The Top 10 Things To Know About Collecting Derek Jeter
by Dave Thorn
1. Derek Jeter has accomplished all of the following (see #s 2-10) without any remote suspicion of using Performance Enhancing Drugs. Quite the opposite, the mission of Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation is to “motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and ‘TURN 2’ healthy lifestyles.”
2. Derek is one of just 28 players in baseball’s elite 3,000 hit club. He achieved his 3,000th hit on the biggest stage in baseball and with more pomp than any other player before him, hitting a home run off one of the best pitchers in baseball, going 5-5 on the day, and driving in the game’s winning run, a performance that will be remembered and replayed for centuries to come.
3. But the hits didn’t stop there. To date, if Derek collects just 66 more hits in his final season, he will pass Honus Wagner for most hits ever by a shortstop and the 7th most in baseball history. 16 more hits after that, and he’ll pass Adrian “Cap” Anson for 6th all-time. Those who would remain ahead of him on baseball’s all-time hits leaders list are Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and Pete Rose. That’s not just good company he’s in; it’s the greatest ever.
4. Some of his pinstripe predecessors might have won more World Series rings than Jeter’s 5 — Yogi has 10, DiMaggio 9, Mantle and Ruth both 7 — but “Captain Clutch,” or “Mr. November,” has more postseason batting records than any player in history. He is the all-time postseason leader in hits (200), runs (111), total bases (302), singles (143), doubles (32), triples (5), games played (158), at bats (650), and plate appearances (734). He ranks third in postseason home runs (20), fourth in postseason RBI (61), fifth in postseason walks (66), and sixth in postseason stolen bases (18). His postseason stats represent an entire season’s worth of games and surpass those of most players’ careers.
5. In short, Derek Jeter is one of baseball’s all-time greats, and we’ve been lucky to watch his career. His famous “flip” play in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, his gutsy “dive” into the stands against the Red Sox, and his clutch hitting and never-ever-hesitating hustle will be highlights for the eternity of baseball. He stands in direct lineage with those who wore single digit NY Yankee jerseys before him: 9, 8, 7, 6 (above all others), 5, 4, 3, and 1. Maris, Berra and Dickey, Mantle, Torre, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Ruth, and Martin. Like these other legends, Derek’s legacy will only continue to grow after he retires.
6. One of the most touted prospects in Yankee history, Derek can be found on 325 different baseball cards produced between his draft year of 1992 and his rookie season of 1996. His traditional rookie card year has always been 1993, but collecting has changed in recent years, and most advanced collectors are now more inclined to pursue his many more challenging cards produced during his ROY-winning season of 1996, when we watched with wonder as the rookie helped lead the Yankees to their first World Series Championship in nearly two decades, than to collect only his cards from 1993, when he batted .295 in his first full season of Single A, still three years away from his official Major League rookie season.
7. Jeter’s rookie years of 1992 to 1996 correspond to the hobby development of insert or “chase” cards — special, limited edition cards randomly inserted into packs, many of which were short-printed variations, or parallels, of a player’s regular card — and his rookie season of 1996 would be the first year that saw products with more than the two basic tiers of print runs that had thus far characterized the insert development of the early to mid 90s. Instead of products with just a regularly issued card and a single parallel insert of that regular issue, like Finest Refractors, Topps Gold, and Upper Deck Electric Diamond, for example, there were now products by Bowman, Leaf, and Select Certified that had as many as half a dozen different parallels, each one produced in smaller quantities than the last, some with print runs as small as just 30 total parallel copies produced. These super short printed (SSP) cards can be scarcer than even the T206 Wagner — the coveted 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold, in particular — and they are also some of the most beautiful cards ever made. Their development happened during Derek’s rookie season, which makes collecting his rookie season cards that much more challenging and fun.
8. If 1992-1996 is the birth of modern insert cards, then 1997-1999 is their renaissance or golden age. During these years, modern card manufacturers developed several more innovations that now, two decades later, dominate the industry. These innovations include game-used cards, serial-numbered cards, and the development of the ever coveted 1/1 or one-of-one masterpiece cards, when manufacturers produce an ultimate parallel of a particular issue limited to just one single copy.
9. Just as the development of insert cards corresponded with Derek’s rookie years of 1992 to 1996, the renaissance period of later 1990s inserts directly corresponds to the New York Yankees dynasty years of 1996 to 2000. Game-used and serial-numbered autograph cards, and even 1/1 cards, are now extremely common in today’s products, but in the late 90s they were new and exciting, as was the printing technology that made them possible, and they remain among the most collected cards in the hobby. For Yankees fans and for those who collect The Captain, the appeal of collecting cards from these years is therefore twofold, since the cards from these years are groundbreaking, and they also document one of the last real dynasties in the history of the game.
10. Derek Jeter has played his entire 20-year career with the most successful franchise in all of sports and with all of us watching as closely as New York City watches anything, and he’s done it all with class, integrity, and grace. For this reason, wherever he goes during his final “farewell” season, millions of fans stand in ovation, and thousands more hold signs saying “Thank You.” But thank you for what? For the memories? Sure. And for the championships? Yes, of course. But the thanks we owe Derek Jeter have as much if not more to do with these three little words — class, integrity, and grace — than with anything. I’m not even exactly sure what these things are these days, but I know that I see them when I watch Derek play, and for that I am grateful.
Derek’s retirement announcement earlier this year took many of us by surprise, but it was in reality the ultimate classy act. Knowing that this would be his last season has helped him to pace and to preserve himself, at least so far, and I’d certainly rather watch him with the knowledge of his retirement than to see him slowly decline over the next several seasons, even if those additional years could have brought him greater personal achievements, like the all-time hits record. But Derek doesn’t play for personal records, and he never has. He plays for wins, and that’s how he’ll be remembered. Although there were others before him and there will be many more to follow, years and years from now, he’ll be remembered best by his most common name: The Captain.
Dave Thorn is the founder of Small Traditions, an online sports and Americana auction company that conducts monthly auctions at its website, smalltraditions.com, where selling is completely free and buyers pay the fees instead of sellers. The company has recently acquired one of the hobby’s most significant Derek Jeter collections, which it will be auctioning off in several stages, beginning with its current May Monthly Masterpieces Plus Auction, continuing throughout the summer, and then culminating with a special Derek Jeter Farewell Auction in September. Call 303.832.1975 or write firstname.lastname@example.org to consign, and follow the company on Facebook and on Twitter for more updates.