“Spiritual” NCAA Nicknames in Best About Sports

Fomer Illinois running back Red Grange“Spiritual” nicknames are especially defining in NCAA sports, and there’s certainly no shortage of them.

Out of 300+ NCAA Division I and hundreds of Division II and III athletic programs, many boast spiritual type nicknames and mascots and not just those of Gators, Ducks, Eagles, Tigers, Bulldogs, etc.

Clever “spiritual” nicknames and mascots capture the essence of a team, and they also personify a school’s history, geography, tradition or playing style or, in this case, its religious affiliation.

This unique group of divinely inspired college sports nicknames flies in to the #7 spot in my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.

Best About SportsThis “spiritually” themed assortment of nicknames covers everything from spirits in the sky to demonic entities of the underworld.

Perhaps the greatest singular “spiritual” college nickname of all-time belongs to the University of Illinois’ legendary Galloping Ghost, a phantom-like figure on the football field.

In addition to Red Grange, college sports boast a much broader collection of team oriented “spiritual” nicknames, covering the gamut from heavenly emissaries to dastardly hellions from the underworld.

The Friars (Dominican order of Catholic priests) from Providence College, the Battlin’ Bishops (honored leaders in the United Methodist Church) from Ohio Wesleyan University and the Dons (esteemed nobles in church hierarchy) from the University of San Francisco serve as both ambassadors of their faiths and noble nicknames for their respective schools.

Spiritual protectors also figure prominently in my collection. The Maccabees (Old Testament Jewish rebels) from Yeshiva University, the Griffins (Biblical winged lions) from Canisius College, the Threshers (Old Testament temple laborers) from Bethel College and the Crusaders from Holy Cross College and Valparaiso University all preside vigilantly over their respective campuses.

The spiritual references don’t stop at the campus gates.

The Quakers from the University of Pennsylvania, the Fighting Saints from St. Lawrence University and the Angels from Meredith College add to the spiritual collegiate atmosphere, making proud biblical scholars and church historians alike.

Because we’re talking college sports here, godly emissaries and fighters for their faith need to be particularly strong every time they suit up for their college or university.

These spiritual mascots do figurative battle against more than just fleshly competitors. As the Bible suggests, they war against principalities with equally strong and talented teams sporting different kinds of spiritual nicknames.

The university landscape is littered not merely with heavenly representation, but with demonic entities that challenge their authority.

Demons & Devils: Spiritual College Nicknames of a Different Sort

For example, demons and devils of every color, size and shape line up on the other side of the ball against righteous Friars, Dons, Bishops, Crusaders and Saints.

In addition, demons of the underworld try their talons against one another. Blue Devils from both Duke University and DePaul University may be the most famous nicknamed scoundrels in college sports.

However, scores of other imps and villains ply their devilish trade in college sports.

Sun Devils from Arizona State University, Dust Devils from Texas A & M International, Sea Devils from Cape Fear College, Red Devils from Dickinson College and Devils and Devilettes from Mississippi Valley State University wreak their havoc on the hardwood, track, football field and baseball diamond.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, you’ve got to love the diversity of “spiritualnicknames that pervade the landscape of college sports.

That’s why as a group, “spiritual” NCAA nicknames rank as my #7 pick in my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.

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#TBT Sports Blog: Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain

The Steel Curtain

This immovable football wall stood stoutly as the best defensive team ever assembled in the history of the National Football League.

It blitzes into today’s #TBT sports blog.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s totally tyrannized opposing NFL offenses.

The stellar defense helped the Steelers franchise capture all four Super Bowls they appeared in during that era – IX in 1975, X in 1976, XIII in 1979 and XIV in 1980.

Football fans apply the Steel Curtain nickname to Pittsburgh’s defensive ends L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White and defensive tackles Ernie Holmes and Mean Joe Greene, who won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in both 1972 and 1974.

Steel Curtain Reference Began as a Pittsburgh Radio Station Promo

However, the Steel Curtain reference began as part of a 1971 Pittsburgh radio station promotion.

The sports station asked fans to create interest from the Steelers’ fan base and coin a clever name to capture the team’s ultra tough and stingy 11 man defense.

Out of only 17 entries, WTAE Radio chose ninth grader Gregory Kronz’s Steel Curtain entry.

Blue-collared steel mill working Pittsburgh Steelers fans immediately embraced the Steel Curtain nickname. It quickly became a source of pride not only for the team, but also for the City of Pittsburgh.

Led by four future Hall of Famers, defensive tackle Greene, defensive back Mel Blount and linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, the 1976 Steel Curtain defense is perhaps the best the NFL has ever witnessed.

The team led the league in scoring defense with a 9.86 ppg average and total defense average of 260 ypg.

Anchored by the 1976 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Jack Lambert, the Steelers recorded five shutouts. Pittsburgh kept teams out of the end zone a remarkable eight of nine games during one stretch.

Pittsburgh’s Defense Dominated the 1970’s

During the 1970s the dominant Steel Curtain finished in all top 10 defensive categories every season. As a result of the play of two of their Hall of Fame athletes, the NFL instituted new rules.

Because of their inability to block defensive lineman Joe Greene, NFL offensive linemen could now utilize their hands to block.

And, because of defensive back Mel Blount’s blanketing bump and run coverage, receivers could not be touched after they were five yards off the line of scrimmage.

Admiring fans may struggle to find the right words, like immovable or invincible, to accurately label the Steelers’ defense of the 1970s.

My suggestion is simple. Just refer to these Steel Curtain defenders as four time Super Bowl Champions.

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#TBT Sports Blog: NFL Immaculate Reception

Franco Harris Immaculate ReceptionToday’s #TBT sports blog recalls the Immaculate Reception – arguably the greatest play in NFL history.

That’s because in two days December 23 will mark 44 years since this legendary heavenly heave inexplicably became one of the most controversial plays in the annals of sports.

The Immaculate Reception is a clever twist and play on words. It’s designed around the miracle and two thousand year-old belief in the Catholic faith known as the Immaculate Conception or the birth of Christ to his virgin mother Mary.

Pittsburgh Sportscaster Myron Cope First Used the Name Immaculate Reception

Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope first used the brilliant name in the media. He described a last second pass play in a 1972 NFL Playoff Game between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cope called Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie Franco Harris’ miraculous catch, or reception of a deflected pass, in the 1972 playoff game’s final possession the Immaculate Reception. He credited Steelers fan Michael Ord for creating the nickname.

With the Steelers trailing 7 – 6 with 22 seconds to go, quarterback Terry Bradshaw tossed a desperate fourth down pass toward running back John Frenchy Fuqua. Oakland safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua at the time of the pass’ arrival. The deflected pass found the fingertips of running back Franco Harris. The Steelers’ running back miraculously caught the ball and fought off one Raiders defender. He then scored moments later, giving Pittsburgh an unexpected, last second 13 – 7 victory.

Harris’ catch, or Immaculate Reception, allowed the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game the following week against the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

To this day, the play is still passionately debated by faithful Oakland Raiders fans. They insist that Harris’ grab was illegal because Bradshaw’s pass struck Fuqua first before Tatum made contact.

NFL Rules Should Have Ruled Play Incomplete

According to NFL rules at the time, the pass would have been ruled incomplete. Oakland would have won the game if the pass did indeed touch Fuqua first. However, the refs ruled otherwise.

Even today, Pittsburgh Steelers fans talk about Franco Harris’ catch as the Immaculate Reception. They insist that divine intervention took place on the football field during that 1978 NFL Playoff Game.

Because of it, the Steelers won the game. But, the incredible win is said to be the turning point in the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise.

The Immaculate Reception helped turn a historically losing franchise into a winner and eventually into a five-time Super Bowl Champion.

That’s why this miraculous pass fittingly captures the #1 spot in my sports comic book cleverly called Spiritual Sports Favorites.

