Bravo, Derek Jeter. Bravo.

Thursday night is the perfect example of why baseball is the greatest game on planet earth. Just try and tell me otherwise. As a lifelong Orioles fan, I went from laughing maniacally when Steve Pearce belted a game-tying solo homer in the top of the ninth to appreciating an amazing moment in sports just a few minutes later when Jeter singled to right field with the walk off winner.

The guy has crushed the team I rooted for since the mid-90’s. Coming into his final game at Yankee Stadium, Jeter had slashed .295/.356/.429 in 290 games against the O’s over the course of his Hall of Fame career. Yet still, as The Captain waved good bye to the fan base that has driven me crazy for as long as I can remember, I couldn’t help but smile and be happy for the guy — a player I’ve rooted so hard against for all these years.

Yes, I know the farewell season tour has been a bit much, the patch is totally unnecessary and we’re all pretty tired of the #RE2PECT tweets, but Jeets deserved everything about last night. He deserved the clear weather for a game that seemed destined for a lengthy rain delay or, even worse, a postponement. He deserved the game-long DE-REK JE-TER chants from the crowd. He deserved the attention and the spotlight the baseball world shined on this game. He deserved to come up again in the ninth with a chance to be the hero and even deserved this pitch:

Jeter never taunted the Orioles, in 20 years, he never made postgame comments that led to bulletin board material in Baltimore and I don’t recall ever seeing him flip his bat after a clutch hit. It wasn’t his attitude, his swagger or cockiness that made me root so hard against him for all these years — it was the fact that he was always a winner for the enemy. It’s the team he played for that I couldn’t stand, the Orioles rivals — he was just the guy leading them. In fact, Jeter proved in his interview after the game how much of a standup guy he is:

The Orioles stayed in the dugout to watch Jeter say goodbye to Yankee fans and Jeter wished the O’s good luck in the postseason. “They deserve it,” he said.

In a game that had no meaning for the mathematically eliminated Yankees (and nearly no meaning for the Orioles at this point), seeing Jeter end his career in New York with a walkoff is the perfect ending to a storybook career. I’m glad I tuned in and I’m even more grateful that I was able to appreciate it as more than a tough loss for the O’s.