Search “Derek Jeter” on YouTube and you invariably land on a clip of “The Dive,” the longtime New York Yankee shortstop’s spectacular play during a July 2004 home game vs. rival Boston Red Sox. After Jeter caught a foul ball on the run, momentum carried him until he freight-trained face-first into the stands.
A moment later, he stood, dazed, gripped by fans, blood flowing from his cheek and chin, in an instant that crystallized his gutsy commitment to winning, to baseball and to the team he led to five World Series titles in 20 seasons from 1995 to 2014.
“Nobody played harder, and nobody wanted to win more,” says Michael Tollin, an executive producer of The Captain, a stirring, triumphant seven-part docuseries that looks at Jeter’s stellar Hall of Fame career. The show follows the unlikely rise of a remarkably determined, scrawny kid from a biracial family in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who fulfilled the only dream he ever had: to play for the Yanks.
Jeter (above, celebrating a game-winning RBI in his last home at-bat) sat for some 30 hours over more than a year, looking back at victories and travails with his signature pragmatism. He speaks to his battles with Yankees boss George Steinbrenner over money and respect (“I’m very loyal, but loyalty one way is stupidity”), and the sometime tug-of-war with Alex Rodriguez, the friend and ex-teammate whose belittling comments have often irked Jeter.
Yet there’s no question that the man ceremonially named team captain in 2003 remains among the most storied leaders-by-example baseball has ever seen.
“If you were gonna be on the Yankees, you had to come up to that level,” Tollin says. “He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. He just did it. And everybody wanted to get on that train.”
The Captain, Series Premiere, Monday, July 18, 10/9c, ESPN