Derek Jeter’s quest for his 3,000th hit is finally over and it ended in a way that not even the most seasoned movie producer would believe.
Not only did Jeter become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits with a solo home run in the third inning, he went 5-for-5 -- including the game-winning hit -- in a 5-4 win over the Rays.
The milestone hit occurred with one out in the third inning when Jeter hit a home run over the left field wall off David Price.
“If I would have tried to written it give it to someone, they wouldn’t have believed it. I wouldn’t have even bought it,” Jeter said. “It was just one of those special days. Coming in, I’d be lying to you guys for a long time, saying I wasn’t nervous and there’s no pressure.
“There’s a lot of pressure to do it here and I thought eventually I would get some hits but I felt a lot of pressure to do it here while we’re at home.”
After becoming the 28th member of the 3,000 hit club and first to accomplish the feat as a Yankee, Jeter received a thunderous ovation from the crowd. Longtime friend Jorge Posada was the first of his teammates to hug him at the plate. The Yankee relievers came racing in from the bullpen to join the celebration.
“It was very spontaneous,” Posada said. “Everybody went out there and gave him a big hug. I told him I was proud of him. I got a little emotional because I was so happy for him.”
“This definitely ranks number one to me,” Mariano Rivera said. “To be a part of that for me is an honor. The best thing for him is how he prepares himself for moments like this.”
As the crowd gave him a standing ovation, Jeter waved, then came out of the dugout for a curtain call before pointing to the Rays to express his appreciation for acknowledging the milestone.
“I don’t think you can script it any better,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This is already movie-ready, to get your 3,000th hit on a home run that ties the game and then to get 3,003 a game-winner. It’s just remarkable the day that he had.”
The anticipation for the hit began building when Jeter took his place in the on-deck circle during Brett Gardner’s at-bat. Hundreds of flashbulbs went off and the crowd rose to their feet as Jeter approached the box.
With all his teammates, most of the Rays on the dugout steps and every relief pitcher on both teams watching, Jeter stepped in. After fouling off a 2-2 changeup, Jeter reached a full count and then fouled off another fastball.
He fouled off a changeup and then sent a curveball well over the left field wall, joining Wade Boggs as the only members of the club to achieve 3,000 hits with a home run. Boggs did it in 1999 as a member of Tampa Bay.
“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," 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."
After his third home run and first at home in nearly a year, Jeter kept going. He passed Roberto Clemente with a double in the fifth, collected his fourth hit with a single to right in the sixth and then delivered the game-winning a hit, a single up the middle that scored Eduardo Nunez from third with the go-ahead run.
“It would have been really, really awkward to be out there doing interviews and waving to the crowd after the game if we would have lost,” Jeter said. “So that was going through my head my last at-bat. It’s nice to get a hit but we need to win this game.”
Jeter’s performance was his third career five-hit game. His others were May 23, 2001 against the Red Sox and June 20, 2005 against Tampa Bay. It was the second five-hit performance in a 3,000th hit game (Craig Biggio).
The wait ended a month-long hyped up atmosphere that will culminate with HBO showing a documentary.
“Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude,” managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization’s objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It’s only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals.
“Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment.”
“I want to give him a big hug,” Yankee legend and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said. “It's an absolute wonderful accomplishment.”
Jeter reached the verge of 3,000 hits with a hard-fought at-bat in the first inning against Price. He worked a full count, fouled out two pitches and then grounded hit number 2,999 into short left field.
When Jeter reached 3,000, he became the sixth to reach it in 17 seasons or fewer. The others are Pete Rose, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Paul Waner.
When Jeter reached the milestone, he joined Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken Jr. as the third member to join the club primarily playing shortstop.
“To have the most hits for the most prestigious franchise in all of sports is pretty special,” former Brewer Paul Molitor, who got his 3,000th hit in Sept. 1996, said. “If Derek stays healthy, he has a good chance to rack up a lot more hits.”
Molitor's former teammate Robin Yount, who played 1,479 of his 2,709 career games at shortstop and achieved his 3,000th hit in Sept. 1992, was similarly complimentary.
“I love what I see of Derek Jeter,” Yount said. “He is the complete package: a leader, clutch player, and lots of success on baseball’s biggest stage, New York. Being the complete package is something every player dreams of.”