Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop whose star-studded career coincided with the revival of baseball's most iconic franchise, announced that the 2014 season will be his last.
In a post on his Facebook fan page, Jeter, 39, said the 2013 season – in which he played just 17 games due to a broken ankle – " was a tough one for me," and that "some of the things that came easy to me became a struggle."
Jeter's announcement signals the end of what will be a 17-year career for a player impervious to scandal, even as he carried the highest profile in the game on its most scrutinized team.
"So really it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last," Jeter wrote. "As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100% sure."
He enters his final season with 3,316 hits, 10th on the all-time list. He was the 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, a season in which the Yankees won the first of five World Series championships with him as their shortstop.
Jeter wrote: "I will remember it all: the cheers, the boos, every win, all the plane trips, the bus rides, the clubhouses, the walks through the tunnel and every drive to and from the Bronx."
Jeter's final game, barring a Yankees playoff appearance, will come on Sept. 28 at Fenway Park. His final game at Yankee Stadium will be Sept. 25, against the Baltimore Orioles.
"In the 21-plus years in which I have served as Commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter," Bud Selig said in a statement. "Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the National Pastime on and off the field. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his – or any – era."
Save for a freak shoulder injury suffered in a 2003 baserunning collision, Jeter was a remarkably durable player throughout his career. But the beginning of the end came on Oct. 13, 2012, when he fractured his ankle during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
The injury required off-season surgery, and while Jeter returned during spring training, he suffered another ankle fracture, delaying his 2013 debut until July 11. A quadriceps injury, however, put him back on the disabled list after just one game, and he did not play again after Sept. 7.
His retirement will mark the end of the Yankees' Core Four era - a spanning almost two decades in which he, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte formed a dominant nucleus for a Yankee franchise always willing to spend money to fill needs around them.
Pettitte and Rivera officially retired after last season, Posada after 2011.
While Jeter was never the highest-paid player - his 10-year, $189 million contract signed in 2000 was quickly dwarfed by others - he connected with Yankee and baseball fans nationwide in a fashion far deeper than most of his well-paid colleagues.
One of them, Alex Rodriguez, joined the Yankees in a 2004 trade, but despite Rodriguez's superior physical gifts, he almost always became the example of what not to do even as Jeter's legend grew.
Linked to no shortage of starlets, Jeter somehow managed to keep much of his private life just that, while avoiding the public missteps that engulfed lesser stars. What's more, he never was linked to performance-enhancing drug use even as his career spanned the height of baseball's steroid era.
As Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and many others saw their legacies diminished by their connections with steroids and other banned substances, it only seemed to burnish Jeter's credentials as a highly marketable - and embraceable - icon.
Now, beginning next week when he reports to Steinbrenner Field for his final spring training as a player, the Yankees - and yes, even Major League Baseball at large - will ponder how to replace a star impervious to scandal and admired by millions.