Derek Jeter was always an understated superstar. He didn’t have the bravado of LeBron James, the dramatics of Alex Rodriguez or the controversy of Odell Beckham Jr. He was just “The Captain”. Sure, he had dalliances with some of the most famous women on the planet. But, more than anything else, Jeter was the leader of the biggest franchise in American sports. Where Jeter did have a proclivity for the dramatic though, was on the field. His famous flip to home plate against the Oakland As in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. The Jeffrey Maier home run. The walk off home run in the 2001 World Series to tie the Diamondbacks 2-2. These are but a few examples. Believe me, I could go on.
3000 hits is a historic mark in baseball, a feat only achieved by 32 men in the 150+ year history of the game. On July 9th 2011, in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, Jeter led off with a single off David Price. That was hit #2999. In his second at bat, the crowd were on their feet in anticipation as Jeter got into his stance. He was typically unaffected by the palpable tension in the stadium. To him, it was just a normal at bat. He had a job to do. Of course though, he did it in the most dramatic fashion, cranking a towering home run off David Price for number 3000. The Bronx erupted as their Captain became the first Yankee in history to reach 3000 hits, every one of them in Pinstripes.
Michael Kay, the announcer for YES Network, got the call absolutely right too. Capturing the gravity of the achievement and reflecting on the clutch greatness of “Mr November”, Kay crowed “3000! History with an exclamation point! Oh what a way to join the 3000 hit club! Derek Jeter has done it, in grand style!” Given Jeter’s repeated ability to deliver in the biggest spots for his team, it was fitting that he reached such a momentous personal milestone in this manner. Of course he did it in grand style. Nothing less should have been expected.
Wade Boggs and long time Jeter teammate Alex Rodriguez are the only other players to reach the 3000 hit club with a home run. Rodriguez also did it as a member of the Yankees. But, with the greatest respect to ARod, the Jeter milestone just felt that bit more special. ARod was the more talented player, no doubt. But to Yankee fans of this generation, Jeter will always be the most special. The Yankees are a team surrounded by mystique, aura and hated as much as they are adored. Jeter represents all of that, except even in the case of those who hate him, he still commands the biggest respect. Jeter was special and, in hitting such a historic plateau, it is only right that he did it in such a special manner. A bloop single in to right field just wouldn’t have been befitting. To further the point, it is often forgotten that Jeter went 5-5 on the day he reached 3000 hits. That should tell you enough. When it came down to the business end of things, Jeter never let his team down. It is only right that he enjoyed one of his best offensive performances on an occasion so meaningful to him personally.
My favourite moment of the 21st Century, when talking about North American sports, is Derek Jeter hitting the magical 3000 hit mark. Not so much getting to that mark, more so the way in which he got there. For that was reflective of the man who did it; it was special.