COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (WOOD) — Derek Jeter’s legend has taken up permanent residence in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Yankees great headlined the induction ceremony for the class of 2020. His fans dominated the crowd assembled in Cooperstown, New York, to watch. Many wore No. 2 jerseys or hats. They waited through an hourslong ceremony to hear from Jeter, who gave his induction speech last.
Jeter said that his success came from his respect for the game and its history, recalling chance meetings with Rachel Robinson, wife of baseball trailblazer and icon Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron that left a profound impression on him.
“These two moments in particular is when I realized that it’s more than a game, in just a sense. The greatest people and players in this game, the Hall of Fame family, they’re watching, so I wanted their approval,” Jeter said. “During my career, I wanted to make Mrs. Robinson proud, I wanted to make Hank Aaron proud, I wanted to make all you behind me proud, not of statistics, proud of how I played the game, how I carried myself and how I respected the game and those before and after me.”
The humility in his speech was a reminder to former teammates Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez why they came to see his induction.
“He didn’t care who got credit. All he wanted to do was win,” Posada said.
“He should have been a unanimous choice (for induction),” Martinez said. “We knew 10 years ago he was going to be a Hall of Famer.”
Jeter also credited his father for his support and for being his inspiration.
“I was first introduced to competition and the game of baseball by my dad. I vividly remember going to watch him play shortstop for his corporate softball team, and I don’t think I ever told him this, but I was amazed how good he was and how he stood out in front of everybody else, above everyone else,” Jeter said. “He was my first idol.”
He recalled jumping the fence with his family to go play ball at the field behind his childhood home near Kalamazoo. That field now bears his name.
Also inducted into the Hall of Fame were Larry Walker, Michigan native Ted Simmons and, posthumously, Marvin Miller.
“I grew up in Detroit, a Tigers fan,” Simmons said. “Al Kaline was my first idol. He had no idea how much of an impact he had on me.”
In his new display at the Hall of Fame Museum, you don’t have to look far to see Jeter’s ties to Kalamazoo. Nestled next to his five championship rings is his Kalamazoo Central baseball hat.
When Don Zomer coached Jeter during his senior year, he knew he had something special.
“He said in a paper that he wrote in elementary school that he wanted to be a professional baseball player. He wanted to play shortstop and for the new New York Yankees. From there, he took the steps and he accomplished himself,” said Zomer.
In his wildest dreams, he couldn’t have imagined this career, though: most hits by a Yankee, most hits by any shortstop in baseball history.
But numbers only tell a small part of Jeter’s story.
“I know the state of Michigan is very proud of (Jeter), but that’s where the grounding came. We have heard the stories about the contract he and his sister, Charlie, both had to sign about conduct. He stood up to that every single day,” the MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi said.
Jeter, 47, retired in 2014. He is now part owner of the Miami Marlins.