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Two Yankee Captains Meet As Jeter Ties Gehrig

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The old Yankee Stadium had more than its lions share of Hall of Fame players exhibiting historic feats and performances.

On Wednesday night, the new Yankee Stadium hosted its first such moment. Mired in an 0-12 slump — his worst of the season — Derek Jeter entered the game three hits behind "The Iron Horse" Henry Louis Gehrig for the all-time hits record by a New York Yankee. He led off the night with a bunt single that ended the slump promptly, but it was his opposite field, slashing, prototypical-Jeter single to right field in the seventh inning (his third hit of the night) that ended Derek's chase of Gehrig and created the most dramatic spectacle in the short history of the new stadium in the Bronx.

Jeter has never been one for ceremony, especially when the honoree is himself. Getting him to take the customary Yankee Stadium curtain call is a battle no matter the weight or importance of the situation. But on Wednesday, lauded with a two-minute-plus standing ovation that poured from the stadium into the cool New York night like few explosions of human emotion have in recent baseball memory, Jeter stood on first base and raised his helmet to the sky. Partly this was in recognition of his accomplishment, and also out of respect to the legend he has now joined. Yet mostly, it seemed, it was in understanding of what the moment meant to the crowd that thundered their cheers throughout his every at bat and have chanted his name in pounding, rhythmic unison so many times since his first hit in 1995 against Tim Belcher and the Seattle Mariners.

Yankee fans embrace those who bring the franchise glory (see Paul O'Neill's last game or Tino Martinez's return to Yankee Stadium with the Cardinals) but Derek Jeter means something more to the fans. He will never challenge any home run records but Jeter has inarguably taken his place in the lineage of Yankee Hall of Fame Legends that began with Boston's sale of Babe Ruth in 1920 and passed generation by generation through Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle until it awakened from dormancy and rose once again in the embodiment of a new Yankee champion (with a similarly low number) and a future Yankee captain. Four World Series championships and 2,721 (and counting) hits later, Jeter still provides Yankee fans with a near-constant view of historic proportions; the rare chance to watch a Hall of Famer take his place in the pantheon of the greatest Pinstripers that have ever lived. For a franchise and a fanbase so deeply steeped in a rich history, this is a privilege not taken lightly.

The Yankees inevitably won the ball game over Tampa Bay 4-2, locked away when Jorge Posada hit a three-run eighth inning home run. But the game will always be remembered in New York Yankee history as the night two Yankee Captains, two men of historically pristine character, two all-time baseball greats, and inevitably two Hall of Famers, met each other in statistical passing, in remembrance of the greatness of one man and on the continuing progression of another.

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About Anthony Tobis

  • OK, I don’t mean to micturate in the punch bowl here, but what is the deal with the whole “Yankee captain” thing? What does being the captain entail? At least in football the captain calls heads or tails for the pregame coin flip.

    Do other teams have captains? I follow the Dodgers very, very closely, and I have no idea who their captain is, or if they even have one.

    Is there something I’m missing?

  • Tony

    As far as I know every team does not have a captain. It is just an honorary position given to players that have importance to the organization, noteworthy because of the people who have held it. There have only been 11 in Yankee history and one between Gehrig and Munson.

  • And only one between Munson and Jeter too!

  • #1

    Used to be Steve Garvey, Mr. Clean.

  • Wasn’t Dan Mattingly one, too?

  • The importance of being a captain is, I’m told, first crack at the groupies.

    Jeter, Jason Varitek, Paul Konerko are the only current captains I know of. I think Mark Sweeney used to be the Royals’ captain, but that was because they misunderstood the question and thought the captain picked players from other teams like in kickball.

  • Tony

    Actually there were a couple short stints as captain between Munson and Jeter. Randolph and Guidry were co-captains for a short period, Nettles was a captain for a couple of years and so was Mattingly. I guess its once of those “true Yankee” ideas that maybe only Yankee fans see importance in but nevertheless it is a positions of prestige.

  • George Brett ought to have been one, too. He was the heart of the Royals.

  • Huh – OK. This is educational. A little research tells me that the Dodgers’ last captain was Davey Lopes.

  • forrest

    Have none of you guys ever played a sport. It’s a position that is earned, not appointed. Some teams do not have one because they don’t have players that are as invested in their team as Jeter and some others are. Doesn’t have to be the best player, just the emotional leader of the team, kind of like Varitek for Red Sox.

  • Chris

    Being selected as a Yankee captain is considered an honor for a Yankee player. The individual must not only be a proven player for a length of time, but also be an example of dignity and gamesmanship both on and off the field.