It took months for me to get the four of them -- the Core Four, as they've come to be known -- together. One planned date in spring training fell through, for instance, just days before the event because Rivera, a deeply religious man, said he would not give personal time on a Sunday. "It's my church day," he said.
On the night before the lunch last week, with everything in place, Jeter decided to move up the time by one hour. He is, after all, the captain. When Rivera was the only one to show up on time and threatened to leave because of the others' lack of punctuality, I couldn't tell if he was kidding or not. He looked serious enough to worry me that the whole thing was going kaput before it even got started.
The gathering was even more special than I thought, because after they arrived the four of them realized that it was the first time they had been alone together for a meal. They all broke into the big leagues with the Yankees in 1995, but this was their first time together without being part of a larger group.
Listening to them sometimes was like driving a station wagon full of Little Leaguers and hearing the silly, comfortable conversations. They joked almost immediately, for instance, about a situation in the previous game in which Yankees third baseman
I joined them at the table and helped steer their conversation through what turned out to be a celebration more of their friendship than their years as teammates. The story of the Core Four, in their own words, can be found in this week's edition of