“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jeter pitched perfect game with umps

Blues make call on Captain's career after 2,902 straight games without an ejection

September 25, 2014

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter will receive his ultimate lifetime achievement award at some point Thursday night, whenever Joe Girardi decides to remove him from the game and turn him over to the full house. The fans will cheer and cry and do whatever moves them to celebrate the 40-year-old New York Yankees captain, and then Jeter will leave the Bronx as an active player for the last time.
He will leave with all kinds of trophies and milestones zipped inside his travel bag, and one that shouldn't be lost under the pile. His only perfect record. Barring the sudden emergence of a hot-headed umpire fixing to break Twitter for good, Jeter will exit Yankee Stadium having played 2,903 major league games, postseason included, without earning a single ejection.
Yes, the adults in the stands have dressed their kids in jersey No. 2 because of the five championships, the 3,461 hits, and the commitment to approaching every game the way Joe DiMaggio did -- as if someone out there was watching him play for the very first time. But the respect Jeter forever showed the game's authority figures at a time when that respect on ballfields across America -- from Little League to the pros -- was an oft-ignored suggestion, not a mandate, represented a core piece of his mass appeal.
In more than 20 years Jeter never once lost it with an umpire, a remarkable feat considering how verbal abuse of umps has long been accepted as part of the game, just like Cracker Jack, ballpark franks, and the seventh-inning stretch. Not just accepted, but encouraged. Glorified, even.
People used to laugh at the expression, "Kill the ump," and let's face it: Who hasn't appreciated the bygone images of a raging Billy Martin or Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella going nose to nose with an umpire while kicking dirt on his shoes?
But the prototypical ill-tempered manager expected to defend his team has hardly been the lone offender. Babe Ruth once punched an umpire in the head, and Roberto Alomar once spat in an umpire's face. Even mild-mannered, ump-friendly stars have a history of blowing a gasket here or there.
Cal Ripken Jr. was ejected three times, Tony Gwynn twice. Lou Gehrig was ejected for cursing out Ty Cobb. Rod Carew was 10 years into his career before he got tossed from a game; he responded by hurling bats onto the field and throwing a ball in the direction of the ump. Wade Boggs was in his 17th season, a week away from his 40th birthday, when he finally earned an ejection for arguing balls and strikes.
[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
AP Photo/Kathy WillensDerek Jeter's respect for the umps ran deep during his 20-year career, even in times of disagreement.
Even while playing in the most volatile market, and spending most of his prime under a suffocating boss, George Steinbrenner, Derek Jeter never had his bad hair day. Tuesday night, after he was called out on strikes in the fifth by D.J. Reyburn (the ball appeared to be a tad outside), the shortstop did what he always does when he believes the guy behind the plate missed it on strike three.
Jeter lowered his head as he stepped toward the ump in a non-threatening way, containing the discussion as much as possible so the man behind the mask didn't feel he was being embarrassed. The captain said what he needed to say and quickly exited before mouthing the word, "Wow."
Umpires who regularly confront a lack of civility have cherished the Jeter way for two decades. Major League Baseball is always reluctant to allow active umps to comment publicly on the pros and cons of an active player, even a legendary one with less than a week left in his career, but five retired umps who worked some of Jeter's games, who have watched many more from afar, and who have a combined 126 years of big league experience were free to weigh the impact of the shortstop's professionalism on their craft.
They'd all dealt with the high-stakes madness of the postseason, where participants are more likely to go to Defcon 1. Richie Garcia was stationed in right field for Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series when 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall -- Garcia never saw him -- and deflected Jeter's fly ball away from Baltimore's Tony Tarasco and into history; Garcia also called Mark Langston's 2-2 pitch to Tino Martinez a ball right before Martinez hit a grand slam in the 1998 World Series. Randy Marsh was the first-base ump who initially ruled Alex Rodriguez safe on A-Rod's infamous slap play against Boston in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS before the crew convened, correctly called A-Rod out, and ordered Jeter to return to first base.
Don Denkinger was responsible for the most conspicuous blown call in World Series history in 1985, when he ruled Kansas City's Jorge Orta safe in the ninth inning of a Game 6 the Royals would rally to win before routing St. Louis in Game 7. Chuck Meriwether worked eight division series, two league championship series, two World Series, and David Cone's perfect game in 1999. Larry Young worked the first of five World Series that Jeter's Yankees would win (1996), and the second of two World Series that Jeter's Yankees would lose (2003).
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