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Bill Dwyre: Angels honor Derek Jeter the right way

September 10, 2011 |  8:22 pm

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This weekend, the Angels tiptoed nicely around a ticklish situation, where public relations met baseball tradition and fan blind spots.

A couple of weeks after Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit, a baseball milestone achieved with a home run on a five-for-five night and one that means automatic Hall of Fame inclusion, a reporter asked the Angels whether there might be any ceremony at the Big A honoring Jeter. The Yankees were scheduled to come to town Sept. 9-11.

It seemed like a fairly harmless and appropriate thing to do. Baseball lives by its numbers, honors them and especially honors those who achieve them without any blemish of steroids or gambling. Jeter fit that description perfectly.

The reporter was told that the Angels respected Jeter greatly and that the team’s public relations staff had already been discussing how to honor him “as a player and a person.”

They even had a precedent. Years ago, the team had had a formal ceremony to pay homage to Cal Ripken’s record streak of longevity.

The reporter wrote of the potential ceremony, and the emails started pouring in to the Angels.

Many fans hated the idea. Jeter was a Yankee. Angels fans said they are to be hated. One woman called him, in an email, “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” Others were even less kind.

The reporter was surprised. So were the Angels, but both saw a silver lining in all this.

For years, Angels fans have been stereotyped as mostly upper-middle class types, with a lack of the typical blind fan passion for their team. They came, did their wave, bounced their beach balls around and went home, relatively unmoved by winning or losing.

Apparently not. Apparently, honoring a Yankee, even one as classy as Jeter, was some sort of violation of hometown loyalty.   

Still, honoring Jeter was a worthwhile thing. In a civilized world not blinded by home-team emotion, it was the right thing to do.

So the Angels put their heads together again and came up with a Plan B.

An hour or so before Friday night’s series opener, they gathered Jeter inside, between the clubhouses, and presented him with a painting they commissioned from artist Ken Auster of Laguna Beach. Posing with Jeter for the presentation were the two Angels most easily above the fray of fan anger and pettiness, Manager Mike Scioscia and veteran star outfielder Torii Hunter.

It was a good save, and Jordan Walden didn’t have to throw a pitch.

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-- Bill Dwyre

Photo: Derek Jeter admires the painting presented to him by the Angels' Mike Scioscia, left, and Torii Hunter. Credit: Tom Donoghue

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