By Zach Rullo
orn on June 26, 1974, Derek Sanderson Jeter was introduced to the sport of baseball at the tender age of four by his grandmother. Having moved from Pequannock, NJ to Kalamazoo, MI in 1978, Jeter quickly became a New York Yankees fan and dreamed of playing for his favorite team. He fulfilled this lifelong dream only 14 years later.
At Kalamazoo Central High School, Jeter was steered away from trouble by his father, Charles, who was a substance abuse counselor. He focused his attention on sports and academics, becoming a member of the National Honor Society. As a high school junior, Jeter hit .557 with seven home runs. After a tremendous senior year season in 1992, he won the High School Player of the Year award by the American Baseball Coaches Assoc. During that season, he hit .508 (30-59) with four home runs, 23 RBI's, 21 BB and only one strike out.
He was recruited by colleges, but also was the first player chosen by the Yankees in the 1992 free agent draft (6th player overall). After a couple years in the Yankees minor league system, Jeter made his debut on May 29, 1995 and split the 1995 season between playing in Columbus and playing for the Yankees. After the '95 season, manager Joe Torre announced Jeter would be the regular starter for the 1996 season, boosting his confidence. Batting .314 during the regular season, he became the 1996 American League Rookie of the Year. During the playoffs, he batted .360 as the Yankees went on to beat the Atlanta Braves and become the 1996 World Champions.
Winning is something Jeter has gotten used to. Since the 1996 season, he has gone on to win three more World Series rings, as well as adding a 2000 World Series MVP and All Star Game MVP to his resume. In addition, Jeter also received the New York press photographer's annual "Good Guy" award for 1998.
Derek is one of the most photographed athletes in the world. Much of his notoriety stems from his many magazine covers, All Star, Playoff, World Series games and endorsement deals. Playing on one of the world's most famous sports teams doesn't hurt either. Derek is known for being a genuinely good guy. And, unlike many other professional athletes who appear to be nice guys on the field and completely the opposite off the field, Derek stays consistent. As an in-person signer, he has always been accommodating. During the first three seasons with the Yankees, he was not only one of the nicest players on the team, but one of the nicest star players in all of baseball. Whether he was at the ballpark, at the team hotel, or at spring training, he was always a gracious signer, usually signing for most of or the entire crowd waiting for him.
It wasn't until after his second World Championship season that his signing habits changed. During the '99 season, he continued to sign outside and inside by the dugout at the ballparks and during spring training. He often limited the amount he signed and sometimes would shy away from premium items such as jerseys or bats. He was less apt to sign at the team hotels, often saying he would sign at the ballpark. He was not as strict about his "no hotel" policy such as Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mark McGwire were later on in their careers.
Luckily, the decline in his signing habits was halted after the 2001 season and he has been signing more frequently at team hotels and at non-baseball events over the past year and a half. In fact, the last time I had the pleasure of meeting Derek was during a party the week of the 2003 Super Bowl in San Diego this year. Upon exiting a night club, he was extremely gracious, signing for collectors while walking down the street.
His autograph, with the exception of his minor league version, has changed very little during his career. The formation of his capital "D" starts with a descending stroke that leads to an ascending stroke which leads right into his very distinguishable "D". Often times, especially early in his career or when he takes his time, the capital "D" stands alone. The same goes for his minor league version. With some of his rushed signatures, he takes the descending loop of the "D" right into 2-3 eyelets which make up the "ere" of his signature. The descending stroke of the last eyelet leads directly into his looping "k".
His early signature features a somewhat rounded looped "k" while his later version features a more pointed, almost mushroom tip shaped loop for the "k". His minor league version differs greatly. As opposed to a wide open loop, it was more of a filled-in, upright loop that features a distinct "k." There is a connecting stroke which leads the "k" directly into the capital "J" and this connecting stroke is prevalent even in the minor league version of his signature. The ascending loop of the capital "J" like the "k" was also more rounded in his early signature and it too features a more pointed mushroom top like shape in the later version.
With the majority of Jeter signatures, there is a pen lift after the descending loop of the capital "J", however, many of the newer or rushed signatures feature connectors from the capital "J" into the "e", which is a small ascending loop generally about 1/3 or ¼ the size of the capital "J". In his early signature, he connected the ascending loop of the "e" to the "t", which was, like the rest of his early signature, more rounded. The "t" is generally about ½ the size of the capital "J". His more recent major league signature features a larger "t," which is about the same size or just slightly smaller then the capital "J" and it too, like the rest of his more modern signature, features a more mushroom tip like top just like the "k" and the capital "J". In some of the very recent in-person rushed signatures, he even completely leaves out the "t" and the terminal stroke is in ending of the eyelet "e".
In the early signatures, he would often connect the 2nd "e" in Jeter to a small "r", which would be the terminal stroke in his later minor league or early Yankees signature. In his major league signature, he often left out the 2nd "e" in Jeter and it featured a more defined "r" which leads to his terminal stroke. In the very later or more rushed versions, he also sometimes leaves out the "e" and the "r" completely and his terminal stroke is the descending loop of the "t". In his minor league version, the "Jeter" is much different than the late minor league or major league signatures. The capital "J" is more upright just as the "k" and can feature a loop or a filled in loop. This is due to the evolution of his signature in its infancy. The earlier version features the filled-in loop and has a connecting stroke to the "e" while the later features and open loop in which the descending loop is not connected to the "e".
In the earlier version, the same eyelet "e" (prevalent even now in his modern signatures) connects to an upright filled in loop for the "t" and in his minor league signatures he even crossed the "t". The crossed "t" then connects to the very small "er" which is even smaller than his eyelet "e" in "Jet" and the terminal stroke is the descending stroke of the "r".
The prices for Jeter's signature can be quite expensive depending upon the item, but items are readily available through the company Steiner. Since Jeter is a pretty accommodating in-person signer, many authentic in-person examples can be purchased on eBay or at card shows. The prices for his signature are: index card $50, baseball card $75, photo $100, baseball $200, baseball bat $400 and jersey $550.
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