Number 2 Bids Hub Fans Adieu - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Number 2 Bids Hub Fans Adieu

On September 28, 2014, 36,879 people gathered in Boston’s Fenway Park to bid New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter adieu in his final big league game. In his final at bat, Jeter would get an infield hit driving in Ichiro Suzuki en route to a 9-5 Yankees victory. 

It wasn’t as dramatic as his walk off single in his final appearance in Yankee Stadium three days earlier against the Orioles, but the Fenway faithful (along with more than a few Yankees fans) got their money’s worth. More on that in a moment.

This tribute came exactly 54 years to the day that 10,454 fans bothered to make their way to Fenway to bid Ted Williams adieu in his final game. Williams would homer in his very last big league at bat in a 5-4 victory by the Red Sox over the Baltimore Orioles. One of those 10,454 fans was a young John Updike. A short time later, Updike would write an essay of his account of Williams’ farewell published in the New Yorker.

Is there an Updike among those 36,879 people who will write their account of Jeter’s au revoir to be featured in the New Yorker? There will probably be a few that will try, but they will fall short. Despite the title of this article, I cannot be among them as I was not present and thus cannot give a first hand account of the afternoon’s proceedings. I settled for listening to the game on the radio while walking up and down Mass Avenue to and from Harvard Square.

I don’t know how much money Updike paid to get into Fenway on that overcast Wednesday afternoon, but the average cost of a ticket in those days was a $1.76. In 2014, this would translate into $13.95 a ticket. But on this sunny, Sunday afternoon, a Red Sox fan would have to fork over $199 to obtain a standing room only ticket online from Ace Tickets or $225 from StubHub for a bleacher ticket. As passionate a baseball fan as I am, that’s too rich for my pockets. I’m pretty sure that in 1960 $225 would have bought a Red Sox fan a season ticket, possibly two. About the only thing the 2014 Red Sox have in common with the 1960 edition was that both teams were lousy.

What made Updike’s effort so special was precisely that so few people cared enough to attend the final game of arguably the greatest hitter to have ever played the game and certainly the greatest player to have ever put on a Boston Red Sox uniform.

To be sure, it is absolutely true that more than three times as many Red Sox fans went to see to Jeter’s curtain call than Williams’. Could it be that today’s baseball fans care more about the history of the game than they did in 1960?

Well, no.

Let’s be honest for a minute. For most fans who bore witness to Jeter’s final game, this was a means by which to post a selfie to their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. This was no occasion for quiet introspection and sober reflection. It’s hard to imagine how a Tweet, no matter how clever, can match the eloquence of Updike’s testimonial. Typing out 140 characters in homage of Derek Jeter isn’t a labor of love. Six thousand words for the Splendid Splinter most certainly is.

Case in point. Updike writes, “Throughout the late forties, the Red Sox were the best paper team in baseball, yet they had little three-dimensional to show for it, and if this was a tragedy, Williams was Hamlet.”

Well, throughout the late nineties and into the 2000s, the Yankees were the best team in baseball and had plenty to show for it. To wit, five World Series titles and Mr. November was at the center of every one of them. Only thrice in his 20-year career did the Yankees fail reach the postseason (including the last two seasons). Jeter is no tragic figure, Shakespearean or otherwise. If Jeter can be considered royalty then he is Prince Charming, not the Danish Prince. If Boston’s Hamlet wouldn’t doff his cap in front of the home crowd after hitting that final home run, New York’s Prince Charming most certainly would even in the heart of enemy territory.

Williams’ final game was not the Red Sox’ final game of the 1960 season. Their final three games took place at Yankee Stadium and Williams opted not to accompany the team to New York. No doubt he was tired of the Knights of the Keyboard, his disdainful dig at the Boston sports media. By the time Jeter’s final game in New York took place against the Orioles last Thursday the normally affable infielder had grown increasingly tense and testy. Jeter even said he felt like he was watching his own funeral. At that moment, he was probably secretly wishing the ghost of Teddy Ballgame would emerge and tell the New York sports media where to shove their iPhones.

Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium will go down in the annals of not only Yankees history, but the history of baseball. The Yankees blew a 5-2 a lead in the top of the ninth as David Robertson gave up home runs to Adam Jones and Steve Pearce to tie the game at 5-5. This gave Jeter one last at bat and he delivered with a walk-off single to right field off Orioles reliever Evan Meek. While Meek did not inherit the Earth, he did give up the winning run.

Under the circumstances, Jeter was under absolutely no obligation to play in Boston. Jeter could have called it career right then and there and no one, not even Red Sox Nation, would have begrudged him for it. But Jeter wouldn’t be Jeter if he skipped it. Too much has transpired over the past twenty years between the Yankees and the Red Sox not to make one last road trip. Out of a sense of duty to himself, to the game, and to its fans not only did Jeter accompany the team to Boston, playing in two of the three games (albeit as a DH) in front of a crowd that for 20 years chanted “Jeter Sucks!!!” every time he strode to the plate. Jeter gave Boston far more than we possibly deserved.

To be sure, even if the Red Sox finished last in the AL East, they finish first in pomp and circumstance. Not only did they bring out Yaz, Fred Lynn, and Luis Tiant, but for good measure brought in Boston sports legends Bobby Orr, Troy Brown, and Paul Pierce. Ronan Tynan sang “God Bless America” as only he can. Arranging for former teammate Bernie Williams to play “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” on classical guitar was also a beautiful touch. 

But even if there were no Boston sports legends and no beautiful music to be played, Derek Jeter’s career would not have been complete without one last trip to Fenway. On September 28, 1960, Hub Fans bid The Kid adieu. On September 28, 2014, it was Number 2 who bid Hub Fans adieu.

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