Jeter the 28th member of 3,000-hit club
NEW YORK (AP)
His first home run at Yankee Stadium this year, too.
A fitting crown for the captain.
The Yankees won the game 5-4.
With a swift swing of his shiny black bat, Jeter jolted himself into historic company, hitting a solo home run off Tampa Bay ace David Price in the third inning Saturday. He became the 28th major leaguer to hit the milestone and joined former teammate Wade Boggs as the only players to do it with a home run.
''Congratulations, first of all, to Derek Jeter on joining the 3,000 hit club. It is an exclusive honor, achieved by only a select group, that not many people can call their own. It is a monumental achievement,'' Boggs said in a statement. ''I had the opportunity to play with Derek when he was a rookie in 1996, and I had no doubts that Derek would reach this milestone. He is a very consistent player and he never deviated from his game.''
Jeter watched the ball fly as he left the batter's box and gave a big clap as he rounded first base. Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman was the first to salute Jeter, doffing his cap as Jeter passed by.
By then, all of Jeter's teammates were already celebrating in the dugout, raising their arms almost in unison. A special time for No. 2 — his second hit of the game, and right at 2 p.m.
The ball, one of the specially marked ones put in play for the occasion, disappeared into a cluster of fans a few rows beyond the wall. Christian Lopez of Highland Park, N.Y., sitting in Section 236, emerged with the valuable prize. He gladly gave the ball back to the Yankees so Jeter can have the momento.
Lopez, a cell phone salesman who was given tickets to the game by his girlfriend as a birthday present, was sitting in the first row of Section 236 in left field when Jeter's ball came soaring toward him and he dove for it on the floor.
Wearing a white shirt and a Yankees cap, he threw his hands up in elation at capturing the trophy, then was quickly hustled away by Yankees security.
Despite reports last week that the historic ball could fetch an astronomical price, Lopez later said he had no intention of keeping it.
"He [Jeter] deserves this, he worked so hard for this," Lopez told the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network. "I was not going to be the person to take it away from him."
In return, Yankees management showered Lopez with gifts, including tickets for the rest of the season.
Jeter 3K merchandise, meanwhile, began flying off the shelves at the souvenir stands. Hats, pins, shirts and more, all commemorating No. 3,000, hadn't gone on sale until it occurred.
True to his nature of staying focused on the game, Jeter briskly rounded the bases. But there was no way this moment was going to pass without plenty of fanfare.
Good buddy Jorge Posada greeted Jeter with a bear-hug after he touched home plate. Mariano Rivera and the rest of the Yankees were right behind, swallowing up Jeter before he could reach the dugout. The bullpen gate swung open, too, as New York's relievers came pouring in.
The 37-year-old Jeter, still in the midst of a most difficult season, waved to the crowd several times, then clenched his fist and pointed up to the box where his dad and steady girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, were sitting. His dad was in attendance on this sunny afternoon - his mom and sister were absent, attending a christening.
''It was tremendous,'' Jeter's father, Charles, told YES. ''I can't describe how I was feeling. We need a victory, first of all. ... Very emotional for me, very happy for him.''
Jeter desperately wanted to achieve the mark at home, and the Yankees only had two games left in the Bronx before the All-Star break, with an eight-game road trip looming to start the second half.
Manager Joe Girardi wasn't worried about Jeter trying too hard.
''He's never had a problem with pressure in his life,'' Girardi said before the game.
After his home run tied the score, Jeter remembered to honor his opponents. He pointed at Price while many of the Rays applauded the accomplishment, some of them coming out of the dugout to cheer.
Fans kept chanting and cheering throughout a celebration that lasted 3-4 minutes, and Jeter montages filled the videoboard for the next couple of innings.
Far away, the tributes began. Longtime Yankees great Don Mattingly, now manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, saw Jeter's shot on a TV in the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium.
''Only Jeet. Everything's like that with him,'' his former teammate said.
Having grounded a leadoff single to left field in the first inning — much like his first career hit on May 30, 1995, against Seattle's Tim Belcher at the old Kingdome — Jeter quickly achieved the milestone in his next at-bat.
Jeter casually chatted with Rays catcher John Jaso when he came to the plate, fouled off a couple of full-count deliveries and homered on Price's eighth pitch. Jeter, in fact, homered when the future All-Star lefty made his major league debut in 2008.
Jeter kept going, too. He doubled his next time up in the fifth inning for No. 3,001, breaking a tie with Roberto Clemente, and singled in the sixth for his fourth hit. He was the first big leaguer to get 3,000 since Craig Biggio in 2007, with Rafael Palmeiro, Rickey Henderson and Cal Ripken the previous players to get there.
There was a time when some wondered whether Jeter would have a chance to break Pete Rose's career record of 4,256 hits. Jeter, in fact, was eight days younger than Rose when he got to 3,000.
But Jeter has been slowing down. He came into the game hitting only .257 with just two home runs, and recently pulled out of his 12th All-Star game to rest the strained right calf that recently landed him on the disabled list.
Jeter hadn't homered at all since May 8, and this was his first homer at Yankee Stadium since last July 22.
All the Yankees greats left their distinct marks. Babe Ruth set the home run record, Lou Gehrig became the Iron Horse, Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, Yogi Berra won the most championships, Mickey Mantle launched the longest drives. They all won World Series rings, certainly, with Jeter owning five.
The 3,000 hits, that will be Jeter's legacy forever.
About the only people disappointed that Jeter hit 3,000 this day were the thousands of fans who lined up trying to get tickets, many of them having paid whopping amounts to get into Friday night's game that was rained out.
In the first days of spring training, Jeter said he would try to step back and enjoy the march to 3,000 in a way that he had not when setting previous milestones like the Yankee team hits record. But it has been a trying year.
He began the season poorly at the plate, hitting a meager .219 through April 20 as he fiddled with his mechanics. He jettisoned some of those adjustments in late April and improved shortly thereafter.
(NewsCore contributed to this report.)