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Congratulations, Derek Jeter

September 14, 2009

Nineteen years ago Shonda and I met a man named Dick Bergeron. Dick had been recently diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

ALS, today, is still 100 percent fatal. However, in the past 19 years Lou’s name has gained notoriety and recognition in many positive ways.

His life story has been written about many times over. This is the best book I’ve ever read on it.

Why is this relevant? For two reasons, really. The first was the nation becoming aware of Lou during the previous decade, when Cal Ripken broke Lou’s consecutive game streak. Cal did it with a blue collar work ethic unmatched in anyone I ever played with. Knowing Cal’s father, it was easy to see how and why he was who he was.

The second reason occurred this past weekend. On a rain-soaked evening in the new Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter lined an opposite-field single for career hit No. 2,722 and became the all-time hits leader for the New York Yankee franchise. The event got some good PR and some decent coverage, but it’s far more significant than the coverage it’s been given, to me anyway. This isn’t the Nationals or Padres we’re talking about, this is one of sports’ oldest franchises and home of the game’s greatest all-time players.

Red Sox fans are pretty much in agreement that Jeter is a player they love to “not like.” I don’t say hate because real Sox fans — dyed-in-the-wool Sox Nation members — can’t hate the guy. You can dislike him immensely, and much of that is due to the pinstripes, but there is nothing we know of that would give pause, rhyme or reason to not having immense respect for what he’s done on and off the field.

His early career was marked by trend-setting numbers at a position defined by defense for the past century. Well, that and four World Series rings in his first week or two in the big leagues, it seemed.

But beyond that there are two things that stand out to me.

Derek Jeter has always been above the fray. As someone who’s wallowed in it, “foot-in-mouthed” it hundreds of times, said dumb things and backed up dumber ones, it’s refreshing. He’s shown up, played, and turned in a first-ballot Hall of Fame career in the hardest environment in sports to do any/all of the above.

That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment.

More importantly to me, though, was this. I enjoyed competing against him as much as anyone I ever faced. Derek was that guy who was going to hit his way, regardless, with enough talent to still get hits when you made your pitch and hit your spot. One of my favorite memories was stepping onto the rubber for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, being as locked in as I’ve ever been, looking into home plate and looking into his eyes, and us smiling at each other, knowing what we were getting ready to experience. By the way, I should never have thrown the fastball away in the seventh inning, I had him if I’d just kept pounding the ball in …

I have no idea how he felt about competing against me, or about me as a player, but I know competing against that guy, for the decade or so we matched up, was what made the Major Leagues the Major Leagues for someone like me.

So, congratulations Derek, you earned every ounce of respect and accolades thrown your way, and you’re one of the few men I ever competed against who is worthy of having his name mentioned with the same reverence and respect as Lou Gehrig.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    September 14, 2009 10:19 am

    You should be ashamed of yourself

  2. Mas permalink
    September 14, 2009 10:38 am

    Great post Curt. Thanks for recognizing one of the great true players in the game. I’ll always remember a shot of him in game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. He was at first and clapping, the game was done but he was still urging his team on like it was a rally in the 4th inning. For me, that was the moment I realized what he was to the game.

  3. Matt H. permalink
    September 14, 2009 12:10 pm

    I don’t know any TRUE Red Sox fan that doesn’t love Derek Jeter.

    We have all heard the term “Pink Hats” which refers to the legion of non-fans that now inhabit Fenway Park. They’ve never bothered me as much as the “fans” who wear that stupid “Jeter Swallows” t-shirt. It makes me sick.

    Jeter is one of the classiest, clutchest players this generation of baseball fans has ever seen. He absolutely epitomizes the term, “…plays the game the right way…”

    What will be very interesting to me is the day he plays his last game in Fenway Park. I believe then you will see how the real fans feel about Derek Jeter. There will be an ovation that will rival that of any home town player that Boston has ever seen, and even a tear or two.

  4. empirelady permalink
    September 14, 2009 1:16 pm

    Curt,
    I agree with you when you say that Jeter is mostly disliked because of the pinstripes,which I find to be the case with myself. I have found here in New York that most people either love the Yankees or hate the Yankees(for the record,I am one of the haters,as I love the Red Sox and being here in New York also support the New York Mets-never the Yankees!). I agree with you that what Derek Jeter did is a major accomplishment and I will not deny him that. But when you speak of the PR and coverage that it received,to be honest,what happened here in New York City truly upset me. Friday was 9/11 and for those who have just crawled out of a cave,that was the day,in 2001,that my city was attacked by terrorists and my loved World Trade Towers came down(they may have destroyed the towers but never the city or the spirit of the people who live here). Many,many lives were lost that day and it remains a very somber day for us marked by many tributes,including the tribute in light(and for those who have never seen it,they should come to New York one 9/11 to see it. Every 9/11,from darkness until the light of the next morning,a tribute in light is done by having light in the form of the World Trade Towers,a recreation of them,light up the sky. It is almost ghostly to see these two beams of light that resemble the World Trade Towers light up the sky but quite effective and very moving to all who see it). Anyway,I watched our 11 P,M. news broadcast on TV and what they did truly bothered me. They had what Derek Jeter did earlier that day as the LEAD story,the first story of the night,followed by the events of the day remembering 9/11,the many victims of that day,and mentioning that among the people to come to New York
    that day was the vice president of the United States(the president was at the Pentagon,which was also struck that fateful day). Now I do not mean to diminish what Derek Jeter did and I do think that it is newsworthy,but I think that they should have lead the news with 9/11,followed by the Derek Jeter story. SO when you mention the PR regarding Derek Jeter,I do not know what other parts of the country did in terms of reporting what he did,and I would be interested to know,but here in New York,I think the priorities of the news broadcasts were backwards(and that has nothing to do with the fact that I dislike the Yankees but just rather from a standpoint of caring about the tremendous loss of human life that day eight years ago). What do you think,Curt? I have always valued your opinion and would be very much interested in your perspective on this. Am I being too harsh on the news media? I welcome any and all comments on this matter.
    Best Wishes,
    Donna,New York CIty.

  5. Mitch Johnson permalink
    September 14, 2009 2:29 pm

    Curt,

    I couldn’t agree with you more, I’m a hugh red sox fan I’ve been one all my life. I even have a red sox tatoo to prove it. I also hate the Yankees but I do respect one player on that team and thats Derek jeter, he works hard and never runs his mouth, instead he does it with his play.

    by the way thanks for 2004, I’ve waited my whole life to see a world series
    come to boston and so did my great uncle but he past away to soon, I still went to his grave and let hime know we were champs he must have rolled over in his grave with joy.

    Thanks
    Mitch Johnson

  6. September 14, 2009 5:12 pm

    Mr. Schilling, Great post and comments about Derek. Thank you for taking the time to write such a meaningful blog. As a Lifetime Yankee fan such as myself, “You’re a good guy”.

    The best un retirement,

    T Wedeman

  7. Nate permalink
    September 14, 2009 5:51 pm

    Very well said! And Luckiest Man is one of the better baseball books ever written, period.

  8. September 14, 2009 6:18 pm

    Not a big fan of Mr Schilling. But I had to read what he wrote about Jeter. Glad to see it was in good taste. As a Yanks fan, I will say that Mr. Schilling also would get my vote for HOF. I think a big game pitcher and a pitcher that kept the Yankees from winning two more World Series titles in my eyes is more valuable than a compiler type of pitcher.

    Keep up the support of fighting ALS, that is good work.

  9. MaryEllen Woodman permalink
    September 14, 2009 8:30 pm

    A wonderful recognition of Derek & Lou Gehrig. I would love to see Derek become a key ambassador/spokesperson for finding cure for ALS. Afterall, who better than the man who beat Lou Gehrig’s hitting record in 2009 to stand up & lead the way to raise awareness/encouragement/funds for the ALS researchers to also beat Lou Gehrig’s (disease) in 2009 also!!!

