What makes Derek Jeter great?
ESPNNewYork.com asked luminaries about Derek Jeter during and after The Captain's chase for his 3,000th career hit. For more on Jeter, see our special Derek Jeter's Quest For 3,000 page.
I just could think of only one person that could have a day like today at home, and it's Derek Jeter. There's no question he gave us all -- you guys, me, everyone in the ballpark, all 48,000 of them -- a day to remember forever, that's for sure.
Days like today remind you of the icon that this guy is. To be able to do it in one uniform, I've said it all along, 3,000 hits in a Yankee uniform, for me, is like getting straight A's at Harvard.
That was by far one of the coolest things I've ever seen. To not only see him get 3,000 hits but I mean to see him go 5-for-5 and get the game-winning knock, I definitely think that makes him immortal for sure.
Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude. And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization's objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It's only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals.
Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game's greatest ambassadors. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment.
Yankees Hall of Famer
I want to give him a big hug. It's an absolutely wonderful accomplishment.
MLB Hall of Famer
Yankees teammate, 1995-97
I had the opportunity to play with Derek when he was a rookie in 1996, and I had no doubts that Derek would reach this milestone. He is a very consistent player and he never deviated from his game. When you stay healthy and you are consistent and compile a lengthy career like Derek has done, you have the opportunity to reach that 3,000-hit plateau. Reaching the 3,000-hit mark is another piece of the legacy that Derek has created. It won't be too long now before we are on the verandah in Cooperstown at the Otesaga Hotel celebrating his induction to the Hall of Fame.
MLB Hall of Famer
If you play as many games as I did and get as many at-bats as I did, then I was eventually going to get to 3,000 hits. It wasn't until my career was ending did I realize how special it was to reach 3,000 hits, based on how few people had done it. I am more proud of playing as long as I did than anything. My hits total was the culmination of playing 20 years and being healthy enough to do so. I love what I see of Derek Jeter. He is the complete package: a leader, clutch player, and lots of success on baseball's biggest stage, New York. Being the complete package is something every player dreams of.
MLB Hall of Famer
Reaching 3,000 hits was never a goal. And especially with all the injuries I had, I never thought it was realistic. Watching Robin get there first helped me relax. It just happened naturally and 3,000 hits is as much a product of longevity as much as ability. I knew it was a rare achievement and that it might help me to get into the Hall of Fame. Looking back, I am proud to have reached that milestone. To have the most hits for the most prestigious franchise in all of sports is pretty special. If Derek stays healthy, he has a good chance to rack up a lot more hits.
New York mayor
Long before joining the 3,000-hit club, Derek Jeter became another one of New York's icons because he represents what is best in the spirit of our city: an unbreakable belief that with hard work and determination, anything can be accomplished. Perhaps above all else, Derek is someone who loves this city and who has a long history of giving back to the place and the people that helped make him the superstar he is. New York has a greater baseball tradition than any other city, but we've never had a player get all 3,000 hits in a New York uniform until today. Congratulations, Derek -- you've made all of New York City proud."
Former New York mayor
A lot of things make him unique, starting with that he's a great role model for young people. In an era when there are so many scandals, he has been scandal-free. He's what you'd want your son to be. He's a hard-working, good citizen.
In 1996, Joe Torre and Derek Jeter changed the image of the Yankees. They had been considered aloof and too confident by many; Torre and Jeter made them into regular people who were admired by all.
I met Jeter on Opening Day in 1996, and I remember how he talked to the crowd while on deck. I didn't know whether that could continue, but it's been terrific and he does it to this day. He has a great personality on and off the field.
When I think of Derek, I think of all of the championships, his ability to play under pressure and that he is going to be part of highlight reels for the next hundred years. He leads the way Joe DiMaggio did, not by yelling or screaming, but by example, and that is the best way.
Most memorable off the field for me was when he invited me to his birthday party in 1999 or 2000 at a club in lower Manhattan and everybody was so young -- I was a fish out of water, probably the oldest person there, maybe except for his parents.
