NEW YORK -- The snapshot of Derek Jeter’s final act in Yankees pinstripes is frozen in time, the captain pumping his batting-glove-clad fists toward the evening sky while he leaps just past first base, watching the winning run score after slashing another trademark inside-out single into right field.
Jeter walked off a winner in his final Yankee Stadium at-bat, and after spending his 20-year career representing the franchise for which he cheered as a boy, he appears poised to march into Cooperstown on his first attempt. Jeter’s name headlines the 2020 ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which was announced on Monday.
“The thing that's most special, I think, is playing with one organization your entire career,” Jeter said in 2017. “Quite frankly, I don't think that's going to happen too often anymore in this day and age. That's the thing that I appreciated the most, because it's the only place I've ever wanted to play.”
One year after Mariano Rivera became the first Hall of Fame inductee to earn unanimous induction, appearing on all 425 ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the summer ceremonies in upstate Otsego County, N.Y., again figure to feature a strong Yankees flavor. Rivera said that he believes Jeter could also gain unanimous entry.
"If it was up to me, he will be 1,000 percent! Forget about 100 percent -- 1,000 percent!” Rivera said. “I played with Derek for so many years. Seeing him day in and day out for all those years and seeing the way he played and respected the game, I don't see why not. Obviously I don't vote, but I don't see why not. It's just a number. I'm the first [unanimous inductee] of many to come. I'll be happy to be there for you.”
The Yankees formally retired Jeter’s uniform No. 2 in 2017, reserving his place in Yankee Stadium’s hallowed Monument Park. In recent years, Jeter’s allegiance has shifted from The Bronx to South Beach, given his post-retirement involvement as the chief operating officer of the Marlins.
The ballot’s release invites voters to turn back the clock and revisit Jeter’s illustrious playing career, which featured 14 American League All-Star team selections, five World Series championships, five AL Gold Glove Awards at shortstop and 3,465 regular-season hits, ranking sixth all-time.
"People get a kick out of asking me, 'Who was the best player you ever managed?'” said Joe Torre, who managed Jeter from 1996-2007. “And, Derek, it's an easy choice for me. I managed for 30 years, and I can bet you probably every single one of those other players I managed never resented that because of the kind of player he was."
Serving as the Yankees’ captain from 2003 through his retirement in '14, Jeter remains immensely proud of his starring role with the dynasty clubs that secured four championships in five seasons (1996-2000).
“We all had the same mindsets,” Jeter said. “That's why we had success; we went out there, day in and day out, trying to do anything we could to help the team. More importantly, we tried to keep our jobs. Looking back, it was a special time and a special period in Yankees history, and the fans never forget that. That's what makes this organization so special.”
A career .310/.377/.440 hitter, Jeter collected 544 doubles, 260 homers, 1,923 runs, 1,311 RBIs and 358 steals in the regular season, logging 72.4 career WAR. Jeter played the equivalent of a full Major League season in the postseason, batting .308/.374/.465 with 200 hits in 158 career playoff games.
"If you ever needed a big hit in a situation, and especially in the postseason, Derek was the absolute best at handling those at-bats like I've never seen anyone handle them before,” said longtime teammate Andy Pettitte. “Time and time again, he came up with the big hits. For me, he's the greatest clutch hitter that I've ever seen.”
In addition to several instantly recognizable highlight-reel moments -- his leadoff homer in Game 4 of the 2000 World Series, the '01 "Flip Play" against the A's, a bloody '04 dive into the seats against the Red Sox and a homer for his 3,000th hit, to name a few -- Jeter won the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year Award, the 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player Award and the MVP Award of the 2000 All-Star Game.
“I always looked at it as, you had a responsibility to the organization, the fans, your teammates,” Jeter said. “You had to handle yourself the right way, and you had to take the approach that every single day. Whether it's the season or the offseason, you're representing the New York Yankees, and I took that seriously.”