Derek Jeter is an all-time great player and a fun guy to have around in the baseball world. We sports wiseacres tend to roll our eyes at the hyperbole over his leadership, "class," etc., but hey, may that we were all so good at our jobs and enjoyed them as much as he seems to.
In this week after July 4th, the day of Jeter's return to the Yankees' lineup after an ankle injury, though, there's something we, as baseball fans, as AMERICANS, need to talk about.
And that is Derek Jeter's dive into the Yankee Stadium stands during extra innings of a July 1, 2004 game against the Red Sox, which left him with bruises and a bloodied face.
You will hear the above described as a great diving catch, an iconic moment, a defining play in Yankee Stadium history, an example of tremendous physical courage. Read this fine breakdown of the play's history if you want more such examples.
But as that article points out, the catch was made in fair territory. The dive came two steps after the catch. It was a nice run for a pop fly, but not a historic highlight.
To take it even further, I would argue that the famous part of the play — the part where Jeter ends up in the stands — is actually an example of a lack of grace. Let's look at the key moment. Here, he has taken three steps after the catch.
The next part is the crucial one. His right leg stops short. It looks like he might be trying for a full lay-out, but doesn't have enough room. His left leg hits the top of the wall, it seems. The same leg swings up over his head, as if he were somersaulting into a swimming pool.
Here's another angle that highlights the awkward short step with his right foot that Jeter takes before heading into the crowd.
That short right-foot step is the crucial one. It's the point where it becomes clear that DEREK JETER HAD RUN OUT OF OPTIONS. Metaphorically, his back was to the wall as far as ways to finish the play gracefully. Although his face was, technically, the part of his body facing a wall.
Fortunately, Derek Jeter looks fairly good no matter what he's doing, and the catch was against the Red Sox at the peak of their rivalry in an extra-inning game, and if you watch it at full speed it's hard to tell what happened. And Jeter got credit for a great play.
So let's modify that assertion above. May that we could all be so good at our jobs as Derek Jeter, enjoy them as much as he seems to, and be praised for our historic achievement whenever we trip and fall onto our face in front of thousands of people.