OK, I wasn’t there for the flip play, or Mr. November, or the time he dove into the stands that night at the Stadium against Boston. But I’ve had my moments up close and personal with Derek Jeter. Here are my 10 all-time favorites from games that I attended….and other, shall we say, close encounters or experiences.
1. 2009 – The Catch: This one is easy. In May of 2009, my first game at the new Yankee Stadium, I caught a Jeter home run in the left field stands. Granted it was batting practice, but who’s counting. I’ve attended hundreds of major league baseball games, but this was the only time in my life I ever caught a ball. Later that night, Jeter hit a home run during the “real” game, and the Yankees rallied with three runs in the ninth inning to beat the Twins 5-4. Here’s my story.
2. 2000 – Jenna in the News: Next week my daughter Jenna will make headlines. She’s getting married. But Jenna made headlines back in 2000 at the Yankees victory parade down Broadway. She was quoted in the Daily News, talking about her favorite Yankee. “I blew him a kiss, he blew a kiss at me, I blew it right back at him,” gushed Jenna Bause, 19, a freshman at Dutchess Community College. “It’s in my heart forever.” No, she’s not marrying DJ, but Sam, her husband to be, is a Yankee fan. And that counts for a lot.
3. 1999 – World Champions: Jeter singles to key a three-run fourth inning as the Yankees sweep the Atlanta Braves to win their 25h World Series in the final game of the 20th Century.
4. 1996 – The Rookie: The Yankees then 22-year-old shortstop lines a single up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th for a wild 12-11 win against the Red Sox.
5. 2003 – Curses: Jeter’s leadoff double in the eighth sparks a three-run, game-tying rally by the Yankees against Boston ace Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Yanks would go on to win the pennant in the 11th on a home run by Aaron Boone.
6. 1998 – Perfect: David Wells pitches a perfect game and DJ is perfect too, singling and catching a pop-up in his only chance in the field.
7. 2001 – Mets Killer I: The captain has two hits, including an RBI single in first, and the Yankees beat the Mets at Shea Stadium in the first meeting of Gotham’s rivals since the Subway Series.
8. 2003 – Mets Killer II: In the nightcap of a day-night, two-ballpark doubleheader, Alfonso Soriano and Jeter lead off the game with back-to-back home runs and the Yanks go on to beat the Mets 9-8.
9. 2013 – Captain to Captain: Friends of mine have met Derek Jeter, bought him a Crown Royal and Coke, gotten an autograph. My closest Yankee captain experience was meeting Don Mattingly, his predecessor, for a photo opportunity near my Hopewell Junction home last year. Guess what, we talked about Jeter. Donnie Baseball is a big Jeter fab.
10. 2013 – Mr. Consistency: Coming off a broken ankle suffered in a playoff game the previous October, Jeter plays in just 17 games in 2013. I went to two Yankee games in 2013, and the captain played in both. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of Yankee games in the past 20 years….and Derek Jeter played in every one.
Fifty-six years ago today, September 20, 1958, the Yankees were no-hit by knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. And discounting Houston’s six-pitcher no-hitter against New York in 2003, the Yankees haven’t been no-hit since – although they came close on numerous occasions.
Eight times since the Wilhelm gem the Yankees have entered the ninth inning without a hit. And each time they managed to break up a no-hitter in their last at bat.
In 1967, on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Boston left-hander Billy Rohr took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Rohr was one strike away from history when Elston Howard hit a soft single into right-center field. Rohr beat the Yankees in his next start, but won just one more game in the majors after that.
In the space of one month in 1970, Yankee second baseman Horace Clarke broke up three possible no-hitters in the ninth. Jim Rooker of Kansas City, Sonny Siebert of Boston and Joe Niekro of Detroit were the victims.
Reggie Jackson broke up a Nolan Ryan no-hit bid in 1979 with a one-out single against the Angels’ Hall of Famer. Two years later, Rick Cerone turned the trick against Boston’s Bobby Ojeda. And in 1989, Roberto Kelly ruined Dave Stieb’s perfect game by doubling to left with two outs in the ninth. Kelly then scored on a single by Steve Sax, but Stieb got Luis Polonia to ground out and preserve his 2-1 victory. The last near-miss occurred in 2006, when Robinson Cano hit a line single to left against Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera with one out in the ninth to break up the no-hitter. Cano was then erased when Bobby Abreu hit into a double play to end the game.
Wilhelm’s no-hitter took place at the old Baltimore Memorial Stadium. Orioles catcher Gus Triandos accounted for the only run of the game with a home run in the seventh inning against Yankee reliever Bobby Shantz, who was pitching in relief of Dan Larsen. Less than two years earlier, Larsen threw the only no-hitter in World Series history as New York beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0.
A total of six Hall of Famers played in the Wilhelm game, Mickey Mantle and pinch-hitters Yogi Berra and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees, and Brooks Robinson, Dick Williams (who made it as a manager) and Hoyt Wilhelm for the Orioles.
Wilhelm was just 3-10 in 1958, splitting the season between Cleveland and the Orioles. He started four games that year, and just 52 in his entire career.
The Astros six-man no-hitter took place on June 11, 2003. Roy Oswalt started for Houston but was injured early in the contest. Pete Munron, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner finished the task.
It was the most pitchers ever to combine on a no-hitter in major league history — twice, four had done the trick. And it was the first time in 6,981 games — the longest streak in major league history – that the Yankees had been no-hit. Between those no-hitter, the Yankees won nine World Series and 15 American League pennants.