Some pet owners judge Jeter's name best in show
Over 17 seasons and nearly 3,000 hits Derek Jeter has inspired many dog owners who have named their pets after him.
The New York Times
In his 17 seasons in the Bronx, Derek Jeter has cemented his legacy as one of the great Yankees. He is the team's captain. He has five World Series rings. As of Friday, he was two hits shy of becoming the first Yankee to join baseball's 3,000-hit club.
Off the field, he has had a pretty good career, too, becoming the face of one of the most popular franchises in U.S. sports.
His success has allowed him to take his place among names like Ruth, Mantle and DiMaggio. It has also, it turns out, earned him a prominent place among another set of names — like Princess and Rocky, Lucky and Buddy and Coco.
New York City, you see, is home to 33 dogs actively registered under the name Jeter. Across the Hudson, at the Valley Animal Hospital in Clifton, N.J., there are seven clients who go by the name Jeter, and on a single mail route in nearby Montclair, there are at least two Jeters — both reported to be friendly. In Jersey City, a Labrador is named Jeter; in Stamford, Conn., the city's lone Jeter is a beagle.
Jack Beibel, 16, of Montclair said he named his dog Jeter because the shortstop was his favorite player. His cockapoo has taken to it.
"If we yell, 'Yankees,' he starts barking,' " Beibel said. "And if we yell, 'Red Sox,' he kneels down." Jeter, by this canine measure, is more popular than his teammates, according to statistics provided by the New York City Department of Health. There is, for instance, one licensed dog named A-Rod. There are eight licensed dogs named Tex in the city, although it is far from clear whether they are all named in honor of Mark Teixeira.
The phenomenon, though, has crossed into enemy territory, and has been realized in Jeter's hometown. There are, for instance, three dogs registered as Jeter in Worcester, Mass., and another in Cambridge, a mere bone's throw from Fenway Park.
In Kalamazoo, Mich., where Jeter grew up, there are four dogs named for the hometown hero. Oh, and two cats, too. But there has been, along with the harmless good fun, at least one truly solemn story involving a dog named Jeter. In Dayton, Ohio, a Great Pyrenees named after the shortstop died in a fire in June 2009 after alerting his owner about a fire in the basement of their home.
The owner, Glenda Moss, credited Jeter with saving her and her son's lives. "We named him Jeter because we always loved Derek Jeter and we respect him," said Moss, who has no ties to the New York area and is not a Yankees fan. "We believe that he has morals and that he really cares about the games. That's what we look for in baseball players. Do they respect the game or is it just a business for them?"
Moss rescued Jeter through the National Great Pyrenees Rescue and had him for three years before he died. The organization donated another dog to the family four months after the fire. Moss named her Maddux after the former major league pitcher Greg Maddux.
"He had the greatest social life," Moss said of Jeter, her dog. "Everybody loved him, and he loved everyone." Jon Levine and his family, also of Montclair, have a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Jeter with a couple connections to the almost certain Hall of Famer.
The Levines' Jeter was born on June 25, 2009 — one day before Derek Jeter's birthday — and was taken home to his new family on Sept. 11, 2009, the night Jeter passed Lou Gehrig on the Yankees' career hits list.
"The easy answer is I'm a die-hard Yankees fan," Levine said when asked about why he named his dog Jeter. "I was a big fan of Thurman Munson, and in my adult life, Jeter has played that role. He's the epitome of class and character."
The Jeter dog count is, by definition, fluid and perhaps imperfect (one cannot, for instance, say with certainty they are all named after the shortstop). The various agencies that keep track of such things list only dogs that are currently registered; there could be a few unlicensed, unregistered Jeters. There could be still other Jeters who have died since the Jeter who was the 1996 American League Rookie of the Year broke into the majors at age 21.
Naming pets after famous athletes is certainly not a recent development. With plenty of research, one could probably figure out how many Madduxes and Griffeys are out there. At the same time, naming dogs after athletes is not all that popular.
In New York, Jeter does not come close to cracking the city's 10 most popular dog names. That list consists of traditional dog names like Max, which 942 dogs answer to in the five boroughs. The only top name that could possibly be associated with an athlete is Rocky, which is the third-most popular name in the city, with 644 dogs licensed.
But pets are not the only Jeters around. According to the Social Security Administration, 47 baby boys nationwide were named Jeter in 2010, up from 39 in 2009. In 1998, five newborns were given the name.
Yet, Jeter as a baby name does not compare to another Yankees legend. In 1957, Mickey Mantle won the second of his back-to-back American league Most Valuable Player Awards and led the Yankees to the World Series title. That same, year 944 babies were named Mickey.
Trending on seattletimes.com
Most viewed photo galleries
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Homes -- New Home Showcase
Your Opinion Matters
Take our survey and enter to win $100. Enter Now!