WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — There are things Major League Baseball does well, and things it doesn’t.
One thing it does well — perhaps better than all other professional sports outfits in this country — is honoring players who have served as the face of a generation of stars representing a child’s game, as those players make their ceremonial exits from that game, simultaneously ushering in the next generation of stars.
The sport’s fierce cohesion to time-honored tradition may be the reason baseball is sometimes slow to respond to modern conventions already widely accepted in other sports, like instant replay or PED testing, but it’s also what allows it to shine in embracing its stars in these passing-of-the-torch moments in history.
To that effect, think Cal Ripken, Jr. and his final All-Star appearance in 2001.
Who could forget a young Alex Rodriguez, in Seattle in 2001, and his slow walk toward Ripken at third, insisting his childhood hero assume his rightful and natural position at shortstop, where he’d played the majority of his career with the Orioles?
Or, think Derek Jeter and his All-Star curtain call, which came Tuesday evening in Minneapolis.
But Jeter had his own fitting tributes in mind, bringing baseball’s tradition of time-honored traditions full circle.
Jeter, who’s heard the voice of longtime Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard — who called Yankee games for 51 years, prior to his death at age 99 in July 2010 — call his name, posthumously, to the batter’s box at Yankee Stadium since Sheppard’s death, carried that legacy into his final All-Star batter’s box appearance.
Jeter then telegraphed a double on a wire into right field off NL starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, later to be driven home on a triple by Mike Trout.
Jeter, 40, the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, 5-time Gold Glove Award winner, 5-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and 5-time World Series champion, in his 14th All-Star appearance, would not go on to win his first All-Star MVP.
No, that distinction would go to Trout, the league’s next big star.