NEW YORK — With one emphatic shot that landed in the leftfield bleachers, Derek Jeter landed all by himself in the long and storied history of the Yankees. He hit a home run in the third inning on Saturday and became the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits, a milestone considered the gold standard for major league batters.
The ball went into the seats not more than 100 feet from Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, where Jeter is sure to be honored someday alongside the greatest Yankees.
“It’s a number that has meant a lot to the history of the game,” Jeter said of 3,000, after he totaled five hits, including the one that gave the Yankees a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. “To be the only Yankee to do anything is pretty special.
“This is the only team I ever wanted to play for, and to be the only one to do something like this, I don’t really know if I can describe it,” he said.
Fans at Yankee Stadium cheered for five minutes for Jeter, who long has played at the intersection of the franchise’s past and present. After he drove a 3-and-2 pitch deep into the stands, he rounded the bases and was greeted at the plate by the entire Yankees team. Each one hugged the captain, whose career records and popularity put him in the company of Yankees greats.
Jeter is only the 28th ballplayer to record 3,000 hits, a plateau that always has been synonymous with election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The distinction was one of the few that had until Saturday been beyond the reach of the most successful team ever in the sport.
“You’re talking about Babe Ruth to Yogi Berra to (Joe) DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle, all of those guys,” said Mariano Rivera, who came up through the minors with Jeter and has been his teammate for five World Series championships with the Yankees. “None of those has 3,000.”
Entering the game, Jeter had 2,998 and had only two days to attain the milestone at Yankee Stadium — something Jeter, the team and fans all dearly wanted. Jeter, smiling, admitted Saturday evening that he had been lying when he had told the media he was not concerned about doing it at home.
In the first inning, he drove a ground single to leftfield, which set up his at-bat in the third. It appeared that everyone in the sellout crowd of 48,103 was standing as he approached the plate. There were roars when the count reached three balls, two strikes and he hit two foul balls. The noise was piercing as he blasted a 78-mile-per-hour curveball from David Price well into the seats.
Before he left the dugout for two curtain calls, Jeter gestured to his parents, who were watching from one of the luxury suites.
Their son became only the second player to hit a home run for his 3,000th hit (Wade Boggs was the other). At 37 years, 13 days, he was the fourth youngest to reach 3,000 (behind Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Robin Yount). He is the 11th to have had all 3,000 hits with one team.
That he did it with a home run in front of the home fans was almost beyond belief. “If I would have tried to write it,” Jeter said, “I wouldn’t have even bought it, to be quite honest with you. It was just one of those special days.”
The Associated Press