He wanted to win every night: Jeter

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:26 PM ET

ANAHEIM, Calif. — They first met on a back field at the New York Yankees complex in Tampa in 1992.

“I’d just signed and was in the (rookie-class) Gulf Coast, here was this figure that’s larger-than-life,” shortstop Derek Jeter said as he told reporters of his first meeting with the late George Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday morning at age 80.

“I was a Yankee fan, so I was well aware of him and his reputation,” said Jeter, 18 at the time. “He talked to me by name. I was more shocked that he knew who I was, but I guess because he gave me some of his money ... He had to know who I was.”

Steinbrenner told Jeter that day, for the first of many days: “We expect big things from you.”

Jeter has delivered. Since he arrived in the Bronx in 1996, he has been part of five teams that have won the World Series, has 2,847 career hits, and is about to be signed to another long-term deal.

Jeter wasn’t kidding about the money. By the end of this season he will have earned $209.23 million US from the Yanks.

“I’ll always remember that, because first impressions you never forget,” Jeter said. 

Steinbrenner was an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Purdue universities during the 1950s.

“He was an old football coach, so he looked at the baseball season like we played 12 games and you had to win every single day,” Jeter said. “He wanted to win every night, every day.”

Steinbrenner named Jeter captain on June 3, 2003, when the Yanks were in Cincinnati.

“A day I’ll definitely remember, it’s a memory I always cherish,” Jeter said. “At first when I had a call that The Boss wanted to talk, I thought I was in trouble. I realized what that title meant to him and to the Yankee organization.”

A moment of silence was held before the game to honour Steinbrenner.

At meetings, other owners would knock Steinbrenner’s spending habits and he’d jump up and say: “How do you like us up the middle?” The Yanks had Jorge Posada behind the plate, Andy Pettitte on the mound, Jeter at shortstop and Bernie Williams in centre field. He had the resources to keep his homegrown players at home.

Pettitte first met Steinbrenner in rookie ball in 1991. 

“I was a 19-year-old kid, looking at him like, that’s The Boss walking by,” said Pettitte, who made the Yankees in 1995. “He supported us down the stretch trying to make the playoffs. Encounters back then for me was just: ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir.’ And then you get to know him, and the discussion would become a little bit deeper. 

Steinbrenner used to hand Pettitte Bible verses before some of his playoff starts.

Alex Rodriguez told of a handwritten note that arrived in the clubhouse for him in 2004, his first season with the Yankees. It had the initials GMS on it and the words “I’M COUNTING ON YOU” in capital letters. 


Videos

Photos