The accolades for Derek Jeter began from the very first days of his big league career and continued virtually non-stop for 20 seasons.
But the legendary shortstop was ultimately judged by five championship rings and a Yankees dynasty he captained. And in the final analysis, the rest seemed like mere details.
Born June 26, 1974, in Pequannock, N.J., and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., Jeter starred on the diamond in high school and earned a full ride to play baseball at the University of Michigan.
But when the Yankees – Jeter’s favorite team as a youngster – selected Jeter with the sixth overall pick in the 1992 MLB Draft, the path of the player and the team changed forever.
Jeter played his first game in the big leagues on May 29, 1995, after a series of injuries rushed his anticipated debut. He bounced between Triple-A and the majors for the rest of the year, then earned the job as the Yankees starting shortstop in 1996.
Sixth months later, Jeter was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year after hitting .314. His steadying performance at the plate and in the field helped the Yankees win the World Series title for the first time in 18 years.
Over the next 11 seasons, the Yankees never missed the postseason – winning World Series titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Jeter made the first of 14 All-Star Games in 1998, won the first of five Gold Glove Awards in 2004 and was annually among the league leaders in hits and runs scored.
His most famous moment, however, might have come during the 2001 ALDS against the Athletics. Down 2-games-to-none in the best-of-5 series and clinging to a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, Jeter intercepted an off-target throw near the first base line from right fielder Shane Spencer on a double by Terence Long. The play appeared to all as if it would plate Jeremy Giambi, who was running from first base.
Jeter’s catch and flip to catcher Jorge Posada nipped Giambi at the plate, and the Yankees went on to win the game 1-0 and the series 3-2.
The durable Jeter appeared in at least 150 games every year save one from 2001-10, was named captain of the Yankees in 2003 and claimed his fifth World Series ring in 2009, hitting .334 and finishing third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting at the age of 35.
He never played a position other than shortstop in his 2,674 games in the field, reached the 200-hit plateau in eight seasons and was named the 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player.
Over a record 158 Postseason games – the equivalent of one full extra season – Jeter hit .308 with 111 runs scored, 200 hits, 32 doubles, 20 homers, 61 RBI and 66 walks.
He finished his career with 3,465 hits, 1,923 runs scored and 4,921 total bases.
Jeter was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020.