Jeter delivers final address at Stadium
Yankees captain thanks fans during on-field celebration
NEW YORK -- They didn't want to leave.Not the players, not the fans. When the final out at Yankee Stadium was recorded at 11:41 p.m. ET on Sunday, the stands were still filled with people clapping and screaming. At the time the players would normally head for the clubhouse, the dugouts emptied onto the field. Some players immediately headed for the pitcher's mound to grab some dirt. Bobby Abreu stuffed a handful in his back pocket. For a few moments, they high-fived and looked around at the crowd that was still on its feet, extending the stadium's last game a little further. Then one player stood atop the mound of baseball's Cathedral, and his teammates gathered in a clump around him. Captain Derek Jeter held a microphone, and as he called for attention, the fans who had filled the ballpark with cheers all day stood quietly to listen as Jeter spoke. "For all of us up here, it's a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and come out here and play," he said. "And every member of this organization, past and present, has been calling this place home for 85 years. There's a lot of tradition, a lot of history, and a lot of memories. Now the great thing about memories is you're able to pass it along from generation to generation. And although things are going to change next year, we're going to move across the street, there are a few things with the New York Yankees that never change -- it's pride, it's tradition, and most of all, we have the greatest fans in the world. "We're relying on you to take the memories from this stadium and add them to the new memories that come to the new Yankee Stadium, and continue to pass them on from generation to generation. On behalf of this entire organization, we want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world." And with that, the Yankees took off their caps, waved them at the crowd, and the shortstop led his team in a final lap around Yankee Stadium with Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" playing in the background.
The poignant moment came at the end of an emotional day for the Bombers and their fans. Jeter said he had been asked a few days earlier to speak following Sunday's game, though he wasn't sure what he would say.The words came from his true feelings. When Jeter was taken out of the game with two outs in the ninth inning, he receive a standing ovation and a curtain call, and realized he didn't have anything prepared. "When I came out in the ninth inning I said, 'I've got to think of something quick,'" Jeter said. "I knew I wanted to acknowledge the fans. "I was scared to death," Jeter said. "When I was younger, I used to get really, really nervous when I had to do an oral report in front of 25 people. I guess I've come a long way." His speech will be the last in a line of memorable speeches at Yankee Stadium, and the fans will never forget the words spoken in their honor from the man who has represented the organization they follow with pride. Jeter said that moment will stand out to him in a night filled with memories, and he gave other members of the organization something to remember as well. "I thought that it was perfect," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's someone who has grown up in this organization, and who is a true Yankee. It was just perfect. He did everything right, and it's just who he is." "I think it was great," former teammate Bernie Williams said. "I think I would have been a nervous wreck, grabbing the microphone in front of all these people and saying what he did. He looked very poised, and he did a great job." When they finished their lap around the field, the Yankees stayed on the field a while longer, soaking everything in. Family and friends were invited onto the field, and Williams watched as his daughters ran around in the outfield, scooping up dirt. And they weren't alone. Baltimore's Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff took some from the third-base line to remember Yankee Stadium, and Mariano Rivera took a plastic storage container to the mound, scratched the dirt with his cleats, then filled the container. At one point, Jeter started to walk toward the dugout, then turned around and went back onto the field, not yet ready to leave the place he's called home since 1995. He just needed a little bit longer. "I think a lot of people don't want to leave," he said. "Look at all the people that are still in the stands. We know we're not going to be in this stadium for a regular-season game at least with people in it, and we want to enjoy it. "The night was perfect."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.