In the moments immediately after Derek Jeter unveiled his plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, ESPN played an interview clip with The Captain that disclosed the ultimate irony — he originally wanted to wear No. 13.
No, that’s not a shot at Alex Rodriguez, it just happened to be number Jeter’s dad wore.
So it was with that childhood dream on the mind that Jeter then took his place in front of the mound, in front of some of the most important Yankees players in history, in front of fans who’ve spent their lives adoring him and in front of children named after him, in front of former managers, in front of the scouts who discovered him and in front of those responsible for raising him that the player who defined a generation watched as his No. 2 was retired for eternity.
There may be another player who comes along like Derek Jeter, but there will never be another Number 2. Not in Yankee Stadium, anyways.
The ceremony capped off a week of Jeter tributes as many tried to figure out what the shortstop’s defining play was, or where his career ranks among other Yankee greats or if we’d see a player wear No. 0 for the bombers — the only available single digit.
Everything about the night was quintessentially Yankees. Jeter, joined by his family, gathered in Monument Park to unveil his number. Then New York welcomed in the likes of Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and few more World Series champions onto the field as the stadium rose for Jeter’s grand entrance. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” blared over the speakers as Jeter entered center field on a golf cart that made its way around the warning track before he jumped out to get one more walk through the Yankees’ dugout.
Up until that moment, Jeter had no idea what he would say when he stood in front of the mound. While riding around the field his wife, Hannah Jeter, kept trying to talk to her husband. The Captain admitted on ESPN later that he kept asking her to be quiet so he could come up with a speech. It seemed more than enough time for the words to come to him.
“What do you say on a day like this?” Jeter asked the crowd. “I’ll start it with ‘Thank you’… I want to thank you guys. For pushing me and challenging me. For making me accountable. For, more importantly, embracing me since Day One. I was asked recently by someone, they said, ‘If you could trade places with one person who would it be?’ I say humbly, there isn’t a person or player I’d trade places with that’s playing now or ever.”
There weren’t any grand gestures from The Captain. No nods at ever playing again or rejoining the Bronx Bombers in some capacity. No tears, either — at least not from Jeter.
It was just the former shortstop back in the house he built, in front of a city who adored him. Jeter didn’t go on to give the sort of great proclamation about wearing the pinstripes that Joe DiMaggio did. He settled into the moment the way he always has: comfortably and casually.
There was another story Jeter told ESPN. One that takes place back in his formative days with the organization. Entering one of his first spring trainings with the team, Jeter noticed right away that instead of wearing No. 2 like he had the previous year, he had been assigned No. 17.
The young player demanded for his number back. Now no one can have it again.
“I got chance to play for a first class organization in front of the greatest fans in the history of sports,” Jeter told the crowd. “I’ll be eternally grateful to be a part of the Yankee family.”
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