Bronx, NY—The day Yankees fans have been waiting for has arrived. Derek Jeter hit successfully for the 3,000th time in his career in the big leagues. The official start of the journey began on may 30, 1995, when Jeter struck his first Major League base hit off Tim Belcher of Seattle. Jeter hit successfully 11 more times in 1995. During each of the next 15 seasons, he never had fewer than 156 hits. The culmination of the long-awaited event could not have come in a more spectacular manner. The moment had been delayed by 18 games because of the three weeks Jeter spent on the disabled list due to a grade one hip strain.
On Monday, July 4, after two rehab games with the Trenton Thunder, Jeter returned to the Yankees lineup needing six hits to reach 3,000. In three games at Cleveland, Jeter hit successfully three times in 13 official trips to the plate.
Tickets were being sold to Yankees games against Tampa Bay from July 7 through 10 at a highly inflated price by scalpers. Yankees rooters were anxiously attempting to obtain tickets to the game in which Jeter would reach his magic number.
A crowd of 47,787 were present on Thursday, July 7 for the return of the Yanks to the Bronx in the hope of seeing history being made. Jeter doubled in his first at bat, hit # 2,998. Many in the crowd believed Jeter would achieve the goal that night as he was 6 for 10 against Tampa starter Jeff Niemann. Unfortunately for the fans, Jeter and the Yankees, he was unsuccessful in his next four at bats and the Yanks lost, 5-1, dropping to second place.
Heavy rain fell on the Bronx on Friday afternoon and evening. At shortly before 6 PM, the night’s game was cancelled. The Yankee brass with the intention of increasing Jeter’s opportunity to achieve the milestone hit at home and desirous of collecting another big gate, suggested that a day/night doubleheader be played on the next day. Tampa turned the plan down. The Yanks did not offer a one admission doubleheader because of the loss of the proceeds of a 48,000 fan crowd. The postponed game was to be made up on September 22.
The big day was to be Saturday afternoon, July 8. Jeter received the first of many prolonged ovations that afternoon as he strode to the plate in the first inning. With a 1-2 count, Jeter singled to left off lefty David Price for hit # 2,999. The crowd appeared tense and quiet throughout Jeter’s time at the plate, but erupted with a standing ovation as the ball passed the shortstop. Of the hit, Jeter said, “I was able to relax a bit after the first hit. It was huge.”
Jeter received another standing ovation as his name was announced for his second at bat during the third inning. With count 3-2, Jeter drove Price’s 55th pitch of the contest into the left field stands for a solo home run. Despite the reputations of 3,000 hit men like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray who have slugged more than 500 home runs in their careers, only Jeter and former Yankee Wade Boggs hit a homer for their 3,000 career hit.
For the two men, it must have seemed like déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra would have described it. In Price’s first game in the majors on September 14, 2008, Jeter’s 2,530th hit was a solo homer. The sell-out crowd of 48,103 responded with a prolonged standing ovation and the chant of Derek Jeter.
Yankees players rushed on to the field to individually congratulate the Yankee captain. Many of the Rays players left their dugout to applaud Jeter’s accomplishment. Posada described the team reaction, “Everybody went out there and gave him a big hug. I got very emotional out there.” Of the support of his teammates, Jeter related, “For your teammates to appreciate it is special.”
Jeter doubled to left in his third trip to the plate to bypass the gatekeeper, Roberto Clemente, of the 3,000 Hit Club and move into sole possession of the 27th place.
Jeter earned another standing ovation in the sixth as he singled to right with two out.
His most important at bat for the team came in the eighth. The crowd stood as Jeter approached the plate with Eduardo Nunez on third and one out. The score was tied at four. The crowd remained standing as Jeter singled through the idle to score the go-ahead run. This was only the third game in Jeter’s career in which he hit safely five times. He previously accomplished the feat on May 23, 2001 and June 21, 2005.
Jeter’s final base hit of the game accounted for the Yankees win. Had his club not won the contest, it would have spoiled the moment for Jeter, “If we didn’t win, it obviously would have put a damper on it.”
Jeter has now joined a very exclusive club. The Yankees captain is only the 28th player in major league history to achieve 3,000 hits. Only three (Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Robin Yount) were younger than Jeter’s 37 years and 13 days when he reached the milestone.
Jeter felt pressure to get the hit at home. He commented, “It wouldn’t have felt right to do it anyplace else.” He understated his reaction, “I’m pretty happy with how things went today.” He then said, “I don’t know if I can really describe it.”
He ended the post-game press conference with his true feelings, “I’d rather the focus to be on the team. Now we can move on to something else.’