About a year ago, when shortstop Derek Jeter passed Babe Ruth on the Yankees all-time hits list, the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum forwarded a request through the Yanks’ public relations office asking that Jeter consider donating something from that historic at bat that would forever link he and the Babe together.
Within a week’s time, an overnight parcel arrived at the Birthplace, and in it was Derek’s response to our appeal: his batting gloves from the at-bat…donated! This, from a guy we had never met, but who understood, I think, just how important sports heritage is, especially in the game of baseball, whose heavy tendency to compare present to past sets it apart from any other sport. That is why our museum can easily interpret the connection between Ruth and Jeter through those batting gloves.
With that said, it seemed appropriate that when Jeter smacked his historic 3,000th hit for a home run at Yankee Stadium last Saturday, the young fan who caught it opted to return the ball to the man who hit it. The 23-year-old and the star shortstop had something in common…the corny notion that the ball has more value as a heritage memento than as a collectible worth X amount of dollars.
The kid could have sold the ball for half a million, paid off his college bills, and had a nice nest egg. But his altruistic sense and his love for the game told him to do the right thing, and he did…no questions asked. The ball needed to be returned to the man to whom it meant the most, the man who, one year earlier, gave away his valued batting gloves to a sports museum in Baltimore, no questions asked.
What goes around…comes around.
See you out there.
Mike Gibbons is the executive director for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.