Time sure does fly, doesn’t it? It’s already been four years since Derek Jeter played his final home game, in one of his only games where the Yankees were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. Despite the lack of October implications, Jeter made sure it was a night fans would never forget.
The night almost didn’t happen. A heavy storm rolled through the New York City area early that morning, but the downpours subsided by late afternoon, leaving a rainbow stretching across the sky behind center field at the Stadium. This came as the Bombers prepared to host the Orioles, who were seeking to claim home field advantage in the postseason.
Before the game began, the YES Network paid tribute to Jeter with a video montage that looked back on his seemingly endless list of accomplishments and unforgettable moments. They would have to edit the end of the montage by the end of the night.
Jeter didn’t take long to let Yankees fans know that it would be a memorable night. In his first at-bat in the bottom of the first, Jeter smoked a 3-1 pitch that banged off the top of the left center field wall to drive in Brett Gardner, cutting the Orioles lead to 2-1. Jeter missed a game-tying home run by a matter of feet, but judging by the way the game ended, missing the home run was probably for the best.
Jeter would eventually score on an error to tie the game, and it stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh, when the Captain helped push the go-ahead runs across as he reached on another Orioles’ error to make it 4-2. A sac fly by Brian McCann made it 5-2 Yankees in the seventh. With a decent lead and an exhilarating hit from Jeter in the books, it seemed like a fitting farewell to Jeter. Fans sensed it as well, and began to give Jeter an emotional sendoff in the top of the eighth, which lasted the entire inning.
The game entered the ninth with the score still 5-2, and fans gave Jeter more thanks and praise when he took the field for the final time at Yankee Stadium. An emotional Jeter tipped his cap, and for a moment, it felt like manager Joe Girardi might take Jeter out of the game so he could have a proper farewell to the fans, like he did with Mariano Rivera a year before. The David Robertson made sure that wouldn’t happen, allowing a pair of home runs to tie the game and send it to the bottom of the ninth. A frustrated crowd in the Bronx quickly let go of their anger when they realized Jeter was due up in the bottom of the ninth.
Jose Pirela led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, and Gardner bunted him over to second, setting the stage for Jeter. By this time, just about everyone knew what was coming. They had watched Jeter for 20 years, and saw him come through countless times. Of course he would do it again. It was almost expected. And he did.
Jeter had been a part of five championships and some of the most memorable moments in Yankee history. Even so, a September evening that had zero playoff implications became one of his most memorable of all.