Tigers fans did right thing for Jeter

Jeter playing in last regular-season series in Detroit


DETROIT – This was pure class.

On Tuesday night, after an hour and eight-minute rain delay, Tigers fans did the right thing for retiring New York Yankees' captain Deter Jeter.

When he came up to bat in the top of the first inning at Comerica Park, the sellout crowd of 40,488 stood as one and cheered long and loud.

For sure, it was a suitable-for-framing moment for Jeter, who was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Kalamazoo.

In fact, it was the only thing to do for a shoo-in Hall of Famer.

Some fans also cheered when Jeter delivered a first-inning single to right field off Tigers' starter Rick Porcello.

Before the game, the Tigers talked about the utmost respect they have for what Jeter has accomplished both on and off the field. They knew their fans would cheer him and, when asked about the impending scene, gave their approval.

"He's had a great career, he's going to be a Hall of Famer," Tigers' slugger Miguel Cabrera said before Detroit's 5-2 victory. "Fans should cheer for this guy, Jeter. He deserves it."

Added manager Brad Ausmus: "He has played on the brightest stage in baseball for basically two decades and probably has represented the game as well as almost anyone that's ever played the game in the history of the game. He's as classy a guy and as tough a competitor as I've ever seen. He deserves all the praise he's getting."

There were some who believed it was wrong to cheer a visiting player, a Yankee at that.

But this is different. Yes, Jeter wears the pinstripes and is on the team that most baseball fans around the country love to hate.

Jeter, however, is bigger than just the uniform he wears. Jeter is a living legend, one of the great players of our lifetime.

That's why teams all over baseball have scheduled an acknowledgment of his retirement from baseball, showering him with a ceremony and gifts during his final trips around the U.S.

The same will happen on Wednesday night at Comerica Park before Game 2 of this three-game series, which pits two teams currently fighting for an AL wildcard spot.

The Tigers have advised fans to be in their seats by 6:40 p.m., as the festivities start at 6:45 p.m. sharp.

Fans will appreciate Jeter after he says a few words and acknowledges the Motown masses publicly.

And while most have made a fuss about Jeter, the first Yankees player to ever get 3,000 hits wearing the pinstripes, he doesn't want to get caught up in it.

"I don't like the words farewell tour," Jeter said. "It's my last season is a better way to put it. 'You say tour.' It's like you're going around shaking hands and kissing babies. We're still trying to win."

That's Jeter, a winner in every sense of the word. He did whatever it took to get the job done. And he has five World Series championships to show for it. In Jeter's tenure, the Yankees have missed the playoffs just twice.

Hence, Jeter has remained focused on the task at hand. "I've really tried my hardest not to look at the end, which can be difficult at times because every time I go to a stadium for the last time I'm talking about it," he said. "I try to take it day to day."

Still, this final stop is special. He has many family and friends here for his final three games in Motown.

Jeter, a huge University of Michigan fan who has taken classes in Ann Arbor, hasn't forgotten his roots.

"I've spent an awful lot of time here," Jeter said. "And growing up here, I've always told people I'm from Michigan."

Fans in Birmingham were thrilled to see Jeter on Tuesday. He was seen at the Townsend Hotel signing autographs for 50 or 60 fans.

"Total class act," said baseball fan Ed Miller, who was there.

"There's only one other guy in baseball history that I had more respect for: Stan Musial and Derek Jeter," Tigers' Hall of Famer Al Kaline said. "Because they are both class, class, class, class all the way."

And what Tigers fans did Tuesday night was classy, too.