Baseball began for me in the early nineties. You can look at my previous post about 1991 Topps Baseball for more on that. When I began caring about baseball my favorite players were already established, guys like Griffey, Strawberry, Nolan Ryan, and Frank Thomas were established and, for the most part, had already had most of their great moments. Griffey’s meteoric rise had already happened. Ryan had already pitched all of his no-hitters, and Strawberry’s glory days were behind him. These weren’t guys I grew up with, these were guys who defined the game before I was even interested in it. I still loved watching their highlights and, even more, I loved chasing their cards, but they weren’t “my” guys.
Around 1995 I started rooting for the Yankees above all else. I no longer identified Ken Griffey, Jr. as my favorite player because he was not a Yankee. I was true fan. This was the influence of my dad. He was always a Yankee fan and he made sure I became one too. That season was a defining season for me and it was for the modern Yankees. Though I watched in despair as the Yankees lost to my former favorite player in the ALDS, I also caught a glimpse of the future in the form of Derek Jeter. The future captain got called up that season to play 15 games. He hit .250 and I had no idea what was about to happen.
The next season Jeter became a regular, the Yankees hired Joe Torre, and the Yankees won the first of four championships with a Jeter/Torre combination. I became all to used to October/November baseball and I got to witness the beginning of a career for one of the all-time greatest Yankees and my favorite player. Since that time my dad and I have collected all-things Jeter, cards, coins, Starting Lineups, and miscelleaneous memorabilia. He is one of the modern greats, a player with no ties to steroids (unless you talk to the skeptics and the Yankee haters), who played hard day in and day out and did it with one team. His exploits don’t need to be recounted here, we all know them (first Yankee with 3000 hits, a .313 career average, five rings, and lots of unforgettable playoff moments). Jeter is more than a great player for me, he is the one truly great player that I’ve been able to follow for his whole career and he has represented the last 16 years of baseball for me.
I own quite a few Jeter cards, including his Topps, Upper Deck, and Bowman rookie cards. No matter the product, good, bad, valuable or worthless, I save the Jeters. I know it’s funner to hear about the guys who collect the underdogs or the kooks, but I’m a Jeter guy, like a lot of other collectors, and there’s not much I can do about it. We share a name and he’s the best player of the last 16 years (disagree with me if you want, but I think the arguments are pretty strong for him), he plays for my favorite team, and he’s the first guy in 25 years with even a plausible shot of breaking Pete Rose’s record. I’m a Jeter guy and I’m not ashamed of it. When he retires I’ll miss his sweet swing, his (unnecessary) jumping throws at short, and his diplomatic approach. He has his flaws (most definitely a liability at SS for a while, doesn’t walk enough), but he’ll be remembered as a great and he should be.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Jeter card. All of his rookie cards are solid choices (the Bowman is my favorite, but I’m a Bowman apologist), though the Topps card has always seemed a bit ugly to me (the background is plain stupid). But if pressed I would have to pick the only Jeter autograph I own. Let it be known that my Jeter autograph is the only card I’ve spent more than $100 on. It is the only one I can imagine dropping that much coin on. Also, let it be known that there is a Jeter autograph that I covet more than the one I own. My most wanted card (in the world) is this:
This is the one that I own:
A 1997 Bowman’s Best Derek Jeter autograph. Graded a 9 by BGS. While I don’t love shiny cards, I love this one. The autograph is perfect. The photo is classic Jeter. And it is my most valuable card. This will be my favorite card until I get the card mentioned above.