NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter held a microphone and spoke without notes to the crowd that filled sold-out Yankee Stadium. His No. 2, the last of the single digit pinstripes, had been retired and a plaque in his honor dedicated that will be placed in Monument Park alongside tributes to Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and the rest of the team’s greats.
“I say this very humbly,” he told the fans, “there isn’t a person or player I would trade places with that’s playing now or ever.”
Three years removed from a big league career that spanned 1995-2014, Jeter personally picked Mother’s Day for his tribute. His grandmother, parents, sister, nephew and pregnant wife joined him for the ceremony, and he laughed when he saw the plaque, which reads “DEREK SANDERSON JETER/’THE CAPTAIN’/”MR. NOVEMBER'” and goes on to call him “THE CORNERSTONE OF FIVE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS” AND “A LEADER ON THE FIELD AND IN THE CLUBHOUSE, SETTING AN EXAMPLE FOR HIS TEAMMATES WITH HIS UNCOMPROMISING DESIRE FOR TEAM SUCCESS.”
Jeter said he thought about the plaques of teammates Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.
“When Bernie got his, he had the big mole. When Jorge had his, he had the big ears. Andy had the big nose. So I was happy with mine,” Jeter said.
Now 42, Jeter captained the Yankees during his final 12 seasons, capping a career that included five World Series titles and a New York-record 3,465 hits. He is the 22nd player to have his number retired by New York, by far the most among major league teams.
“I want to thank my family for their love, support, honesty and more importantly their presence at everything I did both on and off the field,” he said during a three-minute speech that ended 40-minute ceremony. “And the fans — wow — I want to thank you guys for pushing me, challenging me, for making me accountable, more importantly for embracing me since day one.”
Jeter decided to address the crowd without notes.
“When I prepare speeches I forget part of it, and then none of it makes sense,” he said.
New York appropriately played two on Derek Jeter Night, a doubleheader against Houston caused by a rainout Saturday, and the festivities took place after an 11-6 win in the opener.
Former teammates Mariano Rivera, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone and Hideki Matsui also were on hand. Alex Rodriguez was not — spokesman Ron Berkowitz said A-Rod was in Miami, spending time with his mother and daughters.
Several of the players whose numbers had been retired previously wore a new Monument Park navy blazer, and one also was given to Jeter. Reggie Jackson was on the field in shirt sleeves.
Yankees co-owner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal gave Jeter a 14-karat white gold with “2” in diamonds, surrounded by diamonds.
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