May 30, 1995, a Tuesday. The Yankees were in Seattle at the old Kingdome to play the Mariners. A young recent call-up got his first major league hit, batted 9th in the line-up, and went 2-for-3 with a walk. His father looking on from the crowd, cheering with gusto for every play, every moment.
June 10, 2014, a Tuesday. The Yankees are in Seattle at the newish Safeco Stadium to play the Mariners. A well-known veteran infielder playing his last season gets his 3,372nd hit, bats 2nd in the line-up, and goes 2-for-3 with a walk. His parents looking on from the crowd, cheering with gusto for every play, every moment.
It’s been just over 19 years since his first hit, and it still reads like the same old story. And tonight, before the game, the Mariners paid tribute to their piece of the Derek Jeter storied career. Current Mariners Felix Hernandez and (recent Yankee) Robinson Cano as well as Mariner Alumni Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner were on hand to present Jeter with a chair from the Mariners’ old stadium (the Kingdome), a customized base, a watch (on which Cano personally engraved a message), and a $5,000 donation to Turn 2.
After a little reminiscing, it was play ball. The Yankees, being the away team of course, batted first. And it was Jeter to strike first with a single, advancing to 2nd on Teixeira’s single. Carlos Beltran’s double scored Jeter, and Brian McCann’s single scored Teixeira. So the Yankees were up 2-0 after just the 1st half of the 1st inning.
Vidal Nuno took the mound for the Yankees. And honestly, tonight’s outing for Nuno was one of the best I’ve seen from him in a long time. His 92 pitches took him 5.2 innings, allowing just 4 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 2 Seattle batters. Seattle halved the Yankees’ lead right in the 1st inning as Cano doubled and then scored on a single.
Nuno was actually on point for the win until “Old Reliable” faltered a bit but then recovered because of the Yankee bats (a sentence I certainly don’t say often enough right now). It’s always amazed me that a pitcher can blow a save and then go on for the win. To me, it shows the oddity that are current score keeping and statistical methods that don’t seem to accurate reflect what happened in the game or in the player’s performance.
Old Reliable, if you’ve been following this blog for the last couple of months, is Dellin Betances, who came on in Nuno’s relief in the 6th, and then faltered slightly in the 7th inning. Betances hit a batter who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a single to tie up the game.
But the Yankees answered back in the top of the 8th. It was Jeter again to start the ball rolling (so to speak) with a ground-rule double. He would then score the winning run on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. Adam Warren’s 8th and David Robertson’s 9th kept that 3-2 Yankee win intact and delivered a memorable, hard-earned, and much-needed win for the Yankees. This was thanks in part to a truly stellar defense. Whatever seemed to be lacking in Kansas City, certainly was rediscovered sometime over the rainout and landing in Seattle.
Seattle’s really an unexpected place for a legendary career to begin, but perhaps that’s part of what makes Jeter’s career legendary. Legends are never expected. They don’t craft a perfect story or embrace their immortality from the start. No, they are birthed through unpredictability and grit and hidden until they suddenly cannot be hidden any longer. Perhaps, like the emerald that lends itself to a popular Seattle nickname (“the Emerald City”), legends have to be mined and cut and polished before even being recognizable. But once they are, they sparkle with a brightness that cannot be overlooked, holding all who behold its greatness in awe. They say legends aren’t born but made. I think legends always have an undeniable quality and potential for greatness, but they didn’t just sit in potential. They became the greatness because they just couldn’t be anything less.