Derek Jeter has RBI single in last at-bat

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2014 3:27 AM
Derek Jeter has RBI single in last at-bat

BOSTON (AP) — Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski has seen the rivalry with the Yankees at the low points, at least from the Boston side: He was the left fielder who watched Bucky Dent's popup settle into the net above the Green Monster in a one-game playoff to settle the 1978 AL East title.

Yet there was the man known around Fenway Park as "Captain Carl" helping his former ballclub and its fans pay homage to Derek Jeter — a Yankee! — before the final game of his career.

"Such big rivals; so much history between the teams. But you would have thought that it was one team, in a sense, today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Sunday after the Red Sox gave Jeter the last in a season of sendoffs. "I don't know how many players can do that in any sport. But I think it shows you the respect he has, even against your toughest rival."

Three days after an emotional farewell in New York, pinstripe-wearing fans filled Fenway Park for Jeter's finale, chanting for him and the visiting Yankees and standing for each of his at-bats. Jeter delivered his final hit — No. 3,465 of his career, sixth all-time — as part of a four-run third inning, then left for a pinch runner and bid baseball adieu.

"I felt like the time was right," Jeter said. "My emotions were so all over the place on Thursday in New York, and when I got here I was ready; I was ready for my career to be over with. I'm happy I had an opportunity to come up and play here a couple of games. I'm ready for this to be the end."

Jeter's departure in the Yankees' 9-5 win gave some importance to an otherwise insignificant game between the longtime AL East rivals, who missed the playoffs together for the first time in 20 years. The last-place Red Sox — the defending World Series champions — are the first team in baseball history to go from worst to first and back to last in three consecutive seasons.

The Yankees finished in second place, 12 games behind the division-winning Baltimore Orioles and too far back in the wild-card standings to make the weekend series meaningful.

Instead, it was a day devoted to Jeter.

The sun-soaked season finale began with a 30-minute ceremony in which Jeter was serenaded with "Respect" and presented with some local baubles: second base emblazoned with his No. 2, a pair of Yankees-themed boots and a check for $22,222.22 to his Turn 2 Foundation. Then came Yastrzemski with captains from the other local teams: Bruins Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, the Patriots' Troy Brown, and former Celtics star Paul Pierce — now with the Washington Wizards — followed by the entire 2014 Red Sox team.

"This is a place where we've been an enemy for a long, long time," Jeter said. "For them to flip the switch this last time, coming here made me feel extremely proud."

Jeter's parents made the trip, along with thousands of New Yorkers who clogged the MassPike on their way to Fenway. Fans in Jeter's No. 2 pinstripes milled unharassed inside the ballpark — a scene unimaginable a decade ago — mixing with Bostonians showing their esteem for a player who relished the rivalry as much as they do.

"JETUH," said one T-shirt in Red Sox colors and his name translated into the local dialect.

And on the back: "WICKED RE2PECT."

On the field where the Yankees clinched the division in '78 and the pennant in '99 — and where the Red Sox rallied in the 2004 AL championship series to help end their 86-year title drought — Jeter lined out hard to the shortstop in the first inning and came up again in the third after Ichiro Suzuki's two-run triple.

With the infield in, Jeter hit a high chopper that third baseman Garin Cecchini leaped to bare-hand, only to have the ball bounce off his palm.

All eyes in the sold-out crowd of 36,879 turned to the Jeter, safe at first, waiting to see if that was it.

And when Brian McCann came out of the dugout to replace him as a pinch runner, the Captain's career was over.

Jeter pointed at the applauding Red Sox, hugged pitcher Clay Buchholz and then stopped in front of the Yankees dugout to tip his helmet to the crowd. Buchholz waited behind the mound to give the cheers a chance to subside, and then Jeter disappeared into the dugout.

"I've been a part of some chants here at Fenway Park," Jeter said with a laugh, "but I don't know if any of them were good."

The final hit raised Jeter's lifetime batting average to .310, gave him 1,311 RBIs and made the score 4-0. The Yankees scored five more in the top of the seventh inning and Boston put five across in the bottom half, but by that time the ballpark was half-empty.

The fans had gotten what they wanted — even the ones from Boston.

Cecchini, who met Jeter during the pregame ceremony, said he looked up to Jeter when he was growing up and was thrilled to meet him in the pregame ceremony.

"I told him when I shook his hand, 'Congratulations and thanks for being such a good role model,'" said Cecchini, 23, who was 4 years-old when Jeter made his major league debut. "I think that's the best compliment anyone can have."

In all, Jeter led New York to 13 AL East titles, seven pennants and five World Series championships while making the All-Star team 14 times. He is the all-time leader in postseason hits and runs, and only seven players in baseball history have ever played more games for a single team — a list headed by Yastrzemski.

"It's been a blessing," Girardi said, holding back tears. "To play along with such a great player, to manage a guy that is what you want in every player, what you want every player to care about, what you want every player to fight for, what you want every player to do. It's been a real blessing."

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Follow Jimmy Golen on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jgolen