Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater man does away with Jeter rookie card after the Yankee's histrionics


Yankees at Rays, top of the seventh, Derek Jeter at bat for the plunk heard 'round the world. Al Merrill, 87, watched from the sofa in his son's living room. Rays reliever Chad Qualls stood on the mound.

Al had been watching baseball all day Wednesday, at the Largo card shop where he builds $10 collector packs, but this game was the biggest. He had been a diehard Rays fan since their opener in 1998, when he watched his hero, Ted Williams, toss one of the first pitches. He wore his Carl Crawford jersey.

Al watched the pitch — fast, inside, striking with a loud thunk and sending Jeter into a whirlwind of pain. Jeter hopped toward the Yankees dugout, looking the very icon of suffering. The horror! The agony! Jeter's been hit!

Except he wasn't. Al knew by the first replay that Jeter was faking it. His rage built. Al is a quiet man, soft-spoken, generous, but at this moment he burned. Not for the plate umpire. Not for the instant replay. The Yankee captain himself. Jeter.

Al bleeds baseball, has since his grandfather taught him the rugged game of "base" as a boy in snowy Buffalo. He built up his baseball skills through high school until enlisting on Pearl Harbor Sunday, then read all about Williams, a slugger turned pilot, in the Stars & Stripes newspapers while at war overseas. When Merrill returned home, carrying a leg pocked by three German slugs, he gave up playing for coaching Little League, 23 seasons in all, including leading the Pueblos, a crew of teen girls in the Indian Rocks League, to Division 3 victory.

"Oh, Derek," Al shouted, struggling to his feet. "What in the hell did you do?"

Al's son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Janet, watched from their loungers as Al hustled the best he could to his apartment next door. Al opened his alphabetized box of rookie cards, leafed to the J's and found one of his rarest: a Derek Jeter rookie, 1993 Upper Deck SP foil run No. 279. In it, Jeter is fielding a ball, looking so young and innocent, a golden arc stamped above his clean-white Yankees pinstripes.

Al picked up his scissors.

As card collectors go, Al is a purist — he's never cut one and never sold one, except for that Mickey Mantle rookie when he yearned for a Lincoln Town Car. But he had rarely felt this angry before. He slipped Jeter from his protective sleeve, held Jeter in his hands and, like a spurned lover, snipped Jeter into eight jagged pieces. Still seething, he walked into the bathroom, wrapped Jeter in toilet paper and flushed Jeter out of his life.

If the latest Beckett Baseball price guide is to be believed, that flush cost Al $100, maybe more. It didn't matter, Al thought. It was finished.

Janet came to check on Al, thinking maybe he had gotten sick, and yelled back to Michael when she learned what Al's rage hath wrought. Michael clutched his stomach in laughter. Al said it wasn't very funny.

Jeter would get on base, the Rays would get the win and the fans would get their answer: yes, Jeter admitted, the ball had cracked off the knob of his bat. The nation would argue over gamesmanship and Jeter's legacy and the state of the game.

Al had already made up his mind. Jeter was going, going … gone.

Contact Drew Harwell at or (727) 445-4170.

Clearwater man does away with Jeter rookie card after the Yankee's histrionics 09/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 17, 2010 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Senate bill sacrifices health care for tax cuts


    No wonder Senate Republicans drafted their health care legislation in secret. Beneath the surface, it looks no better than the House version that even President Donald Trump has called mean. This remains a massive tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the poor, the middle class and the elderly, and it would cost …

    No wonder Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, above, drafted their health care legislation in secret. Beneath the surface, it looks no better than the House version that even President Donald Trump has called mean.
  2. UberEATS expands to more cities within Tampa Bay


    TAMPA — UberEATS is expanding its service area in Tampa Bay. Starting today, users in Gibsonton, Odessa, New Port Richey, Riverview and Tarpon Springs can have food dropped off at their location.

    UberEATS is expanding its service area in Tampa Bay. [Courtesy of UberEATS]
  3. Tenants face eviction as county and Dade City landlord battle

    Human Interest

    DADE CITY — Lianette Hernandez had hoped she and her family would soon move out of their one-bedroom home trailer in Lazy Breeze Mobile Home & RV Park. But not like this.

    Sarah Bryant-Lewis sits outside her home at Lazy Breeze Mobile Home & RV Park in Dade City. Bryant-Lewis and her family are among 10 households at the park that are being evicted. [Photo by Laura Newberry]
  4. Jameis Winston stats: How the Bucs QB performed under pressure


    Every quarterback's performance declines when he faces pressure from the defense.

    Of the 35 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 400 passes since 2015, Jameis Winston ranks 30th in completion percentage. He is third, however, in yards per completion. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  5. Could Lightning deal for a defenseman today?


    Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been trying to further bolster his blueline, and he may have a chance to acquire one by tonight's first round of the NHL Draft.

    The Lightning is reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks.