Joe Namath: Derek Jeter an 'angel'


TAMPA, Fla. -- Broadway Joe became a Bronx Bomber for a day.

Wearing a full No. 12 uniform from stirrups to hat, Joe Namath laughed and smiled as he hung out with Derek Jeter and Reggie Jackson and served as Joe Girardi's "co-manager" for the New York Yankees' game against the Washington Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday.

The 70-year-old Namath threw out the first pitch -- a soft strike from just in front of the mound to a crouching Jeter -- and then told reporters that there is no comparison between his NFL career and that of the Yankees shortstop, who will retire after this season.

"Knowing the scrutiny that he's had over the years, I can't imagine how the guy could be an angel like this," Namath said. "He is to be respected for every phase of his life. Many of us fell short with some of that, but we learned to bounce back.

"It is human to err ... and I know about that. We do our best to come back. Derek hasn't made many errors that I've been able to witness."

Namath spent batting practice sitting behind the cage with Girardi before accompanying the Yankees manager to take out the lineup. He then sat with him in the dugout.

"I'm a baseball fan," Namath said. "I'm a Yankee fan. I'm a people fan. So, yeah, this is very special, and it brought back some memories too, sitting down there."

When Jeter arrived at his locker after pregame warm-ups, he called Jackson over to talk. Just before Jackson made it there, the media crowded around to ask about Namath. Jackson said that Jeter never talks.

"I always talk," Jeter said playfully. "I just don't stir s--- up like you."

Retorted Jackson: "Now you're banging on the all-time greats? Should I bring Namath in too?"

Jeter was effusive in his praise of Namath, with whom Jeter teamed for an electronics store commercial in his second full big league season.

"I didn't watch him play because I'm a little too young," the 39-year-old Jeter said. "But I admired his confidence."

Told that Namath called him an "angel," Jeter said, "It puts a lot of pressure on me."

Jeter wouldn't add any more when a reporter asked if he would follow Namath's lead and guarantee a title for the Yankees in 2014.

"He had less newspapers back then," Jeter said, referencing Namath's Super Bowl III promise. "Less Internet. That story would go viral now."

Smiling and laughing with everyone he met, Namath seemed to like having a uniform on again. He even said the pinstripe baseball pants made him think of his famous pantyhose commercial.

"Putting on these long stockings reminded me of that," Namath said.