NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter didn’t want the night to end.
The retiring captain gave New York one more win with a big hit, then took two trips out to shortstop, waving to the adoring crowd each time following his final home game at Yankee Stadium.
Soon after his game-winning single in the ninth inning sent the Yankees over Baltimore 6-5 Thursday, Jeter said he played his last game at the position. He would only serve as designated hitter in his final three games in Boston this weekend.
“I want to take something special from Yankee Stadium,” Jeter said in a news conference shown on the center field video board, with many fans still in their seats. “The view from shortstop here tonight is what I want to take.”
As if on cue, Jeter began his last game in pinstripes with a double and ended it with another amazing moment in a career full of them.
“You can’t even dream this stuff up,” manager Joe Girardi said.
He was embraced by his teammates near second base as his Core Four buddies – Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada – came onto the field along with former manager Joe Torre, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez.
“Sort of an out-of-body experience,” said Jeter, who went 2 for 5 with three RBIs.
Jeter pointed and waved to the crowd of the 48,613, nearly all remained, as he walked out to the position he manned for 20 seasons. In an image seen before nearly every one of his 1,391 games at Yankee Stadium, Jeter faced the outfield and crouched down for a moment of reflection.
“Basically, I just say thank you because this is all I ever wanted to do,” Jeter said of his ritual.
He then answered a few questions for TV, said hello to his family who moved to the front row near the Yankees dugout for the final two innings, and greeted the teammates he won five World Series championships with.
Once more he took a slow walk across the diamond, covering his face with a towel several times and waving to the crowd as they chanted his name and “Thank you, Jeter!”
All across the majors, players saluted the 40-year-old star.
“Wow,” Boston slugger David Ortiz said, breaking into a grin and shaking his head after the Red Sox beat Tampa Bay at Fenway Park. “That’s him. Perfect. It was unbelievable.”
Moments after Detroit beat Minnesota, many players in the Tigers’ clubhouse at Comerica Park simply stood in silence and watched the postgame on TV.
“You could see it coming when the inning started,” reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer said. “We were sitting in the lunchroom. It was like, `Jeter’s hitting third. He’s going to walk it off.’ We knew it.”
With a packed house cheering his every move from the moment he ran out to stretch, and some tickets going for $10,000 each, Jeter’s farewell in the Bronx began on time after a rainy, dreary day.
The captain led the team out of the dugout – as usual – and the cheering began in earnest – rarely letting up when Jeter was on the field. He took several deep breaths when he settled in at shortstop and waved to the crowd before the first pitch.
Andrew and Margaret Koslosky were sitting in the front row behind the backstop. He said he had a chance to sell his tickets for $10,000 each and turned it down.
“There wasn’t enough money in the world to pay for the history we saw tonight,” he said after the game. “End of an era. We grew up with that kid and we grew old with him. A part of all of us retired tonight.”
The final player to wear a single-digit number for the Yankees waved to fans in the box seats as he came to the on-deck circle in the first inning. After a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute, he launched a long drive that just missed being a home run.
The drive off Kevin Gausman, who was 4 when Jeter made his debut in 1995, was the 3,462nd hit of No. 2’s career, good for sixth on the career list. Jeter wound up scoring on a grounder as the crowd roared once again.
“When he hit that double I went behind home plate to cover and I swear I felt the entire place shaking,” Gausman said. “The crowd was doing it for him, for the moment.”
Not everything was perfect for the 14-time All-Star with a charmed career and five World Series championships.
The Bleacher Creatures roll call was interrupted just as they got to a thunderous chant of “De-rek Je-ter!” That’s when Baltimore’s Nick Markakis led off the game with a home run, but Jeter still waved to the crew out in right-center field. Alejandro de Aza nearly silenced the crowd by connecting again.
But as they have throughout the Yankees’ final homestand, nearly 50,000 fans stood in unison, with their camera lights shining and began cheering as a recording of longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard’s introduction of Jeter played ahead of his first at-bat.
The constant celebrations over the eight-game homestand got to the always cool Jeter, and he felt as if he was going to cry several times Thursday: On his drive to the Bronx, when his teammates presented him with a painting and a watch, and right on up until he stepped into the batter’s box in the ninth.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good job of controlling my emotions throughout the course of my career,” Jeter said. “Today I wasn’t able to do it. It’s been getting more and more difficult these last few weeks, but today I wasn’t able to do it.”