Derek Jeter was honored in New York on Sunday as his No. 2 was retired, joining the immortals in the long history of the Yankees.
The Kalamazoo, Michigan, native grew up a Yankee fan because of his grandparents, who lived in New Jersey. But Jeter attended games at Tiger Stadium and always spoke of returning to Michigan fondly.
But while Jeter and the Yankees seemed to have their way with the Tigers and pretty much the American League for a little more than a decade, Jeter had plenty of rough moments in Detroit, including an error that cost his team a milestone.
His first game at Tiger Stadium, his first game at Comerica Park and his final game at Comerica Park were all walk-off losses for the Yanks.
Jeter’s first major league game in his home state was on June 7, 1996, when the Yankees played at Tiger Stadium.
Jeter had a walk and a run scored, but the Tigers earned a walk-off win. Detroit scored two runs in the seventh when Ramiro Mendoza walked Chris Gomez to lead off the inning. Mendoza was replaced by Mariano Rivera, who gave up a single to Curtis Pride, an RBI groundout to Chad Curtis, and an RBI single to Travis Fryman, tying the game 5-5.
In the ninth, singles by Gomez and pride again set the table for Fryman, who singled off of Jeff Nelson to give the Tigers a walk-off 6-5 victory.
Jeter’s final game at Tiger Stadium was much better for the Kalamazoo native, and the Yankees. Jeter had two hits and the Yankees hung on for a 3-2 victory, thanks to a game-winning solo home run from Tino Martinez in the ninth inning off of reliever C.J. Nitkowski.
Then the Tigers moved to a new ballpark.
The first time the Yankees played at Comerica Park on May 12, 2000, Jeter was not in the lineup and the Tigers won 9-7 with Nitkowski earning the win and Roger Clemens taking the loss. Clay Bellinger played shortstop the entire three-game series for the Yankees with Jeter out and the Tigers swept the series.
On June 27, the Yankees were back at Comerica Park and 37,512 fans saw Jeter finally make his first appearance at the Tigers’ new ballpark. Jeter had two hits but the Tigers won 7-6 in 11 innings on an error.
During Jeter’s final visit to Detroit, the Tigers presented him with seats from old Tiger Stadium. His final game at Comerica Park was on Aug. 28, 2014. Jeter went hitless and the Tigers won 3-2 on a walk-off single by Alex Avila.
In 2012, he didn’t even get to play in his final postseason game at Comerica Park because on October 16, Jeter broke his ankle against the Tigers in the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.
Then of course, Jeter, who was a five-time Gold Glove Award winner, committed an error at Comerica Park on June 1, 2003, as Roger Clemens was going for his 300th career victory. With two outs in the fifth, Jeter committed a throwing error on a grounder off the bat of Kevin Witt. Bobby Higginson scored and Eric Munson singled in another run. Those two runs pulled the Tigers within 7-6 and the Tigers and Yankees were tied 8-8 into the 17th inning when home runs by Alfonso Soriano and Jorge Posada won it for the Yankees, leaving Tiger fans bummed at the Yankee win, and especially because that win came so late that Clemens got a no-decision and his milestone would have to wait.
Jeter had plenty of good games in Detroit, too, but it is interesting that the majority of his milestone games and crucial playoff games, or those that could have been milestones for another, didn’t go so well for the home-state shortstop.