Before the 1996 season, in the midst of a horrific spring training, the Yankees nearly sent their 21-year-old shortstop down to the minor leagues. Thankfully they didn’t, because once he put on the pinstripes, it was obvious this Jeter kid belonged.
Now entering his 19th season, his 11th as Yankee captain, Mr. Jeter has appeared in 13 All-Star Games and racked up enough hardware to make a hoarder jealous. Already a member of the 3,000-hit club, he may represent the best—last?—chance someone will have at breaking Pete Rose’s all-time hits record. And those are just his regular-season accomplishments. Mr. Jeter also holds the postseason records for hits and runs scored, and his various nicknames—Captain Clutch, Mr. November—testify to his playoff dominance.
In an era of professional sports that has generally defied long-term hero-making, Mr. Jeter stands out not just for his on-field heroics—the bloodied-face catch, the trademark jump throws and signature inside-out swings—but perhaps even more for his off-field behavior. With the calm of a monk, he deflects questions about personal accomplishments, talking about team instead. Living under the sports world’s harshest media lights, Mr. Jeter intensely maintains his privacy and always carries himself with class—and yes, we’ve heard the gift basket rumors. He doesn’t trash-talk. On the heels of the Newtown shooting, he called the mother of a slain teacher without alerting the media (although we found out about it anyway). And through it all, he’s given the Evil Empire a clean-cut face in an age that’s been defined by scandal.
As the one person who stands above the fray, Mr. Jeter has made it okay to be a good guy in sports.