Jeter honored before finale at Camden Yards
BALTIMORE (AP) Speaking before New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter played his final game at Camden Yards, Orioles manager Buck Showalter summed up Baltimore's feeling in one simple sentence: ''We're really excited he's retiring.''
The Orioles' going-away gifts to Jeter before Sunday night's game included a U.S. Navy captain's hat, a bushel of crabs, an oversized crab mallet with Jeter's No. 2 on it, a huge pin-striped cake and a $10,000 donation in Jeter's name to a charity.
The presentation took place minutes before New York and Baltimore wrapped up a four-game series.
Showalter had a better suggestion for a parting gift. He would have had Tony Tarasco hand Jeter a picture of Jeffrey Maier, the 12-year-old fan who reached over the wall at Yankee Stadium on a fly ball that Jeter hit toward the Baltimore outfielder in the 1996 AL championship series. No interference was called on the tying hit, and New York went on to win the game and the series.
''That's how we think of him,'' said Showalter, who was New York's manager in 1995 when Jeter made his major league debut.
Jeter met briefly with the media before the game. Told of Showalter's idea, Jeter replied, ''I've already reaped the benefits of it. I don't need a poster. I've had other reminders of it. I mean, it would be funny.''
Jeter was playing in his 140th game at Camden Yards. In the previous 139, he hit .311 and had more homers (15) homers and RBIs (82) than in any park other than Yankee Stadium.
Orioles fans jeered him for years, but they stood and cheered when he was introduced in a pre-game ceremony.
''I just love the stadium. I love the playing surface. I love the atmosphere,'' Jeter said. ''Ever since I first came up, it was always pretty electric here in the stadium. I've enjoyed playing here. We've had some success; we've had our share of failures as well. It's always been fun.''
Jeter, 40, entered in an 0-for-20 slump as the Yankees fight to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992 and `93.
''Good times, bad times, you have to be able to forget it,'' he said. ''At this point in the season, our No. 1 goal is to try to win games. Yeah, I'd like to get a hit every time I step in the box. Trust me, if i step in the box in the box in the first inning of the day, I'll be just as happy hitting a ground ball to second as I would to get a hit because I understand that now, to win games is of extreme importance.''
No matter what happens this year, Jeter's legacy will be that of a champion.
''When I think of him, I think of championship rings,'' Showalter said. ''I think of winning.''