With shortstop Tony Fernandez injured, the Yankees called up highly touted prospect Derek Jeter for a cup of coffee.
The 20-year-old went hitless in five at-bats in his major league debut. In his second career game on May 30, Jeter earned his first major league hit, a single through the left side of the infield off Mariners pitcher Tim Belcher. After 13 games in “The Show,” Jeter was sent back down to Triple-A when Fernandez returned.
Jeter was slated to begin the 1996 season as the Yankees’ starting shortstop by new manager Joe Torre despite initial hesitation from owner George Steinbrenner.
Batting ninth on Opening Day, Jeter smacked his first career home run off Cleveland’s Dennis Martinez in the fifth inning of a 7-1 Yankees victory. The dinger ended any doubt that Jeter was ready, setting the tone for his 1996 Rookie of the Year campaign.
In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees trailed by one run in the bottom of the eighth with Jeter at the plate.
The shortstop swung at the first pitch from Armando Benitez, sending rightfielder Tony Tarasco back to the wall. As Tarasco reached up, soon-to-be folk hero Jeffrey Maier reached out, pulling the ball out of play and into the stands. Tarasco contested that 12-year-old Maier interfered, but rightfield umpire Richie Garcia ruled it a home run for Jeter. The Yankees won the game, the series, their first AL pennant since 1981 and the World Series, kickstarting a dynasty that produced four titles in five seasons.
Jeter lost in fan voting to Alex Rodriguez for AL starting shortstop ahead of the 2000 All-Star Game, but with Rodriguez unable to play Jeter took full advantage.
In the 71st midsummer classic, Jeter became the first Yankee to win the game’s MVP award after going 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. He picked up hits off Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Al Leiter, including a two-run single off Leiter in the fourth inning to give the AL the lead.
In his fourth World Series, Jeter had his most outstanding performance.
The Yankees shortstop was key to the Pinstripes’ Subway Series victory over the Mets in 2000, especially with his performance in Game 4. Jeter went deep on the first pitch of the game off Mets starter Bobby Jones, later adding a triple. In the series-clinching Game 5 win, Jeter smacked another home run to even the score in the sixth inning. He was named series MVP, becoming the first player to win both All-Star and World Series MVPs in the same season.
The Yankees were down 2-0 in the 2001 ALDS, but held to a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning.
With Jeremy Giambi on first, Terrance Long hit a Mike Mussina pitch to rightfield for a double. As Shane Spencer played the ball in right, Giambi rounded third. Spencer’s throw missed the cutoff man along the first-base line, but along came Jeter — from shortstop! — to save the day, gathering the ball and making a backhand flip to catcher Jorge Posada, who swiped Giambi for the final out of the inning. The Yankees won the series in five games.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced the entire baseball calendar to be pushed back in 2001, Jeter and the Yankees were only up to Game 4 of the World Series against the Diamondbacks when the final day of October came around.
The game reached extra innings, and as Jeter stood at the plate, the clock struck midnight, marking the first World Series moment ever in the month of November. Moments later, Jeter smashed a fly ball to rightfield for a game-winning homer, tying the series at 2-2. Arizona won the series in seven games, but Jeter picked up a new moniker.
As the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry reached its peak in 2004, the clubs battled into extra innings on July 1 at Yankee Stadium.
In the top of 12th with two outs and runners on second and third, Boston’s Trot Nixon hit a popup along the third base line. Jeter gave chase and made the catch along the line at full speed. Unable to stop, Jeter dove over the wall, tumbling over the photographers’ well and into the first row of seats. Jeter arose from the crowd with some marks and bruises to show for it and left the game the next inning, but his teammates picked him up, winning the game in the 13th inning.
The Yankees’ all-time hit list is littered with legendary names – DiMaggio, Mantle, Ruth. For 72 years, Lou Gehrig sat atop the list with no one coming within sniffing distance of his 2,721-hit mark.
But in 2009, it became inevitable that Jeter would make the record his own. On Sept. 11, Jeter stepped to the plate in the third inning, smacking a ball down the line past a diving first baseman for career hit No. 2,722.
The Captain singled in his first at bat of the day, earning hit No. 2,999.
In his next at-bat, Jeter crushed a ball almost halfway up the Yankee Stadium bleachers in leftfield off Tampa Bay’s David Price, becoming just the second player ever to hit No. 3,000 with a home run after Wade Boggs. Jeter wasn’t done. He went 5-for-5 that day with two RBIs and a stolen base.
Derek Jeter reached on an error in the top of the seventh inning in his final game in the Bronx. That would have been his final at bat at the Stadium, but a ninth-inning Orioles rally tied the game and forced the Yankees to the plate once more with Jeter due up third.
Jose Pirela led off with a single and Antoan Richardson came in to pinch run. After Brett Gardner bunted Richardson over to second, Jeter came to the plate for his final at-bat in the Bronx. The Captain went with the first pitch he saw, driving a single to rightfield, scoring Richardson from second base and sending Yankee Stadium into a frenzy one last time with the walk-off win.