Captain Clutch Says He Will Not Play Shortstop, Will Only DH In Boston This Weekend

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Derek Jeter put on New York’s navy pinstripes for the last time Thursday night, for a game that culminated in a fairytale ending.

He would have received a hero’s reception no matter how the Yankees played. But instead, he ripped a single in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading the Yankees to a 6-5 victory and saving the team from extra innings against the Baltimore Orioles.

Serenaded with adoring chants that echoed through the Bronx night, Jeter tipped his cap several times at shortstop and drove in three runs. He launched an early double off the wall, but saved the best for last in his sharp, opposite-field single to right that knocked in the winning run.

And he did it in front of teammates, friends, family and fans who were all there for only one reason: to thank the captain.

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But the captain’s final home game was a momentous event no matter what was to come next. Everyone knew that even before the game.

“I think (Thursday) will be the culmination of all the love he has been shown and all the appreciation he has been shown this year and his career,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I think it’ll be something we’ll remember for a long time.”

And indeed, much as expected, Jeter got a sendoff not seen at the ballpark in the Bronx, arguably since Mickey Mantle retired as the Yankees played their last home game with No. 2 as their shortstop.

“Most importantly, I’m going to miss the fans – they’re what made this special,” Jeter said on the YES Network.

When asked after the game what was going through his mind as he stepped up to bat the last time, he answered: “Don’t cry. To be honest with you, I don’t know how I played this game.”

JETER STORIES: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, it was the end of an era in Yankees baseball, and a historic night that fans will cherish forever.

“Unbelievable — you couldn’t write a better story,” said fan Miguel Rodriguez. “It’s unbelievable he just went out with a walk off hit.”

“It’s really incredible,” said fan John Nanni. “It’s been an honor to have been here.”

“It’s emotional. It’s been the better part of my life that he’s been a Yankee, and like, you know, they said, he’s our era’s Joe DiMaggio,” said fan Karen Morris.

Jeter’s performance fittingly filled the stadium with resonating respect. And there were clearly moments of contemplation for the Yankees great as the final innings wound down.

As Jeter left his field of dreams, fans were grateful for two amazing decades of memories.

“We’re going miss you. We’re going to miss you,” said fan Michael Bush. “We were talking about how we would write the script to how this would end and we wouldn’t have even imagined that. That was way more than we could ever imagine. It was so great.”

“It’s emotional to watch him, and he had a great game, and he deserves every bit of the credit and respect that he got,” said fan Dennis Morris.

Fans stood with each and every at-bat, taking pictures and videos with their phones and cameras while chanting “Der-ek Je-ter!” and lauding him with sustained ovations. Middle-aged men held up homemade signs like little kids praising the 14-time All-Star who helped bring five World Series championships to New York following the organization’s 17-year drought. Even former teammates and star players made the trip to see him one more time.

As CBS 2’s Steve Overmyer reported, the way Jeter works has made impressions on more than just everyday fans.

“Everything from winning championships to accepting the role in the city – I think it inspires a lot of athletes coming to New York,” said Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

“He’s been a great role model for me. Seeing the way he conducted himself – a guy who has won championships, been the captain of teams, and has just been a true professional,” said Eli Manning of the Giants.

Tickets on the secondary market for home game No. 1,391 in Jeter’s 20-season career went for $248 in the bleachers up to $10,000 in section 19, right next to the Yankees’ dugout.

There were worries earlier in the day that the game might get rained out, particularly given earlier forecasts that showed moisture hovering over the city just in time for the game. But there was nary a drop of rain as fans cheered thunderously for their hero.

Derek Jeter walked onto the field as a rookie for the Yankees in 1995, and 20 seasons, five World Series rings, and endless memories later, he was set to walk off a legend on Thursday.

Shannon Wendelkin from Toms River remembers meeting Jeter at a game 14 years ago as a little girl.

“Clearly speechless. I couldn’t talk to him at all, it was unforgettable,” she told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.

The retiring 40-year-old Jeter — from Kalamazoo, Michigan — has resisted acknowledging the curtain calls because he didn’t want to disrupt his teammates while the Yankees were clinging to the slim possibility of postseason play. But even for the player who is always so cool under pressure, so focused on the task at hand, he heard the calls.

“I’m aware of it. You can’t help but notice,” Jeter said. “I catch myself looking around sometimes — and I’ve always tried not to do that — but I’ve caught myself a couple of times, so I’m aware.”

JETER STORIES: FROM THE YANKEES CLUBHOUSE

And after a 9-5 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday, there was nothing to play for on Thursday but the goodbyes.

“I can’t tell you what tomorrow’s going to feel like,” Jeter said. “But right now, it doesn’t feel good. We didn’t play well enough. That’s the bottom line. We’re all disappointed, and we should be disappointed. We’re sorry to the organization and to all of the fans, because they come to expect us to be in the playoffs, and we’re not this year.”

JETER STORIES: FROM THE OPPOSITE DUGOUT

Being eliminated from postseason contention gave Girardi the luxury of orchestrating Jeter’s exit much the way he planned a special moment for Mariano Rivera’s departure last season.

In the closer’s final home game, Girardi, a former teammate of both stars, sent Jeter and Andy Pettitte to the mound to make the pitching change. Rivera cried on Pettitte’s shoulder, and Jeter told him, “It’s time to go.”

“The idea for Mo came to me a half-inning before I did it,” Girardi said. “So I’ll probably do this the same way.”

The Yankees still have three more games to play, in Boston, and Jeter has decided he wanted to leave something special for the Yankees. Thus, Thursday night at Yankee Stadium marked his last game as shortstop.

But Jeter will be on designated hitter duty in Boston.

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