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End of an era: Jeter plans to retire after this season

Jeter

– One by one, Derek Jeter watched them walk away.

His baseball brothers in pinstripes, the gang that grew up champions.

Bernie Williams was the first to go. Then, best buddy Jorge Posada. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte said goodbye together just a few months ago.

And now, the last link to the latest run of New York Yankees dominance is ready to retire.

When the captain revealed Wednesday that 2014 will be his final season, it signaled the end of an era not only for the game’s most successful franchise, but all of Major League Baseball.

Jeter and pals from Jimmy Key to Alex Rodriguez produced a generation of sustained success, nearly two decades worth of winning by one special group of players.

We may never see the likes of it again – in any sport.

“It has been an incredible honor having a front row seat for one of the great players of all time,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement. “Derek has been a winner every step of the way.”

Jeter has led the Yankees to five World Series titles and seven American League pennants in 19 seasons. They won four championships in five years from 1996 to 2000, the last three in a row to become baseball’s most recent dynasty. Jeter was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, and the MVP of the 2000 World Series.

“Derek Jeter is Mr. Yankee of his era,” Yankees co-Chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. “He was the face of one of the greatest teams ever.”

Those are surely his favorite numbers – and surely his favorite memories, with Bernie and Mo and Andy and “Sado.”

They were just kids then, really. Just kids beginning to build a legacy that included 17 playoff appearances in 18 years.

“Now it is time for the next chapter,” Jeter wrote in announcing his decision with a long letter on his Facebook page.

Joe Girardi was the catcher on that 1996 team, the one that ended an 18-year title drought in the Bronx. Now, he manages the Yankees.

And still, the 39-year-old Jeter is prepping to play shortstop after injuries wrecked his 2013 season.

“He is unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees ever,” said Hal Steinbrenner, the club’s managing general partner. “He has meant so much to fans, the organization, my father and our family. I’m glad we have this year to celebrate everything he has meant to us and all the great things he still stands to accomplish.”

Of course, Jeter has racked up more than his share of individual achievements.

He ranks ninth on the career list with 3,316 hits, most in Yankees history. He owns a .312 lifetime batting average to go with 1,876 runs, 348 stolen bases, five Gold Gloves and 13 All-Star selections. Jeter is a career .321 hitter in seven World Series.

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