White Sox pay respects to Derek Jeter, though 'he's not dying'

White Sox pay respects to Derek Jeter, though 'he's not dying'
May 25, 2014, 6:15 pm
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The standing ovations, the gifts and the video tributes are staples of Derek Jeter's retirement tour.

But it's a retirement tour, not a funeral — even if it feels a bit like the latter.

"He's not dying, he's just retiring," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's weird. I'm sure it's uncomfortable for him going through all of it, but he's a great player."

Jeter's final game in Chicago was a four-hit masterpiece, with the longtime Yankees captain driving in two runs and hitting a triple to pace his club to a 7-1 win over the White Sox on a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon. Before the game, Jeter received a Yankees-themed bench made of baseball bats and balls, some Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field infield dirt that traces back to the 1950s and a $5,000 donation from the White Sox to his charity.

Jeter received a pregame standing ovation from the sellout crowd at U.S. Cellular Field as well as White Sox players, who gathered atop the third base dugout steps to applaud an icon of the game many of them grew up watching. Ventura, who played with Jeter for two years, added that all the adulation and applause is well-deserved, even if it's odd given all he's doing is retiring.

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It's a sentiment Jeter seemed to agree with.

"It’s kind of an awkward feeling because everyone’s wishing you well, and I’m not going to fall off the face of the Earth," Jeter said. "I’d like to think I’ll be around for a while after this, but everything people have said and done, it’s very much appreciated."

That's not to say the tributes to Jeter are unwarranted. White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham and catcher Tyler Flowers — two players in their late 20's who grew into the game while Jeter was at the peak of his career — both were appreciative of the chance to play against and honor Jeter over the weekend.

"He’s meant a lot to the game over the last 20 years, and you know it’s just a fitting end to his last game in Chicago," Beckham said. "I thought it was cool."

"It should be done by every team for what he's done not just in the game but out of the game," Flowers said. "You hear stories about him all the time just doing the right thing in situations, things kind of above and beyond the call of human beings. It's nice to see that.

"He's a completely down to earth guy, he comes up to the plate, asks me how I'm doing, all that. He doesn't know me from Joe, but he still respects the game, respects everyone in it, plays the right way. It just seems to be first class all the way, it's not a show. He really is a good guy."

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And he's a good guy who still will be around after he retires. Mariano Rivera went through the same thing last year and is still visible, most recently receiving an honorary doctorate from NYU last week. Jeter's a high-profile player who played for a high-profile team in a high-profile media market who doesn't appear to have plans to sequester himself on a desert island with no cell phone service.

Jeter's contributions to the game mean the tributes will continue, with St. Louis the next step on the world's happiest funeral procession.

"It's totally warranted, but it's a little weird," Ventura said. "Seeing it today, you hear about it, but seeing it today it is a little weird because he's just going to start living. It's just weird, weird looking at it."