By Caleb-Ryan Davis
The 2014 Major League Baseball playoffs have started in the U.S., now that October 1 has rung its morning bell, and girls are posting the always returning “October 3rd” meme all over social media.
This season offered a lot for baseball fans around the nation and the world. I’m not positive what exactly will be remembered about this season, but I do think that it will be one that, in the years to come, could very well feature its own ESPN “30 for 30” documentary. Whether you look to the beginning of the year when the world’s top baseball organization announced the adoption of replay, something that has changed the game forever, or you look to how the world reacted to and welcomed a new entry into the Hall of Fame, this season was one for the books and one that we will remember and tell stories about for a long time to come.
This year in sports has been one of confusion in regards to morality and importance, especially when we are presented with the circus of the NFL and the daily headlines that surround it. Baseball had it’s own realization when it came into contact with the steroid era of the ’90s and early 2000s but has since cleaned itself up. The purity of the game has been revitalized. I took a step back and looked at the game as a whole and I know that I’m reiterating what has already been said many times this season but it’s something that needs to be said over and over again: when we talk about purity of a game, and specifically the way it’s played, there’s not another name that comes up that is embossed with the beauty of the game as well as Derek Jeter’s name is.
Take a look at baseball through the history books: in the late 19th century it provided an outlet for Civil War soldiers. Baseball came around and gave consistency to an inconsistent territory. During WWI, stadiums urged fans to return baseballs that had landed into the seats in foul territory back to the field where they came from.
Specifically, in Philadelphia the returned baseballs were sent overseas by the barrel load to give soldiers a break from life in the war and even the traditional American grenade was modeled after a baseball, once the military switched from the original pineapple and frag grenade. Finally, in September of 2001, as smoke filled the New York City streets and rubble started to be cleared, there stood a worker, covered in dust and debris, who saw what he thought was a piece of concrete. Upon further glance he saw 108 laces and the brand name of a company that resided inside what used to be the 55th floor of the World Trade Center. That baseball was a symbol to what the sport as a whole weathers and sustains as it moves along throughout history and the hope that it displays. Several days later, after a weeks worth of sports standstill, the New York Mets played their first game back in New York City. That game, as we all so eagerly remember, was beautifully capped with a Mike Piazza home run late in the game that gave the Mets the win and, like sustenance to a starving family, provided hope, joy and belief that we would endure as a country.
Jeter wasn’t a part of that Mets team, but he was a part of a New York Yankees team that was featured as a contender in the post season. Before one of the games in New York, former president George W. Bush, who earlier that year looked into a camera on that Tuesday afternoon in 2001 and instilled pride and confidence at a moment where most only felt fear and grief, walked out to the mound after receiving a few words from the Yankee captain. These words echoed in the president’s mind and followed him for years into the future: “Don’t bounce it, or they’ll boo you.”
Throughout his career Jeter has been a staple for the sport and has always held a sense of pride and joy for the game itself. He isn’t the greatest Yankee of all time because of his stat line. He is the greatest Yankee of all because he has been in New York for 20 years, playing the game the way it was meant to be played. He has held the sentiments and sympathies of America’s pastime on his pinstripe jersey-covered shoulders. We look at his jump throw, perfect swing, flip to home, clutch and, of course, the tip of the cap, but I think what hits home is where we would be if he hadn’t been such an icon for the sport. What he was able to do while being the face of Major League Baseball, in my opinion, makes him the best player I’ve ever seen put on a uniform.