  10. September 14, 2009 11:46 pm

    Sir, I’m not your biggest fan after your heroics (yes it hurts to say heroics here) in 04. And you prob. don’t care about having a yankee fan commenting here, but I’d just like to thank you for offering up one of the best perspective peace I’ve ever read.

  11. Jeff permalink
    September 15, 2009 7:58 am

    You’re getting better at this writing thing. VERY well written story Curt.

    As a life-long Sox fan, it hurts to say I’ve always respected Jeter. Friends and family think I’m crazy, but I’ve always said he is the one Yankee I would pick to see on the Sox. He plays the game right and will go down as one of the top 5 Yankees of all time…and think about what that says about him.

  12. September 15, 2009 12:23 pm

    Curt,

    You nailed it with this one. My son and I (he’s 9) are huge Jeter fans. He likes Mantle too but thats another story. Jeter is a class act and he’s an exemplary athlete. We take some grief but we’re Sox season ticket holders so we don’t feel like we need to explain any of our baseball likes and dislikes 🙂

    If you read this and you have a chance, please let me know whom I can contact over at Mass Chapter for ALS. The state agency I work for provides FREE service and equipment for disabled telephone users. Over the past 17 years, myself and my associates have installed several remote control speakerphones in the homes of folks who have ALS and other disabilities. This equipment is made available for free to Mass residents and in many cases we have been able to help folks stay in touch with friends and relatives even after they have lost much of the functionality they have with their hands, arms and voices. I’ve reached out to The Mass Chapter for ALS a few times but I can’t get to a decision maker. Any suggestion you can make would be appreciated.

    Again, I’m with you on Jeter, have a good one.

    Chris Hartling
    Mass EDP
    781 789 9203

  13. Ace permalink
    September 15, 2009 12:59 pm

    “One of my favorite memories was stepping onto the rubber for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, being as locked in as I’ve ever been, looking into home plate and looking into his eyes, and us smiling at each other, knowing what we were getting ready to experience.”

    Reading this sent a chill down my spine and drew a tear to the edge of my eye. If I ever have to sum up my love for baseball with one sentence, I am going to cite this.

  14. September 15, 2009 1:08 pm

    Coming from a guy who is a Yankee fan and has spent a lot of time hating ur guts (on the field lol), i really respect this post. I respect the fact that you can give credit where credit is due, and even though you have caused us fans in new york some heartache…i have always admired how big u came up in big spots. I also enjoyed the couple times we did get to you, but in the postseason The D-backs and Sox knew wat they were getting, and us as fans had a good idea as to what we were in for. Great post.

  15. Tim permalink
    September 15, 2009 1:37 pm

    Hi Curt,

    With your involvment with ALS I have to ask if you know of Major John T. Godfrey. Major Godfrey’s story combines two of your interests, the military and ALS. Godfrey, who grew up here in RI, was one of the leading aces in the ETO in WWII. He had destroyed the most planes (aerial combat and strafing)in Europe at the time of his loss while strafing. While a POW, he attempted two escapes before successfully gaining freedom on the third try.

    He came home after the war to become a sucesssful businessman and a RI state senator. At the age of 34 he was diagnosed with ALS and given 20 months to live. He died on 12 JUNE 1958 at the age of 36 – younger than Gehrig when he passed away. His autobiography is called “The Look of Eagles.” I encourage you to pick up a copy as I think you’ll find it both interesting and enlightening. It’s long out of print so you’ll have to look around to find it.

    If you’d like more information on the subject contact me at this address. I always enjoyed watching you pitch and I enjoy your candor when speaking publicly.

    Kind regards –

  16. Josh permalink
    September 15, 2009 4:03 pm

    You hit it right on the head Curt. Though I bleed Red I have always admired and respected Jeter the ballplayer. He’s been a class act on the field. I don’t know the man personally so I can’t speak on that; perhaps he has the same integrity off the field as on but what I do know is that he shows up, day in and day out and always respects the game and his fellow players. Congrats to two class acts; Jeter and you too Curt.

