New York—Derek Jeter's importance to the Yankees and his place in baseball history has often defied statistical definition. But he now has a significant number to go next to his name.
Jeter collected his 3,000th career hit on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, a home run off Tampa Bay's David Price at 2 p.m. on the dot. It was his 237th homer, only his third this season- he is not known for hitting them, but neither was Wade Boggs, whose 3,000th hit in 1998 was also a home run. It was a long one, too, clearing the first section of seats in left and landing in the bleachers, where some lucky fan was likely to recoup a six-figure reward.
The home run was Jeter's first at Yankee Stadium in more than a year and tied the game in the third inning.
Jeter was mobbed by teammates after he crossed home plate, the crowd standing and cheering for several minutes, and calling Jeter out. Jeter emerged from the dugout and lifted his fist for another roar. The crowd chanted his name for several more minutes, until Curtis Granderson came up to bat at 2:04 p.m.
Jeter , 37,became the 28th player in major league history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, and entry into this group virtually assures future Hall of Fame status. With 60 more hits, he would move into the top 20 in history. It took Jeter 2,362 games to reach the mark; only seven have done it in fewer games, only six others have done it before turning 38.
The home run ball was caught in the bleachers by Christian Lopez, 23, of Highland Mills, N.Y., who returned the ball to Jeter. Yankee Stadium was filled for the occasion, many of the fans paying far above face value in anticipation that this could be the day. When the Yankees-Rays game on Friday was postponed by rain, it left Jeter needing two hits in two games to reach the milestone where he wanted most to do it, before his home fans.
Leading off the bottom of the first inning, Jeter worked the count full against David Price, then fouled off two pitches as the anticipation built. Then Jeter hit a ground ball between the third baseman and shortstop, a clean single, and the crowd erupted with a long, standing roar. One to go.
In the third inning, he came to bat with one out, again worked the count full and drove Price's curve ball far over the left-field wall. Jeter, who was first called up to the Yankees in 1995, got his first major league hit against Seattle's Tim Belcher on May 30 of that season. He became the Yankees starting shortstop at the start of the 1996 season, and got his 1,000th off Detroit's Steve Sparks on Sept. 25, 2000; his 2,000th on May 26, 2006 against Kansas City's Scott Elarton; and his 2,722nd, to break Lou Gehrig's Yankees record, on Sept. 11, 2009 against Baltimore's Chris Tillman.
Jeter went on to get five hits in the game, including a single in the bottom of the eighth inning to drive in the tie-breaking run and lift the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. So he now has 3,003 hits. Only Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, in 2007, got five hits in the game in which he reached 3,000.
A .312 career hitter, Jeter has averaged 206 hits per 162 games throughout his career, but his productivity has slowed since 2009, when he hit .334 with 212 hits. Last season he hit .270 with 179 hits. This year, having missed three weeks with a strained calf muscle, he's hitting .259 with 73 hits in 67 games, prompting suggestions he should be dropped to the bottom of the batting order. He came off the disabled list, six hits shy, on July 4 and and reach the goal in his fifth game since returning.