Running a search for “Derek Jeter” on gettyimages.com will return roughly 30,000 images, all of them contributing in some way to the story of a player who has been at the center of the baseball universe for two decades.
On Thursday, September 25th, in front of a sold-out crowd full of grateful fans, Derek Jeter played in his final home game for the New York Yankees. All those in attendance were there to see Jeter put on the pinstripes for the very last time as a player. That includes the Getty Images Sport team, who paid tribute to the future hall-of-famer in the best way they know how – in pictures.
We asked our photographers, each shooting from a different vantage point, to share their most memorable experience:
“I was positioned in the third base camera well, located just outside of the visiting team’s dugout,” explains Elsa. “From the start, I had my 400mm f2.8 lens on a Canon 1DX, which I used to shoot Jeter’s first at bat of the night. My original plan was to stick with that if the Yankees were leading and Jeter was still on the field for the end of the game.”
Everything was going according to plan. That is, until the Orioles’ first baseman Steve Pearce homered with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game. “It wasn’t the ending we were preparing for, but I knew if the Yankees could pull off the win, the celebration would be glorious.” With that in mind, Elsa decided to make an equipment change at the end of the inning. “I wanted to shoot it wider to allow for players leaping for joy in the frame, so I switched to a 300mm lens.”
When Jeter came up in the bottom of the ninth, it didn’t take long for her decision to pay off. “To be honest, the look of his swing wasn’t that great from my spot,” says Elsa. “But I kept shooting anyway and stayed on him as he rounded first. I didn’t even see Richardson score. As Jeter jumped in the air, the crowd roared so loud that it felt like a playoff game. It was one of the coolest moments I have photographed in my career. The planets aligned. I had a clean shot of him. I knew I had something. It was a very ‘Jeter’ ending to the night.”
“It’s really difficult to choose one image that tells the story of a game,” explains Mike Stobe. “Especially on such a special night and with the incredible way it ended.”
Stobe was positioned on the upper first base line, on a small photographer’s platform located on the concourse level behind the seated fans. From this elevated vantage point, using a Canon EOS 1Dx and a 400mm f2.8 lens, he could isolate Jeter, but also have a good look at any part of the field. “We had no idea what was going to happen or what they had planned for after the game,” says Stobe. “So the upper first position was important in case Al or Elsa got blocked or couldn’t see as well from where they were on the field level.”
“At numerous points throughout the game, the fans would continuously chant Derek Jeter’s name and he would acknowledge them in return,” explains Stobe. “This one particular time, he tipped his cap with his head down and it seemed as though he was trying to hide his emotions. Perhaps that was the moment when it really hit him that this would be his last game at Yankee Stadium. And perhaps, for a brief moment, he reflected on all that he had accomplished in his career. At least that’s what I imagined, and that’s the reason I really like this image.”
Considering that Al Bello has photographed Derek Jeter for the entirety of his baseball career, it’s not surprising that he found himself getting slightly sentimental during the game. “As the night unfolded, various little events would happen and I would say to myself, ‘well, that’s the last time he’ll lead his teammates onto the field’ or ‘that’s the last time he’ll wave to the crowd.’”
For Bello, the entire 2014 season had been a long build up to that last home game. “I had put in so much energy over the season, getting as many good pictures of him as possible whenever I was working the game.” For months, he thought about this night over and over again, preparing for how he would shoot it. But in the end, it was a ‘read and react’ photo that captured the biggest moment of the night.
Shooting from the first base photo well with a his Canon EOS 1Dx and a 200-400mm f4 lens, Bello captured a great sequence of Jeter jumping around in celebration after his game-winning hit. “The stage was set for Jeter to be the hero. And once again he came through in the clutch,” says Bello. “I will always remember him as the ultimate winner and this photo will forever reinforce that feeling.”
“It’s strange to think about, but the last time I photographed Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium was when he got hurt during game one of the 2012 ALDS,” says Alex Trautwig, who was working as an editor at Thursday’s game but ended up shooting the last two innings. “Senior Editor, Mike Heiman and I discussed and decided that I should be in position to shoot Jeter’s last at bat, which we originally thought was going to be in the seventh inning. I was in a similar elevated position to Mike Stobe, except located on the third base side, effectively ensuring that all angles were covered.”
After the Yankees lost the lead in the top of the ninth inning, Trautwig remained out there. And, as is sometimes the case, he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Using a 400mm f2.8 lens on his Canon 1Dx, Trautwig kept his camera on Jeter after he connected on his game-winning hit. “I followed him as he rounded first base, never imagining that he would celebrate the way he did,” explains Trautwig. “It was such a pure moment for him and, as I watched it through the camera, I was pretty sure it would look good with a clean background.”
It’s no surprise that Trautwig, a native New Yorker, would be somewhat emotional about the night. “Having now had a few days to think about the game, and that moment in particular, it’s hard not to be a bit sad,” says Trautwig. “When Jeter hit the walk-off single, there was so much happening and so much adrenaline that it took a little while for me to fully appreciate the gravity of the moment. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have witnessed it.”