Three memories stand out on the field, and I was at all three of these games: his acrobatic throw in Oakland to get Jason Giambi's brother (Jeremy) at the plate in 2001; his diving catch in the stands when he got a bloody eye and nose in 2000; and the game when he became "Mr. November" with his home run in November 2001.
There have been so many remarkable throws.
He's always exemplified youth.
As mayor of New York for his first eight years, I always thought about the great example he set for young people in the way he played and handled himself, including that he doesn't argue with umpires, even when he's disappointed in their calls -- he's the Joe DiMaggio of his era.
He's among the greats of baseball, with more hits than the greatest of Yankees such as DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, some of the greatest who have ever played the game.
He's the greatest shortstop in Yankees history. Phil Rizzuto is in the Hall of Fame, but he didn't have the power or the number of hits that Derek does.
His legacy is of a very classy ballplayer who inspired his team to win five rings.
I've been a Yankees fan all my life, but Yankees fans and Yankees haters say, "It (3,000 hits) couldn't happen to a better person or athlete," and you can't say it any better than that.
New York Jets Hall of Famer
He's already worked himself into folklore and legend status. He's a very fine person. In this day and age, you can't step out of line. That he was named and stays captain says the most important point about what guys feel about him. He must be an awfully righteous guy to maintain his humbleness and respect for others, with his position in the spotlight. It's hard to describe. I am amazed, I couldn't do what he has done. Off the field, he is a positive influence at all times, not even questioned over the years about what kind of a guy he is. He is a righteous, caring and compassionate person. Yes, he has pictures with beautiful ladies, but he is a righteous guy, a great citizen, more than I have words to describe. There are times people get 'set up,' even -- this hasn't happened with him and he hasn't allowed it. I lost my patience at times; he doesn't. A class act, no doubt. I've been a big fan of Derek's since we first met.
Yankees teammate, 2002-08
Derek Jeter is a champion. You want that guy on your team. I always did. I loved the things he did day in and day out, and I don't think you can really appreciate those things until you play with him. You know, I played against him in Oakland and I thought he was a great player, but getting to play seven years with him, you saw what he brought to a ballclub day in and day out, and sometimes it's not always on paper what he brings to a ballclub. And I know it doesn't show up in the stats, but he makes a big play or gets a big hit or just his leadership, that's what really counts. And he plays hard. I'm always gonna root for him and I want to see him out there, No. 2 playing shortstop every day.
Exec. VP for Baseball Operations for MLB
Yankees manager, 1996-2007
Derek Jeter shows up to work. His ability is only a portion of what he brings to the game and to his teammates on an everyday basis. Being the first player in pinstripes to get 3,000 hits is a very proud moment.
Yankees teammate, 2003-09
He's the best teammate and best team player; those are the first things that come to mind. And a great leader.
Yankees manager, former catcher
Derek's meant championships to this organization and he's meant professionalism. He plays the game the right way. He's meant a lot to this franchise. Derek's got a lot of heart and he plays the game to win.
I think of Derek Jeter as the captain of the New York Yankees. The leader of the team for the last 15 years or so. That's pretty remarkable when you talk about guys that have been in that position: you talk about [other Yankee captains Don] Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry and Thurman Munson. I mean, you put Derek Jeter in that category. He's really exceeded expectations and been the face of the franchise for some time.
I think overall [I admire] the way he has conducted himself throughout his career, basically [the] consistency in his performance and personality. The one thing that I really like about Derek is that fame hasn't really changed him. He's the same guy that came up in 1996. Obviously he's a little wiser now as far as the game and the fact that he's the face of this franchise, but at the same time his personality and the way he goes about his business day in and day out, the way he treats other players, has remained the same. He's heavily involved in charity work, he's never forgotten where he's came from. He had a great upbringing with his parents and it really shows in the way he acts and treats other people, so I have a lot of admiration for him, and he's one of my good friends in the game of baseball.
