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Derek Jeter on what it meant to be a Yankee in Hall of Fame speech: ‘One of the greatest honors of my life’

In a sleek suit that could match the navy blue of the pinstripe he wore for 20 seasons in New York, Yankees legend Derek Jeter was officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon in Cooperstown.

Twenty months have gone by since it was announced that all but one writer – who Jeter made sure to shoutout – voted him into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. But Wednesday finally marked the date he received his plaque and delivered his Hall of Fame speech, a memorable one for all that saw him lead the Yankees to five World Series titles, with 14 All-Star appearances, and of course, his franchise record 3,465 hits.

To put all of that into just a 15-minute speech even flustered Jeter, he admitted, but the job was done with grace, humor and charm – the Jeter Way if you will. Here is what “The Captain” touched on in his Hall of Fame speech:

Wanting to make the Hall of Famers proud during his playing days
Jeter pointed out two special moments during his playing career that he remembers vividly – one on the field and the other off it. The first was at the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers dinner. He was sat next to someone he’d never met, but it turned out to be Rachel Robinson, the wife of the late great Jackie Robinson.

Then, while playing in the 1999 All-Star Game, Ted Williams – the legendary Red Sox first baseman – threw out the first pitch. Standing in awe already, a tap on the shoulder came from the late Hank Aaron, who really wanted to meet Jeter.

These were special moments because Jeter said he wanted to make Hall of Famers like Robinson, Aaron and so many others proud.

“You might wonder what’s the reason I bring these moments up,” Jeter said. “It’s because these two moments in particular is when I realized it’s more than a game in just a sense. The greatest people and players in this game – the Hall of Fame family – they’re watching. So I wanted their approval. During my career, I wanted to make Mrs. Robinson proud, I wanted to make Hank Aaron proud, I wanted to make all of you behind me proud.”

Thanking his teammates and managers that led to championships
Baseball isn’t a one-man show and Jeter knew that entirely. So he had to thank, first, his managers that believed in him, especially Joe Torre.

“My managers: Buck Showalter, Joe Girardi, and especially, Mr. T. Mr. T, thank you for taking a chance on me and trusting me at such a young age, or at least making me think you trusted me.”

Then, of course, his teammates. Jeter was a prime member of the “Core Four,” which was mentioned along with others.

“My teammates, my brothers,” he began. “I was blessed to play alongside some of the best to ever play the game, some who are in the Hall of Fame, some who are behind me right now. I especially want to point out Gerald Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano [Rivera], Andy [Pettitte], Bernie [Williams], Tino [Martinez], CC [Sabathia], Hideki [Matsui]. I mean, you guys in particular were special to me because I never had to worry about what your No. 1 priority was, and that was winning.”

His family helped build his love for baseball and the Yankees
If you don’t already know Jeter’s story, he was born in Pequannock, NJ and would regularly play in his grandmother’s yard in West Milford, NJ in full Yankees garb dreaming of the day he’d get to wear the real uniform at Yankee Stadium.

That dream came true and he couldn’t thank his family enough for helping instill that drive in him to fulfill that dream.

“I fell in love with the Yankees,” he said. “I was watching games in the summer with my grandmother, Dorothy Connors, who is here today. In West Milford, New Jersey. I played wiffle ball in her yard in full Yankees pinstripes pretending to be Dave Winfield. I’d break a window occasionally and she’d be alright with it.”

Jeter also mentioned how his entire family would practice on the fields in Kalamazoo, MI where he eventually moved and became a high school phenom to the point where the Yankees took him sixth overall in the 1992 MLB Draft.

“It was more than just practice. It was the lessons my parents taught me.”

Thanking Yankee Fans
And last but definitely not least in his eyes, Jeter thanked all the Yankee fans present in Cooperstown and those watching at home. Without them, he wouldn’t be on the stage. They pushed, challenged, supported and helped mold the shortstop into the leader he became on and off the field.

“There was only one thing in my life that I wanted to be, and that was the shortstop for the New York Yankees. Now, I’m a Yankee forever and without question you helped me get here today as much as any individually I’ve mentioned,” he said. “You can’t be fooled. You’re passionate, loyal, knowledgeable, vocal, challenging and supporting. There’s a huge responsibility that comes with wearing a Yankee uniform. Just because you have it on doesn’t guarantee you anything.

“I felt as though I was representing you and representing New York. …It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life.”