Monday, March 3, 2014

When legends collide: Namath, Jeter meet

TAMPA, Fla. -- Two of the most celebrated icons in New York sports history compared notes on Monday, when Joe Namath and Derek Jeter crossed paths before the Yankees' Grapefruit League game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Dressed in a Yankees uniform with his old No. 12 on the back, Namath chatted with Jeter in the dugout and lauded the shortstop for the way he has conducted himself on and off the field during his career.
"Knowing the scrutiny that he's had over the years, I can't imagine how the guy could be an angel like this," Namath said. "He's to be respected in every phase of his life, it seems.
"Many of us fell short with some of that, but you learn to bounce back. It's human to err, and I know about that. We do our best to come back. Derek hasn't made many errors that I've witnessed."
Jeter met Namath once before, shooting a commercial for the now-defunct Nobody Beats the Wiz electronics chain in 1997. Their conversation that day was brief, Jeter said.
"I didn't watch him play football because I'm too young, but I've admired his confidence, the confidence he played with," Jeter said. "It's one of the perks you get playing here; you get to meet a lot of special people over the years."
Asked if he might follow Namath's example and guarantee a World Series victory for the Yankees this season, as Namath did for the Jets before their Super Bowl III matchup with the Baltimore Colts, Jeter shook his head.
"No. He had less newspapers back then, less Internet," Jeter said. "The story would go viral now."
Namath watched batting practice from behind the cage with manager Joe Girardi, who said that Namath would be given "co-manager" duties for the day.
The quarterback behind the Jets' only Super Bowl championship, Namath helped carry the lineup card to home plate and lobbed a ceremonial first pitch that was received by Jeter.
"It's special. This was an excitement from the get-go, when I talked to some folks about being here," Namath said. "I'm a baseball fan, I'm a Yankees fan, I'm a people fan. So yeah, this is very special."
Namath said that trying on the pinstripes reminded him of his Little League days, remarking that he was glad the uniforms are no longer made of itchy wool. He also spent some time talking with David Robertson, a fellow alum of the University of Alabama.
Despite his long-standing reputation as "Broadway Joe," a king of New York's nightlife scene during his playing days, Namath does not relate to the spotlight that has followed Jeter's career.
"Only if I had a big enough head to try to. No, he's special," Namath said. "Some of the things in life that athletes or people in the public eye go through, I can relate to a little bit -- but his career, where he's been and what he's done, I can't relate to all that.
"No, man. We accomplished a goal when I was a part of a couple of teams when I played and we won championships. He's done quite a bit more."

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