BOSTON (Reuters) - Derek Jeter fittingly ended his Major League Baseball career with a hit, chopping a high-hopper and beating it out for a third-inning, RBI-single on Sunday in the last at-bat of a 20-year career with the New York Yankees.
Jeter, who strained a hamstring legging out an infield hit on Saturday, was replaced by slow-footed pinch runner Brian McCann and given a thunderous send-off with the Fenway crowd chanting “De-rek Je-ter” and the Red Sox players applauding him.
The Yankees captain, celebrated by his Boston rivals in a classy pre-game ceremony, waved his cap to the crowd drawing one last roar of tribute before he was greeted with hugs by each teammate at the dugout.
The base hit, which Boston third baseman Garin Cecchini was unable to grab with his bare hand, gave Jeter 3,465 for his career — sixth best on MLB’s all-time list — as the 14-times All-Star left the game and began life as a spectator.
Jeter, 40, could have called it a career on a Hollywood high note after stroking a ninth-inning, walk-off winning single in his last at-bat at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.
But there was one last series left in the season, and the Yankees captain said that out of respect to Boston, the fans and the Red Sox rivalry he wanted to be in the lineup at Fenway Park.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Sunday’s game that he was not surprised.
“It’s similar to the way I’ve seen him handle everything else that’s gone on in his career,” Farrell told reporters.
“It’s with respect to the game, it’s with a grace and a dignity and an integrity that is probably unmatched by others. He sets the bar by which every young player should look up to and aspire to be.”
The Red Sox honored Jeter with an effort befitting one of their own as they summoned some of their greatest former players including Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice, and Fred Lynn and Luis Tiant wearing their old Boston jerseys.
They also brought out other Boston sports champions to honor five-time World Series winner Jeter, including National Hockey League Hall of Famer Bobby Orr of the Bruins, former Celtics champion Paul Pierce and Patriots Super Bowl winner Troy Brown.
The entire Red Sox team poured out of the dugout and formed a line headed by slugger David Ortiz to individually congratulate Jeter.
Jeter was presented with a pair of cowboy boots, a Fenway base with pinstripes and his uniform No. 2 on it, a check for his Turn 2 Foundation, and a strip of Green Monster wall metal signed by Red Sox players and embossed with “RE2PECT” on it.
Another dignitary made a stirring appearance.
After a video was shown of Jeter taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this season in the Yankees clubhouse, former Boston College baseball captain Peter Frates, who started the fundraising campaign, came out in a motorized wheelchair to greet the Yankees shortstop.
The retirement of Jeter at the close of the 2014 MLB season signaled the end of an era.
Jeter was the last connection to the Yankees’ stellar run of four World Series titles in five years from 1996.
He and already-retired teammates Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada — known collectively as the ‘Core Four’ — added a fifth Fall Classic ring in 2009.
Boston is the next most successful franchise since 1996 with three World Series titles.
“It’s hard to believe it’s his last game,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a teammate of Jeter’s early in the shortstop’s career.
“Since a young man signing as a teenager, it’s really what he’s known. And it’s what we’ve known him to be, the Yankees shortstop, and it’s hard to believe it’s coming to an end.”
“I think it is the end of an era.”
“When you consider a guy of his caliber, the length of career in one uniform, it’s pretty remarkable,” the Red Sox manager said.
“And very unique that Derek has not only had the success he has had but when you think of 20 years in one uniform, I think you would be hard pressed to see that happen again.
“You look at that Big Four that is now the final one, that is retiring. The game moves on. I think that’s the thing that we take away from it. The game doesn’t stop for anyone.”
Editing by Frank Pingue