Click on the red cover above to safely download Spiritual Sports Favorites for 99 cents from Amazon. Enjoy the read.

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#TBT Sports Blog: Remembering “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe

Hockey great Gordie Howe

Today’s TBT sports blog remembers Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe.

The godfather of modern day hockey – Gordie Howe – also checks in at #4 in my sports comic book highlighting my all-time Hockey Favorites.

Here’s a chapter excerpt from my sports comic book about hockey.

“No one will ever argue that Gordie Howe’s lengthy, unmatched career earned him the nicknames Mr. Hockey and the King of Hockey.

The legendary #9 began playing hockey professionally in 1948 at the ripe age of 20.

Five decades later, Howe retired in 1980 at the unconscionable age 52.

Upon retirement, Gordie Howe held nearly every individual record in professional hockey. The 6’1” and 205 lb. right wing played an amazing 2,421 games, scored 1,071 goals, assisted on 1,518 others and made 29 all-star appearances.

Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe: Six-Time NHL MVP

Mr. Hockey was awarded six Hart trophies as the NHL Most Valuable Player and six Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer. He finished among the top five in scoring in the NHL for an incredible 20 consecutive seasons.

MIKE Hockey FavoritesIn addition to celebrating four Stanley Cup Championships with the Detroit Red Wings, Howe enjoyed an unprecedented accomplishment when he played for the New England Whalers, part of the now defunct World Hockey Association.

In a grueling sport that would certainly age most players prematurely, Gordie Howe displayed amazing longevity.

Howe became the only father in the history of professional sports to play with his own kids. In Howe’s case, he skated on the same pro hockey team with sons Mark and Marty in the 1973 – 74 WHA season.

Wayne Gretzky Wanted to Be Like Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe

Howe was so revered as the complete hockey player by Wayne Gretzky, that Gretzky was quoted as saying about this King of Hockey, ”I wanted to eat, sleep, look like and play hockey like Gordie Howe.”

Howe’s amazing longevity, rugged durability and incredible skill gained him entrance into 11 different sports halls of fame.

Also, the Canadian government bestowed upon him the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor.

Well deserved, Mr. Hockey!”

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The Heisman Trophy: A Brief History

college football's highest honor

Standing 13.5” tall and weighing in at a hefty 25 lbs., the iconic Heisman Trophy is unquestionably the most prestigious award in college sports.

The big bronze trophy easily stiff-arms all other potential choices to be the focus of today’s blog.

Tonight’s 83rd annual award ceremony will feature sterling quarterbacks Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Lamar Jackson (the 2016 Heisman winner) of Louisville as well as a mercurial talent at running back Bryce Love of Stanford.

A Brief Heisman Trophy History

Every December since 1935, the Heisman Trust in New York City awards the beautiful bronze trophy to “the nation’s most outstanding football player whose performance best exhibits the finest of excellence with integrity.”

Votes from 870 sports journalists, geographically located in six sections across the United States, plus previous Heisman Trophy winners and one collective vote from ESPN sports fans, are submitted to the Deloitte accounting firm. There the ballots are tabulated and governed by the Heisman Trust.

The annual winner is ceremoniously selected in New York City before a national television audience on ESPN.

Quarterbacks and running backs have dominated the Heisman Trophy selection process over the years. No primary defensive player has ever won the coveted trophy, although Michigan’s multi-talented Charles Woodson won the prize in 1997 as a game-changing defensive back, kick returner and punt returner.

Alabama’s bruising RB Derrick Henry won the award in 2015, while Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, all exciting, dual threat quarterbacks, have been the other most recent recipients of the venerated award.

Current NFL stars Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers QB), Mark Ingram, Jr. (New Orleans Saints RB) and Sam Bradford (St.Louis Rams QB) received the honor in 2010, 2009 and 2008 respectively.

OSU’s Archie Griffin Only Two Time Winner

Ohio State University’s Archie Griffin is the only two time winner (1974 and 1975) of the Heisman Trophy. Florida’s Tim Tebow became the first sophomore winner back in 2007, and Winston (2013) and Manziel (2012) emerged as the first freshmen.

