IS THE BEST
...an artist's vision
What's not to like about
a man with his reputation?
By MAURY ALLEN
He has a white mother and a black father.
That is about the only matter of personal interest I know about Derek Jeter, the captain of the World Champion Yankees and the anchor of the team over the last 16 seasons. He will be 36 next month.
Unlike that other renowned American with a white mother and a black father, President Barack Obama, he doesnt write books about his mixed racial background, doesnt describe any adjustments to his identification, never has been heard to discourse on the subject and doesnt represent motivated groups on the subject.
All he does is play baseball and play it better than anybody has over the last decade or so with five World Series triumphs, seven pennants and eleven division titles.
He is, in journalistic terms, colorful on the field and colorless off the field. He has made some of the most amazing plays in baseball with his incredible throw to his catcher from somewhere between third and home to catch a shocked Jeremy Giambi in a playoff game against Oakland and the vaulting, diving, life-threatening catch in an extra inning thriller against the Red Sox.
His lifetime batting average coming into the 2010 season is .317 with the most hits ever of any Yankee, 2747. The next three names on the Yankee hit list are Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. He has never batted lower than .291.
In his 16 seasons around the Yankees, there has never been a hint of scandal, off-color conduct or controversy about him.
He slid through the steroid era of the 1990s with several of his teammates being named as users and confessors from Jason Giambi to Alex Rodriquez to Andy Pettitte without a hint of wrong-doing.
Jeter is cordial, courteous and cooperative with the press. He answers every question about every play in any game. He just never says anything worth getting excited about. He will talk about on-field plays as long as the media asks about them.
He has never been known to answer any question about his off-field activities from the influences of his mixed parental background to his free time activities. Nobody has ever heard him mention a book he has read, a movie he has seen, a television show he watches or a movie star he has dated.
As the most eligible bachelor in high profile New York, Jeter has been seen with some of the most beautiful actresses, models and show business wanna-bes. Last winter he was linked in gossip columns with a young actress named Minka Kelly.
Several newspapers printed photos of the two together and more than one suggested they were engaged and a wedding was set for November after the 2009 World Series. Jeter said nothing. The World Series came and went.
No one heard of any wedding. Minka Kellys name has not been seen in the local gossip columns in 2010. Jeter wears only his World Series ring. Nobody has been able to photograph Jeter or Kelly with a wedding ring.
Jeter owns five World Series rings. Yogi Berra, the legendary Yankee, has 10. He kidded Jeter when he received his fifth this opening day that he had a long way to go before he caught up with Yogi in that department. Jeter said it was one of his goals.
George M. Steinbrenner, who will be 80 years old on July 4th, has owned the Yankees since 1973. He is in semi-retirement now due to age and ill health and his two sons, Hank and Hal, run the Yankee operation including the creation of the new Yankee Stadium across the street from the historic old one.
He was called George by all baseball people including sportswriters. He has been referred to as Mr. Steinbrenner on two separate occasions.
The first is when he was identified as such on the "Seinfeld" television show. The second is when he is referenced to by Derek Jeter. No one has ever heard Jeter refer to the Yankee boss as anyone but Mr. Steinbrenner.
Jeter has shown no signs of slowing down as a player in the first month of the Yankees 2010 season. His average has stayed around .300 and his fielding skills show no signs of deterioration.
It is a good guess that this well-conditioned, dedicated, serious athlete will be leading the Yankees for another half dozen years or so on the field. Then he will become the manager or general manager and stay with the Yankees another 30 or 40 years.
I think Derek Jeter is the best all around player in baseball today. I think he may be one of the five or six best all around players ever. All he seems able to do constantly is win.
I dont know anything about Derek Jeter off the field. Maybe that is just the way it is supposed to be when you are the second coming of Jack Armstrong.
©2010 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted May 3, 2010.
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