The chants of “Thank you Jeter” started in the bleachers and filtered through a sellout crowd of 48,613 fans all too familiar with seeing the heroics of the Yankee captain.
So of course Derek Jeter came up with an opportunity to get the game-winning hit in his final appearance at Yankee Stadium.
Jeter did not waste any time slapping the first pitch of his final at-bat into right field for the game-winning single that gave the fans one more thrill and a 6-5 victory over the Orioles.
“I think it’s fitting because you think about all the big hits that he’s had in his career and all the things that he’s done to help this club win championships and divisions,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s been here since the run, the run that started in 96 and I don’t think there’s a more fitting way to end.”
After getting mobbed by his teammates, Jeter tipped his cap to acknowledge the crowd as he walked out to shortstop. He kneeled and said a quick prayer at the position he occupied for 20 years. He was joined on the field by former manager Joe Torre and former teammates Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Andy Pettitte as the Orioles applauded from the top of the step of the dugout.
“I’ve lived a dream since I was 4 or 5 years old,” Jeter said. “Now that dream is over.”
Even before Jeter’s one last dramatic moment, Yankee Stadium had already been buzzing with excitement by the time the tarp was lifted and there was no concern about a rain delay. The atmosphere grew even more electric when Jeter came on to field for his last home game.
“These last few weeks have been very difficult and it’s gotten more and more difficult as we’ve gotten to the end,” Jeter said. “There was a couple of times where I almost lost it. I really thought I was going to break down, out-of-body experience is the best way to put it.”
This was Jeter’s night and appropriately it began with a double to left field and included him hustling down the line to force a throwing error and drive in a run.
The Yankees were playing after being eliminated from the playoffs for just the third time in Jeter’s career.
Though it the game was played without the same significance as the Flip Play, the November home run or hit No. 3,000, this seemed to be the most appropriate way for it to end.
“I said a couple of times I don’t think it could end any better than him getting a walk-off hit and when you put Antoan Richardson in, you could try to steal a base,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of things you can do in that situation but I’m going to give him the opportunity. He’s come through so many times in his career, I’m going to give him the opportunity to get this going and so I bunted him over. I shut Antoan down when he got to second base and I said go do your thing.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.