Baseball world pauses to applaud Jeter
From Boggs to Braun, many across game appreciate milestone
When Orioles bench coach Willie Randolph walked into the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, the television was turned to the Rays-Yankees game in New York.
Derek Jeter was at the plate.
Never mind that Randolph's days with the Yankees, and with their legendary shortstop -- glory days, to be sure -- are long past.
"It gave me goosebumps," Randolph said. "It really did."
That could've been said for the rest of the baseball world as well.
Jeter's 3,000th hit on Saturday, a home run off David Price in the Yankees' 5-4 win, reached all corners of the game. From those who once coached Jeter and those who played with him, to Hall of Famers long retired and fans everywhere, Jeter's milestone instantly became a "where-were-you-when?" moment.
"I want to give him a big hug," Yankees icon Yogi Berra said. "It's an absolute wonderful accomplishment."
Tony Gwynn, himself a member of the elite club Jeter just joined, watched the feat in the Dodgers' clubhouse in Los Angeles. In Pittsburgh, where the Cubs were playing, Jeter's former teammate Alfonso Soriano was overjoyed.
The mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, was one of the first to release a statement.
"Long before joining the 3,000-hit club, Derek Jeter became another one of New York's icons because he represents what is best in the spirit of our city: an unbreakable belief that with hard work and determination, anything can be accomplished," Bloomberg said. "New York has a greater baseball tradition than any other city, but we've never had a player get all 3,000 hits in a New York uniform until today. Congratulations Derek -- you've made all of New York City proud."
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And at Yankee Stadium in New York, where Jeter pulled it off, the cascade of affection came all day long and will keep coming after the captain's 5-for-5 performance.
"Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game's greatest ambassadors," said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment."
"I am very happy for him and proud of what he has been able to accomplish in his career," said Bernie Williams, another Yankees lifer who captured four World Series rings with Jeter. "He's been the face of the franchise for 10 or 15 years now. He's the captain of the club, and he's carried that title with a lot of dignity. He has earned everything that he has been able to accomplish. This is a great milestone and will set him apart as a very special Yankee."
That Jeter is just the 28th player to reach the 3,000-hit mark, and the first to do so with the Yankees -- the game's most hallowed franchise -- doesn't fully express the magnitude of what the 37-year-old has done.
In Milwaukee, Ryan Braun -- one of the most well-rounded hitters in the game -- came into the day averaging 198 hits per season. That's a solid pace, and yet he was still 2,191 shy of Jeter.
"It's incredible, man," Braun said. "It seems like the day is befitting of who he is as a person and his character. It seems like this was deserving. Everything that I know about him, everything that you hear about him, he's an incredible person and an amazing ambassador for our game -- the face of our game for 10 years now. ... He's an incredible person, an incredible talent, and I think he's underrated. I don't think people appreciate what he's done as a shortstop."
Adrian Gonzalez, a dominant force for Jeter and the Yankees' American League East rival, the Boston Red Sox, has more hits than anyone this season. And Gonzalez notched only his 1,000th career hit last month.
"You've got to be really good for a lot of years," Gonzalez said. "He's been a great player, and he definitely deserves it. I don't think about it for myself at all."
Those that were close to Jeter in his earliest days of pro ball, though -- the ones who witnessed the ascension of the wiry kid from Michigan to future Hall of Famer -- might have felt the rush of sentimentality more than anyone.
"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," said Wade Boggs, a Hall of Famer and the only other player to notch 3,000 on a homer. "Reaching the 3,000-hit mark is another piece of the legacy that Derek has created. It won't be too long now before we are on the verandah in Cooperstown at the Otesaga Hotel celebrating his Induction to the Hall of Fame."
"Wow, that's special isn't it?" said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, Jeter's first big league manager in 1995. "It doesn't surprise me. Anything that he does doesn't surprise me. .. It's just typical. Derek's always been able to rise to the moment. To see his mom and dad there, that was cool."
That Jeter did it all in fairytale fashion wasn't lost on the baseball sphere. He had hits in all five of his at-bats, homered for the 3,000th and drove in the winning run with a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning. It was a game that embodied his canonized career.
"If you wrote a story, that would be the ending to it," said Terry Collins, the manager of the crosstown Mets. "His last game, when he's going to retire, he's going to get four hits, he's going to get the game-winner, he's going to make a play in the hole, he's going to make a jump-throw to first, nip the guy in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Yankees are going to win his last game. And win the World Series. It'll probably be in the bottom of the ninth in the World Series."
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.