NEW YORK — Standing on the field with a microphone Sunday, the end of his baseball career likely three weeks away, Derek Jeter remained as cool and collected as his play at shortstop over the past two decades.
The Yankees honored their retiring captain with a 45-minute pregame ceremony that included surprise appearances by NBA great Michael Jordan and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr.
Reserved as always and with no hints of tears, Jeter thanked people a dozen times as he spoke to a capacity crowd of 48,110 at Yankee Stadium for about 3 minutes before a 2-0 loss to Kansas City further damaged New York’s slim playoff chances.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that 20 seasons has gone by so quickly,” the 40-year-old Jeter said after a 1½-minute ovation. “You guys have all watched me grow up over the last 20 years. I’ve watched you, too. Some of you guys getting old, too. But I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid for the last 20 years.”
A 14-time All-Star who is sixth on the career hits list, Jeter sparked a Yankees renaissance that began with a World Series title in 1996 as he won the AL Rookie of the Year award. He led the team to three consecutive championships from 1998-2000, was named captain in 2003 and then won a fifth Series in 2009 that raised the team’s record total to 27.
He missed most of 2013 after breaking his ankle during the playoffs the previous October, made his retirement announcement just before spring training in February, and has followed with a respectable but unspectacular final season, his speed, range and power diminished — but a starting shortstop until the end. He beat out a grounder for an infield single in the first inning Sunday and ended the day batting .260 with three homers and 40 RBIs.
Jeter produced a series of indelible moments: his homer and over-the-shoulder catch on his first opening day in 1996, a backhanded flip to the plate against Oakland in the 2001 playoffs and a home run just after midnight a few weeks later that won World Series Game 4. There was a face-first dive into the seats for a popup against Boston in 2004, the farewell speech at old Yankee Stadium in 2008 and the home run for his 3,000th hit in 2011.
But a player known as a winner could go out without a coda: The Yankees may miss the playoffs for just the third time since he first came up to the major leagues in 1995.
“In my opinion, I’ve had the greatest job in the world. I got a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees, and there’s only one of those,” he said. “I always felt as though it was my job — was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys. But it can’t compare to what you brought me.”