Back when I was a much younger Boston Red Sox fan, my little league coach, Fred Shear, Sr. used to bring me and his son, Fred, Jr., and a couple of other friends, to Heritage Park in Colonie to watch Albany-Colonie Yankees games. In those days, the New York Yankees’ Double-A affiliate was based in the Capital Region, and pretty much every player of note during the late ’80s and early ’90s, that made it to the Bigs, called the AC-Yankees their home club at one point or another. Future Major League Baseball stars that made it swept through Colonie included pitcher Doug Drabek, who ended up starring for my dad’s Pittsburgh Pirates; pitcher Al Leiter, who’d go on to star for a number of teams, including the Yanks, and win three World Series rings; and even outfielder “Neon” Deion Sanders, the two-sport powerhouse.
But of all the players that made it through the AC-Yanks ranks, four stand out, at least to this baseball fanatic: pitcher Andy Pettitte, a five-time world champion, who starred for the Yankees for the majority of his career; four-time world champion center fielder Bernie Williams, who isn’t a bad jazz guitarist either; mega-dominant closer and recent unanimous Hall of Fame inductee Mariano “Sandman” Rivera; and future Rookie of the Year, 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion shortstop Derek Jeter, who this year was inducted into the Hall of Fame, falling just one vote shy of a unanimous induction to match his teammate Rivera.
If you were lucky enough to catch Jeter in Albany—he was there for only 34 games—you would’ve likely caught the future Yank doing what he did best: While there, he hit .377, with 13 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. I can’t say I remember seeing him play that year in Colonie, but I might’ve, because I did purchase that year’s yearbook, which included one of Jeter’s toughest rookie cards, a perforated strip of cards inserted into the middle of yearbook (of course, as a loyal Sox fan, I later removed it and sold the card to The Vault on Caroline Street for a nominal fee; one is currently selling on eBay for just shy of $1200).
Jeter will be inducted with a 2020 class that includes former catcher Ted Simmons, who starred on the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves; baseball executive Marvin Miller, who was integral in the formation of baseball’s union; and Larry Walker, who starred with the Montréal Expos and Colorado Rockies (and got in on his final Hall of Fame ballot appearance).
Love him or hate him—he got zero respect from us members of Red Sox Nation—Jeter is, without question, one of the greatest baseball players of all time. And after an, um, short stop in the Capital Region, he’s headed for Cooperstown. Will you be there this July to welcome him in?