Book Summary: The life and career of “The Captain” Derek Jeter.
Derek Jeter is the reason I am a New York Yankees fan.
I grew up in New Hampshire. I was supposed to be a Boston Red Sox fan, and there was no getting out of it. I drank the same water as everyone else, and that water was purely 86 years of tears. People always ask me how a guy from the Boston area could love the arch-rivals Yankees. My answer has always been, the Red Sox sucked when I was a kid. Even in the mid-1990s, with superstars on their roster, the Red Sox couldn’t win. In 1996, the Yankees finally returned to the pinnacle of baseball. I still remember the play in Game 6 of the World Series when third basemen Charlie Hayes made the final out, and everyone celebrated. The Yankees would go on to celebrate three more times before the end of the decade, building a dynasty with one man playing an essential part of it all. His name is Derek Jeter.
If I am not mistaken, there have been numerous books written about the young boy who would become Captain of the New Yankees. Derek himself contributed to Jeter Unfiltered, a recap of his final season in 2014. I haven’t read any of them, but not sure if any go as deep as The Captain does. This book digs into Derek’s childhood, high school career, and a short stay in the minor leagues. I say quick, it was still three seasons, but Jeter came up in 1995 and never really looked back.
The best parts of the book were in the beginning. Born in Michigan, he spent so much time in New Jersey you would think he was a local. It amazed me that his drive to win and be successful started at such a young age. Whether he was on the baseball field or the basketball court, he strived to be the best. Some people believe in fate and destiny, and Jeter was no different. He worked hard because he wanted to be a New York Yankee.
Talent and fate got Jeter to the sixth spot in the 1992 draft, where he kind of just fell into the Yankee’s lap. From there, he would go on to become one of the franchises’ most celebrated icons. Jeter did all his work with pride and class. Whether he was dating supermodels or childhood crushes (Mariah Carey), Jeter kept his nose clean and out of the public eye. People admired him for the way he carried himself on and off the field.
I never knew that he cried day after day when he first left home to play in the minors. I didn’t know how close he was to his minor-league teammates. Whether he was on the road or in the clubhouse, he listened to Carey’s music nonstop. He never bragged or boasted about who he was or where he was going. That’s what made him stand out from all the other superstars.
Once Jeter became the permanent shortstop for his favourite team, the book digs into the stories of losing in 1995 and the first championship in 1996. The team would win three more titles from 1998-2000, with Jeter at the forefront of it all. He was there when the team needed him. The book devotes a whole chunk of time to the 1996 Jeffrey Mayer homerun. (For you who don’t know, he’s the kid who reached into the field of play to snag the ball Jeter hit during a playoff game.) Mayer and Jeter will share a link forever through the home run, one that put the Yankees on the road to glory. Fan assistant aside, Jeter never shied away from the bumps and bruises. He played hard, and his efforts earned him the 2000 World Series MVP.
Things were never the same after the 2000 Championship. When September 11, 2011, Jeter did whatever he could to help out a grieving city. His leadership was a pillar for fans of the town to rally around. During the time, one of his most famous moments is the prep talk he gave President George W. Bush, who threw out the first pitch in Game 3 of the World Series.
One of the most significant subplots to Jeter’s career is his friendship with Alex Rodriguez. Best friends and roommates back in the day, things soured with Alex, said some comments about Derek in an article for Esquire Magazine. We will never know what went through his mind at the time, but their unbreakable bond was scattered. They coexisted on the right side of the infield for ten seasons as New York Yankees after Alex joined the team in 2004. They worked side by side to win the 2009 World Series, but their personal lives would never be the same.
The book also digs into the contract negotiations, including the nasty talks that occurred in 2010. O’Connor presents Jeter’s case to the best of his ability while painting the Yankees brass as the Evil Empire. Fans across the Globe were happy that Derek resigned, but one had to wonder if his professional life would ever be the same. Yankees loved what Jeter brought to the team but thought his best days were behind him and not worth the money he was seeking. The whole situation turned sour, and Jeter almost left the only team he’d ever known.
The Captain wraps up right after the 2011 season. It doesn’t include the final three seasons of Derek’s career, including his severe ankle injury in 2013. Even though his career didn’t end with a championship or a postseason victory, Derek hit a walk-off RBI single in his final game at Yankee Stadium. (picture below)
I guarantee that there are bigger Derek Jeter fans out there. I like to think that I am a massive fan of the man and the player. He will probably always be my favourite player because I got to watch his entire career. There are many greats in Yankees’ history, but most of them were dead before I was born. For that reason, I have a #2 jersey that I wear to every game.
If you like Jeter or love the New York Yankees, The Captain is a must-read for anyone. It provides a very in-depth look at one of the game’s most significant role models in an era tainted for activities on and off the field. Trust me when I say you will not be disappointed.