The moment Jeter fell

October 15, 2012

By Mike Segar

Firstly, let me say I am most definitely NOT a New York Yankees fan. I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and have been a devoted Boston Red Sox fan my entire life. The Yankees are our sworn enemies as Red Sox fans and that never changes.

However, in my job as a photographer for Reuters I have covered the Yankees in the MLB playoffs since 1996, when I covered my first New York Yankees World Series championship.

That season a young rookie shortstop named Derek Jeter made his postseason debut as the Yankees went on to win the first of five World Series titles through 2009 (losing two more World Series in 2001 and 2003 along the way). I have seen a lot of playoff baseball games and experienced countless exciting and memorable moments as the Yankees and Jeter proved their greatness time and again.

Jeter is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits (3,304), games played (2,585), stolen bases (348), and at bats (10,551). He has been elected to 13 All-Star teams, won five Gold Glove Awards, four Silver Slugger Awards. two Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter is the all-time MLB leader in hits by a shortstop, and the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits. The 37-year-old Jeter’s 216 hits lead all Major league hitters in 2012.

You could go on forever with statistics about why Jeter is a sure Hall of Famer and clearly one of the very best to ever play the game of baseball. But there is something else about him. I, like most people, have the nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the Yankees captain and for how he conducts himself, how he competes and represents the sport of baseball and the Yankees. It’s truly been a privilege to have photographed him in so many great moments.

Saturday night during Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, shooting Jeter was something else altogether. The Yankees had staged a stunning rally against the Detroit Tigers scoring four runs to tie the game in the ninth inning sending the game into extra innings. In the top of the 12th inning, fielding a ball by Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta, Jeter ranged to his left. From my position in the first base photographers pit I had a clear view with my 400 mm lens as I followed him while he scooped up the ball. I waited to shoot what appeared to be a routine play, for him to turn and throw as I have seen him do countless times. But he started to fall and scream out and I started shooting. As he went down screaming and tossing the ball on the ground for second baseman Robinson Cano he screamed out again. I just kept shooting.

Every sports photographer knows when someone like Jeter goes down, you just keep shooting.

The stadium was instantly silent. As manager Joe Girardi and a trainer ran to carry him off the field I shot everything I could see until he was out of sight. I ran into the room behind the photographer’s pit at first where we have a small transmitting area and ingested my card into our Paneikon remote editing system and wrote a quick instant message to editor Peter Jones who was filing the pictures of the game to our clients from Toronto. “You cannot move enough pictures of Jeter’s injury” I said. “Oh I know,” is all Peter said back. Peter has edited baseball for me for many years and I knew he know how big an injury picture this was and how it would dominate the story of this game.

Overall Peter moved 21 pictures from myself and the other photographers – Ray Stubblebine, shooting in an overhead position, Bill Kostroun, shooting from Center Field, and Adam Hunger who was shooting from third base.

The Yankees went on to lose the game in the bottom of the 12th as stunned fans and frankly stunned photographers and reporters left the building. In the scheme of things, the pictures of Jeter injuring himself were pretty standard baseball pictures; nothing visually outstanding. But in New York where Jeter is something of a “god” and seemed immortal it took on a larger significance.

I was lucky to be in a position where my pictures were strong and not blocked by players or umpires and the images landed on the front pages of the NY Post and NY Daily News and were widely published. I could not help but wonder if that was the last time I would see Derek Jeter in a playoff baseball game. While I never root for the Yankees, I always will for Derek Jeter.

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