Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Berra. Derek Jeter has passed them all. With a sharp single up the first base line against the Orioles last night, Jeter broke a record that has been standing since April, 1939. He now stands alone as the all-time leading hitter in New York Yankees history.
The New York Yankees, probably the most storied franchise in sports history, with the most famous players certainly in baseball history, and he know stands in front of them all.
It was nothing like Maris passing Ruth in 1961, or even like Cal Ripken Jr. passing Lou Gehrig in September, 1995 for consecutive games played. No, nothing iconic like that. But, it was special nonetheless. Anytime you pass someone like Lou Gehrig, it’s special.
After going 0-for-12 the past few games, we wondered how long it would take, but then Jeter went on a tear against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night and went 3-for-4, tying Lou Gehrig’s seven decade record of 2721 hits. Then we had a day to soak that in while the Yankees had an off day of Thursday. It appeared that we’d have to wait another day, as the rains came in and threatened the record for one more day, but they got the game in and it only took Jeter to his 2nd at bat to take care of business.
I’ve always liked Jeter, which is not easy for me to say, being a life-long New York Yankees hater. It’s really not my fault, I was brought up that way. Blame my dad. But how do you dislike this guy? After he tied Gehrig’s record against the Rays, he received a 3-minute standing ovation. One of his comments during his post-game press conference was that he was concerned with how that made the Rays feel. Who says that? Especially in this day and age when it’s such a ME world? Amazing. Nothing but class, all the way.
And you know how classy this guy is because his opponents feel that way too. Just look at Wednesday night when he tied the record. The Tampa players were giving him the same ovation that the fans were. They weren’t sitting in the dugout waiting for the adulation to end. They were applauding along with everyone else. Or, look at some of the comments from around the league:
Willie Randolph: It’s a tribute to his consistency, his work ethic, the fact he’s been fortunate to be healthy and out there every day, to the fact he’s accountable every day. I have so much respect for him as a person and a professional.
Kansas City manager Trey Hillman: When you put professional baseball players in the dictionary, he’s one of the first names that should come up. Especially since the game has moved more toward self than team, he’s the epitome of the team player.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge: He’s consistent, A lot of players come and go in that market, and he’s the one constant. And he takes on a leadership role, as well.
Reliever Brandon Donnelly: Jeter has been one of the best role models in Major League Baseball in recent history. He’s done it the right way, from start to finish, at the highest level and probably the hardest place to play. He’s been the face of Major League Baseball for years. You just don’t hear guys staying in one spot that long. For him to do everything he’s done, I think he’s earned every bit of his fame.
Tigers’ Brandon Inge: I can’t tell you how much I admire Derek Jeter, everything about him. He’s a symbol of everything that’s right about the game, as far as I’m concerned. He’s a great role model for other players. When I tell my kids or grandkids about the great players from my time, I’ll be proud to say I was on the same field with Derek Jeter.
Jeter got his first hit on May 30, 1995, at Seattle and set the Yankees record after 14 seasons of incredible consistency. His two singles Friday night gave him 1,363 hits at home and 1,360 on the road.
While he now has passed Gehrig, interestingly, he did it in fewer games, but more at bats.
No Yankees player has ever reached 3000 hits, but Jeter, at age 35, is poised to be the first. When all is said and done, he will be talked about, along with Ruth and Gehrig, as the greatest Yankees players of all time. His numbers now already lead you in that direction: 1st in singles (2004), 2nd in stolen bases (300), 4th in runs (1564), 4th in doubles (437). With approximately five more years to go in his career, barring injury, he will lead all of these categories, and many others.
One other side note: Jeter joins Colorado’s Todd Helton (2,113), Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford (1,274) and Texas’ Ivan Rodriguez (1,738) as active players who lead their franchise as all-time hits leaders.