In addition, Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame have witnessed seven winners each from their universities, while USC is the only NCAA school to have its Heisman winner, Reggie Bush in 2005, vacated for accepting improper benefits. Despite its rich football history, Alabama’s only Heisman winner has been Ingram.

What originally began as a great idea by former Auburn, Clemson and UPenn Coach John W. Heisman in 1935 has transformed into college athletics’ most celebrated acknowledgement.

Heisman Trophy winners form college football’s most famous and well-respected fraternity. These players will always be recognized for their extraordinary accomplishments.

Just like the famed Heisman Trophy pose, every college football player would stiff-arm and side-step all would-be competitors to carry home college football’s most prestigious annual award.

And, later this evening, sports fans will find out the name of that deserving college football player.

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Best About Sports: FREE Book & Favorite Football Cliches

MIKE Comic 164 Take What Defense Gives YouHere’s another lighthearted blog for a busy weekend full of both NFL football and anticipated holiday cheer.

Without a fleet of blockers in front of them, my top 10 favorite football clichés easily rush into the #23 spot in Best About Sports.

These ridiculous and sometimes exaggerated expressions capture the way we like to describe teams, plays and games.

They’re all couched in the language of metaphors and hyperbole, but sports fans easily relate.


How funny would it be if these figurative football clichés were actually taken literally?

The following is an excerpt from my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.

Click on the yellow cover below to safely download.

Best About Sports

Check out my coveted top 10 list:

10. The quarterback’s pass was a wounded duck – Much to the dismay of animal rights activists everywhere, this football cliché offers fans a perfect word picture of a quarterback under-throwing an open receiver with a wobbly, barely flight ready pass resembling an injured duck.

9. The other team is icing the kicker – It would definitely be a hoot watching a bunch of defenders dipping the other team’s kicker into a frozen pond?

8. The quarterback has a rifle for an arm – Anti-gun lobbyists wouldn’t be too happy about this one. Imagine seeing a player load a rifle or in this case his “arm” as he drops back to pass during a nationally televised game.

7. The quarterback has happy feet – I’d love to see athletically gifted quarterbacks like Russell, Cam Newton and Ty Taylor dancing around the pocket while musical notes rather than pieces of grass and dirt would form a wake behind their feet.

5. As seen in this blog’s comic, coaches always encourage their players to follow the game plan, don’t rush and always take what the defense gives them. Yet, these surprised players weren’t actually expecting flowers, candy and a gift box with a bow on it.

4. The fullback is pushing the pile – Instead of diving head first like a battering ram into a pile of linemen, imagine a 6’2” and 250 lb. blocking fullback actually pushing a gigantic pile of dirt and stones with helpless defenders atop it into the end zone. Priceless.

3. The running back coughed up the football – What a sight this one would be. Picture a fast and quick NFL running back, crouched down on his hands and knees. A series of retching up chucks a slimy football onto the grass.

2. The defense flushed the quarterback out of the pocket – I’d love to see a bunch of linebackers and defensive backs handling giant fire hoses pointed at the opposing team’s quarterback. Their objective is met as he’s washed away on his butt farther down the football field.

1. The defense just buried the quarterback – As players from both teams stand somberly around the grave site holding shovels, can you imagine a group of big, burly defensive linemen lowering a casket with the opposing team’s quarterback in it?

The expressions above represent only 10 of the countless football cliches that sports fans utilize every weekend when they tune into an NFL or NCAA game. Maybe I overlooked your favorite cliche.

Write me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if you have a few favorite football cliches that you believe should be on my list.

You might see your picks in my next book on what’s Best About Sports Volume 2.

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Friday Sports Funny: NBA Icon Isaiah Thomas on Bill Laimbeer

His Heinous Bill Laimbeer

Today’s Friday Sports Funny unearths a hilarious quote by former NBA champion Isaiah Thomas about Detroit Pistons teammate Bill Laimbeer.

“If I didn’t know Bill, I wouldn’t like him either.” ~ Isaiah Thomas

Teammate and friend Isaiah Thomas said this of his two-time NBA title winning teammate Bill Laimbeer, aptly known as His Heinous.

The mention of the name Bill Laimbeer instantly ignited heated basketball debates. Fans and opposing players cringed upon hearing Laimbeer’s name and quickly vented their disdain toward him.

Yes, the nickname His Heinous – meaning scary, evil, rotten, awful and beastly – expertly described Bill Laimbeer for his nasty play on the basketball court.

That NBA player most fans loved to hate, Laimbeer’s name comes up regularly as one of the league’s all time dirtiest players.

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Email me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if you have clever ideas for a future Friday Sports Funny comic or quote.

MIKE – the ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Boston College’s Doug Flutie

ESPN announcer Doug Flutie

The subject of today’s #TBT Sports Blog, Doug Flutie of Boston College, almost never got the chance to prove what he could do on the football field with a pig skin in his hand.

Boston College was the only Division I school to recruit the 5’9” and 175 lb. Doug Flutie and offer him an athletic scholarship.

Diminutive by big time college football quarterback standards, BC’s Doug Flutie didn’t have to wait long to prove to skeptics that he was a natural leader and an elite NCAA football play maker.

During an October 1981 game against Penn State, Flutie seized the opportunity as a fourth string freshman QB when unexpectedly called on in the fourth quarter during a blowout loss.

Flutie surprisingly passed for 135 yards in less than 15 minutes and showed uncommon cool and amazing athleticism for a freshman. Following the Penn State game and for the rest of his Boston College career, Flutie started every game as QB.

Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie: BC’s Best Players Ever

Along with Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, Doug Flutie ranks as the most celebrated athlete in Boston College history. The 1984 Heisman Trophy winner also received the two other most prestigious college football honors that same year. Flutie won the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback and the Maxwell Award as the top overall college football player.

In addition to his athletic achievements on the football field, Flutie’s alma mater recognized his academic excellence in the classroom by nominating him for a Rhodes Scholarship.

Doug Flutie finished his storied career in New England as Boston College’s all-time leading passer with 10,579 yards.

He is probably best remembered for his improbable pass during Thanksgiving Weekend in November 1984. During a high scoring, rain-soaked game, a scrambling Flutie threw a desperation pass more than 60 yards on the game’s final possession. Flutie’s Hail Mary pass found wide receiver Gerard Phelan in the end zone to give the Eagles a thrilling 47 – 45 victory over the favored Miami Hurricanes.

Flutie’s amazing pass is often remembered as one of the most incredible plays of all-time in any sport.

Boston College Retired Doug Flutie’s #22 Jersey

Boston College may have retired Doug Flutie’s #22 jersey, but the little quarterback’s legacy still looms large on the school’s campus.

A bronze life-size Doug Flutie statue greets fans as they enter Boston College’s Alumni Stadium to remind them of the always improvising, highly elusive, under-sized quarterback.

Now, a polished and extremely insightful broadcaster for NBC Sports, Doug Flutie will always be remembered for his magical days as a truly talented and poised 5’9” quarterback at Boston College.

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#TBT Sports Blog: Former NY Jets QB Broadway Joe Namath

Hall of Fame QB Joe Namath

Today’s #TBT sports blog recalls one of the NFL’s most outspoken players – former New York Jets Super Bowl III winning QB Broadway Joe Namath.

Jazz singer George Benson crooned about the neon lights shining bright on Broadway. But, New York’s neon lights were never brighter than when New York Jets QB Joe Namath stole the spotlight during the 1968- 69 NFL season.

Just a short cab drive away from New York City’s theater district, Broadway Joe Namath was the main event at Shea Stadium where the New York Jets played.

Namath Featured in FREE Sports Comic Book

Namath talked big, played bigger and lived life even larger. That’s why he steps out on the stage in the #6 spot in my FREE sports comic book New York Sports Icons.

As chronicled in an HBO Sports documentary, Broadway Joe led his underdog New York Jets team to an upset Super Bowl III victory in 1969 over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Miami’s famed Orange Bowl.

Sherman Puckett, Namath’s teammate with the Jets, first called Namath Broadway Joe. Puckett saw how Namath loved the New York nightlife and the attention of the New York press.

Plus, Namath was not shy. He wore an assortment of full length fur coats on the Jets sidelines during games. This all happened before the NFL set specific rules on what NFL players could wear on game days.

In both his personality and appearance, Joe Namath was no member of the New York Jets’ chorus line. He was the highly costumed star and the central figure on his talented NFL team.

Broadway Joe Namath: Toast of the Town in New York City

And, in New York City, he was the toast of the town. Broadway Joe Namath began forty years ago the path of sports celebrity that today’s modern athletes like LeBron James, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Eli Manning, Tom Brady and others have followed.

In addition to dominating sports and entertainment headlines off the field, Namath excelled on the turf too. NFL.com rated this two-time AFL MVP and five-time AFL All-Star among the top 100 football players of all time.

Though #12 last laced ’em up on the football field in 1977, Namath’s reputation still lingers, especially among New York sports fans.

Since the late 1960s, many Broadway shows have come and gone in New York City. But, the curtain has never fallen on one of sports’ most unforgettable celebrities – Broadway Joe Namath.

It should be surprise to see Broadway Joe Namath’s name at #6 on the marquee of New York Sports Icons. Click HERE to safely download the FREE book.

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#TBT Sports Blog: MLB’s Mr. November Derek Jeter

MIKE Comic 48 Mr. NovemberToday’s #TBT sports blog remembers one of Major League Baseball’s most admired players ever – Derek Jeter.

In addition to his Captain Clutch nickname, this recently retired New York Yankee also came to be known as Mr. November.

Derek Jeter got the name through the unique circumstances surrounding the postponement of the 2001 World Series.

The former New York Yankee shortstop not only earned his own separate month on the calendar in Major League Baseball lore.

But, Jeter also will be remembered as one of the greatest players and most trustworthy athletes of his generation.

It’s only fitting, and maybe even a little coincidental, that we honor Mr. November at the beginning of the month of November – the morning after an exciting World Series Game 7 was decided the previous night, November 1st, when the Houston Astros captured their first world championship.

2001 World Series

Due to the shocking September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the Fall Classic between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks was delayed. Games were pushed back until late October.

The Yankees won Game 4 of the series when Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. This extra-inning game took place for the first time during the month of November. The Yankee Stadium scoreboard recognized Jeter’s historic moment and immediately called him Mr. November.

Derek Jeter Excelled in the Post Season

Historically, Derek Jeter excelled in the post-season where he won five World Series championships and batted an impressive .351. The Yankee shortstop also played in a total of 152 post-season games. During that time, he made 679 plate appearances and collected 191 hits. No wonder why Derek Jeter was known for being clutch.

In addition to his remarkable post-season statistics, Jeter served as a terrific role model during his 20 years with the New York Yankees. The Yankee great is expected to be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

This 1996 American League Rookie of the Year and 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player made 14 All-Star appearances. Mr. November’s also collected five Silver Slugger Awards and won five Gold Gloves.

The Late Don Zimmer Called Derek the All-time Yankee

Legendary baseball coach Don Zimmer appropriately called Jeter “the all-time Yankee.” Upon retiring last year, Jeter ranked as the all-time New York Yankees leader in hits, games played, stolen bases and at bats.

Over and above his baseball exploits, Derek Jeter’s leadership and ever present smile made him one of the most successful product spokesmen in sports.

Global brands like Nike, Gillette, Ford, VISA and Gatorade paid Mr. November handsomely to endorse their products – no matter what month of the year.Honor the Legend - Derek Jeter Retirement Day Gear at MLBShop.comFor Major League Baseball fans interested in authentic Derek Jeter sports memorabilia, simply click on the image above and visit MLB Shop.

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MIKE – the ultimate talking head on sports!

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