Everything that he does, he wants to go out there and win ballgames. That is all he cares about. I first saw it in Columbus in 1995. The way he goes about his business. He goes out there and plays the game the right way. He doesn't make an excuse. He hates excuses and he doesn't like when anyone makes excuses. That is one of his biggest pet peeves.
When I first saw him in 1992 in Greensboro, he was a first-rounder. He didn't say much. He just went out there and played the game. He hits a home run and makes a helluva play at short. The way he dressed, the way he looked, he didn't look like a first-rounder. He was skinny. He didn't look like he knew how to put on a uniform. But when he stepped on the field it was pretty impressive what he did on the first day.
He is a gamer. It is simple. He loves the game. He is passionate. He always did the best for the team.
He is one of the greatest players in the game. He can do everything. Three-thousand hits. He is a great person. That is what also makes him the best. What type of person he is. Great teammate. A guy who is always on time.
When I was younger and when I watched anything with the Yankees, he was the first player I ever remember hearing about or knowing about or associating with the Yankees outside of Babe Ruth. He was the second person.
His ability to just take every at-bat and just give his best every at-bat. You never see him give up at-bats. He just competes all the time. He never packs it in. No matter what the score is -- if we are down or we are up. He battles. He competes. He is just scrappy like that. He is always a tough out because he always is staying with his plan. You never see him get away from his plan. That's what is impressive from him, seeing the consistency day in and day out."
It is just the continued work habits. The fact that he has never rested on his ability and continued to work hard. He still continues to work hard after 16 years in the big leagues.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager
Yankees, 1982-95, 2003-07
Jeet -- and you'd be surprised by this -- is tough. Nobody I don't really think ... well, maybe guys that played with him understand, but this guy's tough. That's what I think about, how tough this kid is. I've seen him dive into the stands full speed one day, and basically come back and his face is all messed up and he wanted to come back and play that day. I've seen him get hit on his bottom hand so many times, and he never backs off of that. He's just tough. Nothing bothers him, nothing scares him -- well, maybe shouldn't say nothing -- but it seems like nothing scares this guy, and that to me is just toughness.
ESPN baseball analyst and former MLB pitcher
I was born and raised in Kansas City. I was put on the board of the Negro League Baseball Museum [in Kansas City] by Buck O'Neill.
O'Neill passed away a few years ago. The big fundraiser they have every year is the Legacy Awards in January. All of a sudden, the guy who was in charge of the tickets called me and said they hadn't sold 50 tickets and the place holds 2,500 people and he asked, "Is there anything you can do?"
First thing I thought of was Derek. I said, "Hey, what are you doing in mid-January?" He said, "I'm supposed to be in California for the weekend." I said, "Here's the deal, Buck O'Neill has passed away and if they don't raise the money they are used to raising for this event the museum is going to be in a lot of trouble." He said, "I'll call you tomorrow. I have to change some plans."
He called me and he came in. I called the Kansas City Star, I called the museum, it was immediately sold out. Standing-room only was completely gone that very day. He shows up and he is phenomenal. Everybody had a tremendous time. Everybody raved about it. He got up and spoke several times. It was amazing. All of a sudden, the next day he leaves and I get a phone call from him and honestly, I'm thinking, he is going to say, "You owe me," because he came back on his own dime. He put himself up in a hotel. He didn't charge the museum anything for being there.
The typical class of Derek Jeter, he said, "I want to thank you. I want to thank you for inviting me." I said, "Man, you're kidding." He said, "No. I should have been there before you were." The typical class that he has. Rather than me feeling bad about dragging him out of California in January, coming back, dealing with the cold and the snow, he called the following day and thanked me. That's Derek Jeter.
I think the obvious answer is a winner. A guy you want up there with the game on the line in a big situation. That's what comes to mind being a teammate of his at the World Baseball Classic, and just seeing the kind of person he is and the kind of player he is. You're talking about the perfect storm -- if you're looking to build a baseball player and a leader in the clubhouse, he's the perfect mold. ... I think it's just a combination of things he does that often get overlooked, like moving runners over. He's a tremendous situational hitter. He just finds a way to score runners and get runners over, and I think that gets overlooked. But those are the types of guys you need on a team to win.
