the team’s record total to 27.
Jeter produced a series of indelible moments: his homer and over-the-shoulder catch on his first opening day in 1996, backhanded flip to the plate against Oakland in the 2001 playoffs and Mr. November home run just after midnight a few weeks later that won World Series Game 4. There was a face-first dive into the seats for a popup against Boston in 2004, the farewell speech at old Yankee Stadium in 2008 and the home run for his 3,000th hit in 2011.
Jeter embraced Jordan, describing him “like an older brother that I never had.”
Jordan, who played with Jeter in the 1994 Arizona Fall League, praised his pal for surviving New York, where the former basketball star opined “one little hiccup can fry your personality, your persona.”
“He’s maintained doing things the right way, in this time and era that few people take the time to say ‘what if’ before they make a decision,” Jordan said. “He’s made the right decision each and every time.”
A 30-by-30 banner of Jeter was unveiled in the stadium’s Great Hall. Video messages from athletes and celebrities and even astronauts in space were shown throughout the day, which was proclaimed “Derek Jeter Day” by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Yankees didn’t retire Jeter’s No. 2 or unveil a plaque in Monument Park, no doubt setting up a Derek Jeter Day 2 at some future time. New York took a similar approach a half-century ago, holding a Mickey Mantle Day in September 1965 before his 2,000th game, then retiring his No. 7 in June 1969 with another ceremony after his playing days.
There were 34 white chairs lined up across the infield for the invited guests, which also included Jeter’s family, his foundation’s “Jeter’s Leaders” and former teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Tim Raines and Gerald Williams.
Yordano Ventura and the Royals put a damper on the day once the game got going. Ventura pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning, for the AL Central leaders.
Kansas City’s Norichika Aoki was 1-for-3 in the win. Ichiro Suzuki was hitless in three at-bats for the Yankees.
Angels 14, Twins 4
In Minneapolis, Mike Trout hit his 32nd homer and C.J. Wilson recovered from a slow start.
Indians 2, White Sox 0
In Cleveland, Carlos Carrasco came within one out of his first complete game.
Rangers 1, Mariners 0
In Arlington, Texas, Derek Holland pitched seven impressive innings in his second start off the disabled list.
Astros 4, Athletics 3
In Oakland, the Astros scored two runs in the ninth without a hit, including Dexter Fowler’s bases-loaded walk for the tiebreaking run.
Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 1
In Boston, Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer and R.A. Dickey pitched into the eighth inning, carrying Toronto to the victory.
Orioles 7, Rays 5 (11)
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Nelson Cruz hit his second homer of the game in the 11th inning and drove in seven runs.
Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 2
In Los Angeles, Adrian Gonzalez hit a pair of three-run homers to reach 100 RBIs for the seventh time.
Marlins 4, Braves 0
In Miami, Brad Hand pitched six sharp innings and Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in two runs.
Rockies 6, Padres 0
In Denver, Nolan Arenado homered and Franklin Morales pitched six spotless innings for his first win in two months.
Pirates 10, Cubs 4
In Chicago, Andrew McCutchen hit one of Pittsburgh’s four homers as the Pirates moved into the second NL wild-card slot.
Cardinals 9, Brewers 1
In Milwaukee, Adam Wainwright pitched a seven-hitter.
Nationals 3, Phillies 2
In Washington, Adam LaRoche homered twice as the Nationals avoided a sweep.
Mets 4, Reds 3
In Cincinnati, Curtis Granderson and Anthony Recker both homered.
Tigers 6, Giants 1
In Detroit, rookie Kyle Lobstein earned his first major league win, and Miguel Cabrera homered for the third time in two days.