Commentary

Salute to Jeter: Where do Sox begin?

Final farewell at Fenway should be respectful but also true to the longtime rivalry

Updated: September 2, 2014, 7:03 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

NEW YORK -- How to say goodbye to Derek Jeter? The Red Sox, here to play the Yankees the next three nights, have the distinction of offering the final answer to that question, with the Bombers scheduled to end the 2014 season in Fenway Park on Sept. 28.

Field box seats for the finale are listed as high as $4,000 on StubHub. Dugout boxes are going for north of 10 grand, and a luxury suite is being peddled for $35K. The scalpers who work the corner of Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Way have already booked their vacations to Aruba.

Evidently, this is a big deal. Bigger than the 2004 World Series, the Yaz send-off, Ted's final at-bat, JFK's inaugural, the Boston Tea Party, the dawn of the universe.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia
AP Images/Winslow TownsonExpect Dustin Pedroia to have a part in the Red Sox ceremony honoring Derek Jeter.

There's a challenge to offering the final farewell. Everyone else already has thrown their parties, lavished their gifts and rolled out their A-list of celebrity glad-handers. Maestro Charles Steinberg and protégé Sarah McKenna have few equals when it comes to commemorating a moment, but for the retiring Yankees captain, nothing short of the Big Bang will do. Or so it seems for a player whose likeness appears on this week's cover of the New Yorker.

The Rangers had President George W. Bush on hand when they gave Jeter a pair of Italian goat leather cowboy boots.

The Blue Jays gave him a vacation in the Canadian Rockies, the Athletics a vacation at a Napa Valley vineyard.

The Angels gave him a personalized Hobie paddleboard.

Tito Francona and the Indians presented him with a custom-made pinstriped Les Paul Gibson guitar.

The White Sox gave him a bench constructed of bats, balls and bases by former player Ron Kittle.

The Twins gave him the last second base used in the Metrodome, from the 2009 division series that Jeter and the Yankees swept.

The Cubs gave him a No. 2 from Wrigley Field's manual scoreboard.

The Cardinals gave him specially designed Stan Musial cuff links.

The Tigers had Detroit greats Al Kaline and Willie Horton present him seats from the old Tiger Stadium.

And everyone wrote out checks of varying sums to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.

"We're still gathering and sifting through ideas, which have flowed in abundance," Steinberg wrote in an email Tuesday. "You want to achieve two things:

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"One, you'd like Derek to walk away feeling that Boston and the Red Sox sincerely and effectively demonstrated their respect for his career, his professionalism, his contributions to the game and his constant presence in the middle of a great era of baseball's greatest rivalry.

"Two, you would like for the fans to feel that communication -- to be active conveyors of that respect. That's what we're working on now."

The other day, Ken Davidoff, baseball columnist for the New York Post, offered a few ideas on what not to do. He saved some of his sharpest words for the Red Sox.

"It isn't a roast. Idiots," he wrote. "This is a most specific counsel to the Red Sox, who last year decided it would be uproarious to tribute [Mariano] Rivera by 'roasting' him, centering on his blown save in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Yes, they turned it into a positive, on how Rivera reacted in 2005 to the Red Sox fans' mock cheers, but still. It didn't work. Not even remotely respectful enough.

"Rivera was a good sport about it. Rest assured, if the Red Sox try a similar tack with Jeter, if they get at all roast-y with him? He will react the same way Mr. Burns reacted when Homer roasted him in an episode of 'The Simpsons.' Storm troopers will emerge and start clubbing the fans."

Steinberg, not surprisingly, didn't view the Rivera tribute through the same lens but acknowledged there will be a difference.

"It's a slightly different sentiment than what we felt for Mariano," he wrote. "There, you had a warm and personal moment of connection -- Opening Day in 2005 -- in which his smile, reacting to the crowd's spontaneous cheer, showed his sportsmanship and his personality. That was the moment on which you could build a meaningful tribute."

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
AP Photo/LM OteroThe Rangers invited former President George W. Bush to their final home game against Jeter in July.

Steinberg is not tipping his hand what he and McKenna have planned, but we have a few suggestions.

David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have to be part of any ceremony, of course. There has to be a place for Jason Varitek, the last Red Sox captain, and Yaz, who like Jeter collected 3,000 hits. And Pedro Martinez, who was to the rivalry from the Red Sox side what Jeter was on the Yankee side, neither man giving any quarter.

Nomar Garciaparra should be there, because he and Jeter, for a time, gave the shortstop debate the same aura as the Mays-Mantle-Snider argument on who was the best center fielder.

Also, the Boston Symphony, to lend the moment the class it deserves. A Jimmy Fund kid, to remind Jeter where our hearts lie. Some token of how we learned to transcend the horror of the Marathon bombings and how Boston Strong can resonate even in the Bronx.

The marquee gifts? The Red Sox don't need our help, but here are three things we think the Sox should send Jeter home with:

• A bottle of dirty water, marked vintage 2004

• A Larry Lucchino-inspired Evil Empire lithograph

• And finally, remember the scene in the classic movie "Cool Hand Luke" in which the character played by Paul Newman escapes from the chain gang then sends a photo back to George Kennedy of him smiling between two showgirls? Well, even though Curt Schilling said it when he was winning a World Series for the Diamondbacks and not the Red Sox, we'd love to see Jeter given a similar photo. Only this one would have a grinning Big Schill in the middle, flanked by Mystique on one side, Aura on the other.

Respect? Sure. But as his most bitter rivals, the Sox have a right to remind Jeter that he didn't always prevail.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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