  17. September 16, 2009 1:00 pm

    Hey Curt,

    Great post. Jeter is a winner and a very classy ballplayer who plays hard and respects the game. I am a Red Sox fan, but first and foremost I am a fan of the game of baseball. I also still play and those who actually play the game competitively develop a different perspective than the local fan who gets caught up in rooting for just the laundry. For those players, coaches, and fans of the game, create a profile for yourself on the Baseball Social Network – http://www.checkswing.com . Curt’s profile is here – http://www.checkswing.com/profile/gehrig38

  18. jjj permalink
    September 16, 2009 4:08 pm

    Great story Curt but I also think his legacy has been tarnished as have all the players of the last 20 years by the Roid use.
    No players had the guts to stand up and say PED’s are wrong until Canseco blew the whistle.
    I loved the fact that we finally won it in 04 but the thought now that Manny and Ortiz were on the juice has tainted this for alot of people.

  19. September 16, 2009 9:11 pm

    Hating Jeter’s just business, nothing personal. Not like most of that team…

  20. September 16, 2009 10:33 pm

    Curt,
    Thank you for your post on D. Jetter,I would have not expected any different from you. Your love and passion for the game is a quality that many seem to lack today.
    I will always remember the television comerical, when you stated you were
    going to , Boston , to win a world series. As a baseball fan I would like to thank you for the way you played the game and as a Red Sox fan thank you for helping Boston win.
    Congratulations to Derek Jetter, he truly is one of the best players today and represents Baseball and the New York Yankees finest.
    Also wish you the best in the Senate race

  21. September 17, 2009 10:41 pm

    Curt – you are such a class act! I grew up in Boston and am a HUGE Red Sox fan. I relocated to Tampa Bay 13 years ago & recently met Derek & his parents (we all have offices within the same building). His dad is SO tall & mom is SO tiny they are so cute & super nice people. They work with local youth in Tampa via their Turn 2 Foundation. After meeting them I immediately sent out an email to all my Boston homies & caught a lot of flack for saying Derek is HOT. It is what it is. Just because he is Yankee and I am a Red Sox fan doesn’t mean I will not give the man props for his accomplishments. He has earned it! Stop being haters people. Maybe next time we meet I will be wearing my Sox T-Shirt “I support two teams: the Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees.” 😉

  22. woody permalink
    September 19, 2009 8:26 pm

    Donna, u are the typical red sox fan who cares nothing about the game and just your team. Jeter is a model ballplayer who goes out and plays hard every game. What this blog has to do with 911 is beyond me. You, Me, or Curt cant control what some program director at some news station does. Send them an email if u dont like the programming or how bout this, WATCH ANOTHER CHANNEL!!!!! Noone will argure the fact that the incidents of 911 are something we will ever forget, but get over the news thing. If they showed a murder 1st would that be ok????? Stop hating the uniform and realize what a great player you have the honor to watch.

  23. MikeN permalink
    September 24, 2009 10:12 pm

    I used to be one of those guys that loved to not like Jeter, but not anymore, and you were involved in the change.
    In the 2001 World Series, I could see Jeter grabbing people as they were rounding second base, keeping them from advancing. Not sure why this was never an issue. All the talk of ARod swatting the ball out in 04, and how Jeter would never do that. No he would do it, but noone would talk about it.

  24. Jeff Mills permalink
    September 27, 2009 12:56 am

    Derek Jeter was going into Cooperstown even if he was second to Gehrig for most hits as a Yankee. Sure, the media tends to embellish Jeter at times, but he plays the game right and really is a good guy. Gehrig took a lot of pride in being a Yankee and wearing that uniform. So does Jeter. He’s booed when the Yankees play at Fenway, but aren’t you supposed to be booed when you’re on the opposing team? But Derek Jeter handles it with class and that’s why most baseball fans respect him.

  25. October 8, 2009 12:57 pm

    agreed. he wears that uniform with so much pride they way Gehrig did as well.

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