Baseball / Sports

Derek Jeter doing farewell tour his own way

In a packed club in Hollywood in January, the four members of the heavy metal band Motley Crue sat behind tombstones during a news conference and announced a 72-date farewell tour.

"All bad things must come to an end," drummer Tommy Lee declared.

A few weeks later at the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., shortstop Derek Jeter announced at another packed news conference that this would be his final season playing baseball.

"The thing that means most to me is that I'll always be remembered as a Yankee," Jeter said.

What do Motley Crue and Derek Jeter have in common?

Not much really, except that the band that made "Dr. Feelgood" and the Hall of Fame-bound hitter once dubbed "Mr. November" will be starring in the two biggest farewell tours of the summer. Whether you're marketing a notorious group of unapologetic partiers or a superstar athlete with a squeaky clean history, there's no better vehicle than the farewell tour.

In baseball it's a rarity, while it's become cliche of sorts in the rock world, at least since the mother of all farewell tours by The Who in 1982. The 1960s rockers decided to return to touring in 1989 with a 25th anniversary celebration, and singer Roger Daltry announced last year they'd have another goodbye tour in 2015, cryptically telling Rolling Stone: "This will be the last old-fashioned, big tour."

So far no one has had a farewell tour in baseball and changed his mind.

The gold standard for baseball farewell tours took place in 2001 when the Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. announced his retirement on June 19, giving opposing teams little time to come up with the perfect going-away present.

The White Sox were first up, and presented Ripken with a seat from old Comiskey Park and a vial of dirt from the old ballpark, supposedly from the infield area where a shortstop would roam. Other gifts included a pair of cowboy boots (Rangers), a plaque (Braves), signed jerseys (Rangers, Mariners), original artwork (Royals), a painting of Ripken and Lou Gehrig (Blue Jays), another box seat (Red Sox) and various checks to his foundation.

Jeter has thus far received gifts such as pinstriped cowboy boots from the Astros, a pinstriped paddle board from the Angels and artwork from the Mets of a No. 2 made out of subway tiles. No one has been able to top the "Chair of Broken Dreams" given to retiring closer Mariano Rivera last year by the Twins. The team got someone to build a rocking chair out of broken bats, depicting the familiar sight of a bat broken by Rivera's cut fastball.

Jeter's tour arrives in Chicago on Tuesday for a six-day stay, starting with a two-game series at Wrigley Field and ending next Sunday with the conclusion of a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. Both the Cubs and White Sox are planning pregame tributes before Jeter's final game at the respective parks, and some VIPs will present him with gifts.

The Yankees got quite a bit of media attention with Rivera's farewell tour, though Jeter's is being handled in a very different manner. Rivera spent time before games with fans and workers at ballparks around both leagues, while Jeter is trying to low-key things, preferring a short presentation and no fuss.

"A lot of people are saying 'It's not like Mariano's," Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo said. "Jeter said the other day, 'For the first five innings of every game, Mariano was getting a massage, and I'm hopefully playing nine innings of these games.' Spending an hour with fans or stadium employees like Mo did last year is nothing any position player could do. He doesn't have the luxury of kicking back and strolling into B.P. whenever he feels like it."

In the music world, anyone who has sold a few records can announce a farewell tour. In baseball, you typically have to be a legend who spends his entire career with one team, a difficult task in the free-agency era. Chipper Jones' tour in 2012 was far less celebrated than Rivera's or Jeter's, as he wasn't considered beloved enough.

Most ballplayers just fade away, like aging rock stars playing Naperville's Ribfest. Steroid Era sluggers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa never got their tours. Even respected Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas were denied one last bow around the league.

Jeter's may be the biggest farewell since Ripken's when all is said and done. He has earned the love because of the way he has played the game and handled himself as a professional over a 20-year career.

"He is as uncomplicated a star athlete as you will find," Zillo said. "He wants to play and he wants to win. He's always welcomed the demand that came with being captain of the New York Yankees -- been the go-to guy in our clubhouse for the last 20 years."

Like Motley Crue, Jeter will be going out in his own inimitable style, and in an odd coincidence, the two farewell tours will collide in Tampa on Aug. 17. That's when Motley Crue plays at the Florida State Fairgrounds while Jeter plays against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Let the good times roll.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus