MINNEAPOLIS — Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game began with Bob Sheppard and ended with Frank Sinatra.
What occurred in between on Tuesday night at Target Field was a cornucopia of All-Star Game magic as well as a memorable night for White Sox players Alexei Ramirez and Chris Sale. Playing in his 14th and final All-Star Game, Jeter, who is retiring after this season, finished 2-for-2 with a run scored.
With Jeter announcing his retirement before the season, there was plenty of hoopla expected once the New York Yankees captain was voted into the exhibition by fans.
But what may have been one of the most highly anticipated questions was how one of baseball’s all-time greats would exit the contest.
A first-time All-Star, Ramirez provided the answer in the top of the fourth inning with Sale warming up on the mound and the American League leading 3-2. With his hat removed, his AL teammates already on the field and Sinatra’s “New York, New York” playing, Ramirez slowly walked to shortstop and extended a hand to Jeter before the two embraced. Jeter then walked off the field with 41,048 fans roaring in approval as he reached the railing of the dugout.
“I was nervous when I was first told it was going to happen,” Ramirez said through White Sox spokesperson Lou Hernandez. “To go out there and to take the place of someone who has been a baseball legend, I just took off my hat and showed him respect. It was a great moment.”
Sale stopped his warm-up tosses, stepped off the mound and began to clap as the crowd continued its appreciation of Jeter as he made his way through the AL dugout. As the ovation continued in anticipation of Jeter’s curtain call, Sale stepped back onto the mound for a few more tosses.
Jeter then emerged to receive one last round of applause and bowed to the crowd.
Sale said he wasn’t bothered by the lengthy delay, that it might actually have pumped him up more. The left-hander recorded the first two outs on five pitches but hit Chase Utley and allowed a game-tying RBI double to Jonathan Lucroy. Sale ended his third All-Star Game appearance with a strikeout of Carlos Gomez.
“You’re talking about Alexei going out there and replacing one of the greatest ever to play the game,” Sale said. “It was a special moment for me, but special to see Alexei get a part of that too.
“Sometimes you get a little too hyped out there, you get going a little too quick. I was telling myself to try and stay back a little bit, get under control. But it happens. I still enjoyed it.”
Ramirez looked like a kid on Christmas throughout his first All-Star experience.
He fought off nerves and followed a one-out single by Derek Norris in the fifth inning with his own single off St. Louis reliever Pat Neshek. Ramirez rounded third base on Mike Trout’s go-ahead RBI double and raced back as Gomez fired home, a throw that drew a playful wag of the fingers from the White Sox shortstop in the direction of left field.
Ramirez was then nearly picked off third base on a Tyler Clippard pitch that went to the backstop but rebounded directly to catcher Devin Mesoraco, who fired down to the bag. Ramirez again wagged his finger, this time at Mesoraco, before coming around to score on a Jose Altuve sac fly.
Ramirez also reached on an error and stole second in the seventh inning.
Shortly after he was introduced in his first at-bat by a recording of Sheppard, the legendary Yankees public announcer who passed away in 2010, Jeter got the first of many ovations. National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright left his glove near the pitching rubber, stepped off the mound and began clapping for Jeter.
With fans chanting his name in unison, Jeter doubled to right on a 1-0 fastball Wainwright would later say he grooved -- the veteran’s first All-Star extra-base hit since he homered in 2001.
Mike Trout then tripled to score Jeter and put the AL ahead 1-0.
Two innings later, Jeter singled off Cincinnati pitcher Alfredo Simon, a first-time All-Star, and moved to second on a wild pitch. It was Jeter’s third multi-hit effort in the Midsummer Classic (2000, 2004), making him the first Yankees player to ever accomplish the feat three times.
Jeter — whose .481 All-Star average (13-27) is the fifth highest among those with at least 10 at-bats — also made a nice diving stop in the field in the top of the first inning, though his throw was a half step behind Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.
Jeter then took the field one last time to start the fourth before Ramirez came to relieve him.
“I wasn’t expecting it but (Boston manager John Farrell) came up to me and he was going to ask me to go into the game in the fourth inning,” Ramirez said. “It was such a great honor to have that moment with such an American baseball legend. It was really proud to have that moment.”