He's a New York icon, as much a part of the city as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
Successful, wealthy, good-looking, Derek Jeter is everything the Big Apple admires. These are his Yankees and this is his era.
So when he went a record-tying 5-for-5 in their Major League Baseball playoffs opener, an 8-4 victory over Detroit on Tuesday, it was as much expected as surprising.
"Mr. Clutch. Mr. Perfect. Mr. November. Mr. October. All those things really apply to him," the original Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, said by the batting cage on Wednesday. "It's fun to watch him, like last night. It was a good game, but just a fabulous performance by a fabulous player. It was something that I'll enjoy and just take with me, keep with me and replay it in my own head."
Since his Yankees' debut in 1995, Jeter has become a fixture, as much as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle before him. If Cole Porter were writing today, he might include Jeter in "You're the Top," alongside a Bendel bonnet and a Waldorf salad.
"How can you not like Derek Jeter?" Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Jeter is a king of the city, a permanent toast of a town that divides its athletes into heroes and goats, leaving little in between. His trust owns an 88th floor condominium in Trump World Tower, where he can view the city below, a king reviewing his domain. The real estate taxes for just the current six months alone run $34,903 (euro27,500), according to New York City records.
When it comes to the playoffs month of October, the only time of the year that really matters for many Yankees fans, he's led the team to World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. It didn't take him too long to learn that the ring's the only thing.
"He just seems to just relish this atmosphere," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who often says he finds it hard to believe Jeter is now 32. "He's been so big for us for 11 years here."
He holds the MLB playoffs record for hits (147) and runs (84), He's tied with Jackson and Manny Ramirez for third in RBIs with 48, trailing only Bernie Williams (80) and David Justice (63), and he's tied with Jim Thome for fifth in homers with 17, behind only Williams (22), Ramirez (20), Mantle (18) and Reggie Jackson (18).
Alex Rodriguez tops him in contract ($252 million to $189 million; euro199 million to euro149 million) and run production, but he can't match Jeter in what matters most: Victories and fan appreciation. Jeter, a lifelong Yankee, is treated like old money New York while A-Rod is regarded as nouveau riche, not quite accepted as a member of the Yankees' society.
Jeter has been around so long, he knows not to reveal too much of himself, familiar enough with the New York tabloids that he knows exactly what to say and what to avoid. His responses rarely go beyond the surface, but they never get him in trouble.
"We've been in this position a lot," Jeter said in his usual, even-toned _ almost detached _ manner. "We've been in a lot of postseason games. So you can't be afraid to fail. I mean, you always have to think positive. You know, you're not always going to come through. There's been plenty of times that I haven't. But when I'm in that situation, I feel as though I'm going to produce, or if I come up with a hit or make a play."
Many players say the key for them is to treat the playoffs as if they were regular games.
"That's crazy. That guy is going to get beat by a guy that thinks differently," Jackson said, citing the success of Michael Jordan under pressure and Tiger Woods in golf's majors. "It's not just another game. It's not another day. Ask anybody in New York. You'd get 11 million people that say the same thing. It would be the only thing they agree on."