Mets manager, 1996-2002
ESPN baseball analyst
He has always called me Mr. Valentine since I met him in Triple-A. I always liked watching him. I always hated when he played against us. I thought he always played with style and grace. He was in the right place. He did the right thing, said the right thing.
ESPN baseball analyst and former MLB outfielder
It is astounding that he is going to be the first to 3,000 hits as a Yankee. As great as that organization is, and no one has ever had 3,000 hits. A lot of years of 200 hits and a lot of years of 200 hits and winning.
I think the most amazing thing is that every year but one he has played in the postseason. That's amazing. Besides last year and the start of this year, he really has never had a down year. I played in the postseason once and when it was over that next year came on quick. That next spring training showed up quick and they do it every year those guys. Maybe that's why no other Yankee has done it.
ESPN baseball analyst and former MLB player
One time, he came up to first base and I've always been able to hit Randy Johnson pretty good, and said, "How do you do it?" For me, a player who only plays against lefties to have games like I did and then to have a player like Derek Jeter say, "How do you do it?" It sort of makes your week.
Unbelievable player. One of the best to play the game. Personally, I love to watch him play. Just the way he goes about his business. He's always the guy who wants to put his team in position to win the game every single night, no matter how. He always gives you 100 percent, every single thing he does for his team.
New York Knicks
He's a winner. He's humble. A winner is really what comes to mind, though. I'm a big fan of his. ... Listen, I can go on for days and tell you how many moments or what plays or a favorite moment that I have, but just seeing him go out on that field, and just knowing his mentality every night, you can't ask for nothing better than that. As far as wanting to win every game, competitiveness and doing whatever it takes to win, I think that we have those similarities.
If you needed one spokesman for a New York Yankee billboard or one spokesman for one New York Yankee anything, it'd be Derek Jeter. His career and what he's done for the organization both on and off the field goes without saying, honestly. I think the one Jeter moment that really stands out to me is when he became the all-time [Yankees] leader in hits recently. I think that's a testament of his game, his work ethic and his using his abilities for the betterment of himself and the team.
Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993
He's a great player. He's a great leader through actions. I wish I could've played with him. I enjoy watching him play. He's a great all-time Yankee. A great all-time player. He's a living Hall of Famer. He's a man of strong character. He's extremely private. Classy. Conscientious. He's a good person. A good son. He's a good man.
I would say that there are three things that stick out to me about Derek: The first time I saw him he was with his parents. And I could look at his parents and see that he was a good bet for the Yankees. You could see character in both of his parents, and I could see the togetherness in his parents. The next thing would be the day that he went by Lou Gehrig in all-time hits. I talked to him before the media came in, and I told him how I'd flown in to see it. And that I was glad -- along with all Yankees fans -- that he was the all-time hit leader. That people want him to have the record. And I said, you'll appreciate it when you retire. And the other thing is, I'm his friend. And so anytime he asked me to dinner or his house, I always feel, it makes me feel good inside.
ESPN baseball analyst
Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001
From day one, at the toughest position on the field, shortstop, he's been consistent, successful, respectful of the game, respectful of the fans. He's given back. He's a leader in that clubhouse. I've been in there many times and I see how people defer to Derek because he's been there, he's done that.
New York Knicks, 1990-98
Besides being a great baseball player, he's a great human being. What he's done for New York since he's been here, he's really done it in a first-class way. You can't say it enough. He doesn't look for the attention like certain athletes do, so there's nothing negative ever coming from his camp. But all the championship rings and excitement he's brought to city, it means so much.
New York Knicks, 1996-2005
He leaves a legacy of winning, leadership and good character. He's not just an inspiration to youth; I think he's also an inspiration to adults. Because when you think of the fruit that comes from your labor as a parent and as a teacher and as someone who's in a position to help young kids, you think about his parents and what they instilled in him.
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