A few weeks later, I finally arrived at Yankee Stadium. September 22, 1998. And the Yankees' starting shortstop was … Luis Sojo.
No worries. Over the next 16 years living in New York, I experienced many great memories, including multiple World Series titles and Jeter milestones that coincided with personal life moments. When the Red Sox came back in the 2004 ALCS, I had just lost the first job I ever had in television and, in 2011, when Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit, I found out I was going to be a father.
New York City has changed since I moved here. But Derek Jeter has always been a part of the New York I've known.
And Thursday night, Jeter provided one final memory. I was there at the stadium and will always remember the atmosphere. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, it seemed like the old Yankee Stadium ghosts were out haunting again when J.J. Hardy's throwing error on a routine Jeter double play ball instead put the Yankees ahead, 4-2. Up 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, it was all but a lock that we had seen The Captain's final at-bat.
But that wasn't the way the baseball gods wanted him to go out after all. The Orioles knotted the game up and the game went on to the bottom of the ninth. With Jeter due up third, everyone in the stadium knew what would happen next. Of all the things that had to go wrong and then go right.
Jose Pirela singles. Brett Gardner sacrifices him over to second. A 40-year old Jeter brings home the winning run on the first pitch of his last at-bat. Just like the old days, Daaaa Yankees Win. Sinatra. Repeat.
Except this final goodbye in a matter of minutes had amazingly gone from a respectful standing ovation of chants into a raucous, thunderous, madhouse that rivaled the excitement of any Postseason game I'd ever been at. Even the same Sinatra version of "New York, New York" that blares win or lose sounded better.
I woke up Friday morning, still feeling the high of the game. I bought every local New York paper just like I had done when they won each World Series.
Every city's fan base should have the pleasure of watching a homegrown player spend his career wearing their colors and seeing him go out a hero. Hopefully Anaheim will have that with Mike Trout, Pittsburgh with Andrew McCutchen and San Francisco with Buster Posey.
But I live in New York and root for the Yankees. Thankfully, for me and millions of fans, Jeter wore pinstripes.
Joel Solomon is a staff writer for Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave.