BOSTON >> On the last day of his remarkable career, Derek Jeter performed one final amazing feat.
He brought Yankees and Red Sox fans together.
The rich and often antagonistic rivalry showed its softer side Sunday: A pregame ceremony honoring New York’s retiring captain produced numerous standing ovations from a crowd filled with shirts from both teams. Jeter tipped his helmet to fans when he left the game for a pinch runner in the third inning.
He had no idea that past captains of local pro teams would come out of the Red Sox dugout to embrace him as he stood on the outfield grass just behind shortstop during the ceremony.
“It was hard to envision what would happen because this is a place where we’ve been an enemy for a long, long time,” Jeter said, “and for them to flip the switch this last time coming here made me feel extremely proud.”
One by one, the captains came, starting with Carl Yastrzemski. He was Boston’s left fielder on Oct. 2, 1978 in one of the rivalries’ most memorable games. Captain Carl could only look up as a much-less accomplished Yankees shortstop, light-hitting Bucky Dent, lofted a three-run homer that lifted the Yankees to a 5-4 win in a one-game AL East playoff.
“I started thinking about how great this rivalry has been over the years and all the things that have happened — the playoff games, everything,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “And I don’t know how people could really unite a crowd like he did today.
“Such big rivals, so much history between the teams, but you would have thought that it was one team in a sense today. And I don’t know how many players can do that in any sport. But I think it shows you the respect he has even against your toughest rival.”
The other former captains who embraced Jeter during the half-hour ceremony were Jason Varitek of the Red Sox, Bobby Orr of the Bruins, Troy Brown of the New England Patriots and Paul Pierce of the Celtics.
At the start of the ceremony, the date “SEPTEMBER 28 2014” was removed, one character at a time, from the hand-operated scoreboard on the left-field wall and replaced by “WITH RESPECT 2 DEREK JETER.” Then the “S” in “RESPECT” was replaced by the No. 2.
Jeter, the designated hitter, waved his cap to a crowd as he left the dugout for his 153rd game at Fenway, including the playoffs, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig and Mantle for most among Yankees.
It’s the field where the Yankees clinched the AL championship series in 1999 and the AL East title in 2005. It’s also the place where the Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the 2004 ALCS then lost the next two games at Fenway and the series in New York. Boston went on to its first World Series title in 86 years.
Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia presented a base with a No. 2 and blue pinstripes on it to Jeter. He also received a green sign with white characters like those on the Green Monster scoreboard saying “RE2PECT.”
A video was shown of Jeter being doused in the Yankees clubhouse as part of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” inspired by former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a condition Frates is afflicted with. Then Frates rode onto the infield grass in his wheelchair and Jeter came in to greet him.
Michelle Brooks Thompson, a Massachusetts native from the Voice TV show, sang “Respect” on the infield dirt then Jeter shook hands and hugged her as the cheers poured down.
“I’ve been a part of some chants here at Fenway Park,” Jeter said with a laugh, “but I don’t know if any of them were good.”
After his chop single to third baseman Garin Cecchini — his 3,465th hit and 1,311th RBI — Jeter got a standing ovation as Brian McCann came out to pinch run and he slowly ran off the field to complete his 20th big league season, pointed to the Boston dugout and embraced pitcher Clay Buchholz.
He said he told Buchholz, “I know this is kind of odd but I just want to say I’ve enjoyed competing against you over the years and good luck.”
Approaching the Yankees dugout after the team’s last at-bat by a player with single-digit uniform number, the 40-year-old who has worn No. 2 since his rookie season lifted his helmet to recognize the cheers and was hugged on the warning track by Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner. Boston players stood in their dugout and applauded.
The ovation continued as others in his dugout congratulated their leader. Jeter’s parents watched from the stands.
The final hit left him with a .310 career batting average, raising it from 30945 to .30951. And it came at Fenway Park, the same field where Mantle played his finale exactly 46 years earlier.
Jeter had lined out to shortstop Jemile Weeks in the first inning.
The last active member of the Core Four that included Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, Jeter led the Yankees to 13 AL East titles, seven AL pennants and five World Series championships. He broke an ankle in the 2012 AL championship series opener and was limited to 17 games the following season. He dropped off this year to a .256 average with four homers and 50 RBIs.
Before the game, Boston manager John Farrell praised Jeter for “a grace and a dignity, an integrity that probably is unmatched by others.”
Jeter said he considered not playing in Boston after his dramatic walk off single in his Yankee Stadium finale on Thursday night. He sat out Friday night’s game but went 1 for 2 as the designated hitter Saturday.
“There were a lot of fans that told me that they came a long way to see these last games so I felt it was right to play,” he said. “I played out of respect for this rivalry and the fans.”