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Two Yanks praise Francona's class

Two Yanks praise Francona's class

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NEW YORK -- Forget these feuds between the Yankees and Red Sox. They play, they argue, they fight -- that's to be expected from two heated rivals. But at the rivalry's core, there is a deep-rooted respect. Boston manager Terry Francona proved that much on Tuesday.

With full autonomy over the All-Star Game's American League roster, Francona chose to make two sentimental gestures -- one for Alex Rodriguez and one for Derek Jeter.

The first of them came in the fifth inning, just after Rodriguez had walked back to the clubhouse with a shower, a meal and fresh clothes on his mind. Rodriguez was in the process of swapping his game spikes for sneakers when Francona dispatched White Sox third baseman Joe Crede to go find him.

Crede did, ushering Rodriguez back to the dugout, where Francona intercepted him and sent him back to the field. Only with one out in the inning did Francona finally remove his starting third baseman, ensuring an ovation from the home crowd.

"That was a very classy gesture," Rodriguez said.

Then, one inning later, Francona ensured Jeter the same ovation, taking him out of the game with one out in the sixth.

"I appreciated it," Jeter said. "I have the utmost respect for Terry. He's always been good to me when I was in the Minor Leagues playing against him, and here in the big league level as well. He handles himself with respect, he commands respect and he respects others. So I really appreciated that."

Rodriguez finished the game 0-for-2 with a foul pop and a strikeout, and Jeter, with a single and a stolen base in three at-bats, fared only slightly better. But for those two, the game was secondary to the pregame ceremonies, which saw each of them receive ovations as loud as those granted to Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and even Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner.

"That was as good as it gets," Rodriguez said of the Hall of Fame ceremony. "Talk about getting choked up. Seeing that much talent, it was a special moment."

As AL starters, both Jeter and Rodriguez were allowed to stand on the field with the Hall of Famers at their respective positions. So Rodriguez stood at third base, chatting up Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson, while Jeter spent his time with Cal Ripken Jr.

"That's what I'm going to take the most from this experience -- being on the same field with all those Hall of Famers," Jeter said. "That's something you don't see too often, and that's something I'll be telling my kids hopefully someday."

"You want to talk to all of them at the same time, because you're pretty giddy," Rodriguez said. "That's as good as it gets. That's a moment that in my career, 20 or 30 years from now, I'll look back and say, 'Wow.'"

Yet as much as anyone in baseball, Jeter, Rodriguez and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera belonged among that group. Jeter has nearly 2,500 career hits to his credit, Rodriguez has more than 500 home runs and Rivera is third all time with 466 saves. Should all of those Yankees retire on Wednesday, they would almost assuredly be first-ballot Hall of Famers.

And their receptions during Tuesday's pregame ceremonies reflected that much.

"This is my 12th year, and by far this is the greatest show I've ever seen for an All-Star Game," Rodriguez said. "New York knows how to do it best."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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