09/12/09 3:13 AM ET
Yankees marvel at Jeter's feat
Longtime teammates pay tribute after record-breaking hit
By Brittany Ghiroli / Special to MLB.com
But that didn't stop Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte from marveling at Derek Jeter's accomplishment any less.
The three were among the roughly 30 Yankees who cleared the dugout on Friday to trot out to first base after Jeter's third-inning single moved him past Lou Gehrig for sole possession of the franchise all-time hits record, at 2,722. The captain added a hit in the fourth inning to push what promises to be an ever-expanding record to 2,723.
"We've been playing so well lately, so we felt we could all really enjoy [Jeter's] moment," said Rodriguez, who led the group of players onto the field in what he deemed a spontaneous but well-deserved tribute.
"It's really all about [Jeter]," he said. "I think every player was more about his [record-setting] hit than anything else the last few days, which has been great."
It was a fitting tribute, as the already rain-delayed game stopped for three minutes following the record-breaking single, allowing some of the longtime Yankees to feel the magnitude of the moment.
"You knew he was special, you knew he carried himself a little bit different than a lot of other guys," said Friday's starter, Andy Pettitte, of the first time he saw Jeter in Greensboro, N.C., in 1992. "You knew really early that he was a great player, but not only was he a great player, he took it to another level in big situations and in great moments that could be made."
And Friday's moment was among the best, a fact that even a notoriously team-first player such as Jeter couldn't ignore. After reaching first, Jeter was greeted with a line of hugs from his teammates before doffing his helmet twice to the rousing home crowd of 46,771.
"I think you saw the closeness of the group to him [in the on-field celebration], even the guys who have only been here a year really appreciate and understood what he's done in his career," manager Joe Girardi said. "And he still has a ways to go. Passing a guy like Lou Gehrig, and he played every day, it's pretty amazing."
But for Jeter's teammates, the statistics weren't the only thing to marvel at.
"Fifty years from now, people are going to look at the back of the baseball card and see some crazy amount of hits, maybe in the mid-3,000s, maybe even 4,000, but it's not going to capture half the story," Rodriguez said. "For me, playing next to him, I've learned so much from him, he's motivated and inspired me."
Pettitte is equally enamored of Jeter's ability to continually grind out 162-game seasons at such a high level.
"To every day just get after it, play hard and never give at-bats away ... We've been on a run for a long time here, and it's a grind," Pettitte said. "It will wear you down, it will beat you down. And [guys like Jeter], they just push and push and push."
Entering this week's homestand, Jeter was three hits shy of tying the record. But a highly scrutinized 0-for-12 skid pushed his plans to Wednesday, when he went 3-for-4 to catch Gehrig in one fell swoop.
"He gets two or three hits every day. He went 0-for-12 when we first came home and you're like, 'What's wrong with you?' " said Posada, Jeter's longtime teammate and best friend. "We take him for granted sometimes because he is that good and he sets the standard so high.
"Nothing really surprises me when it comes to Derek Jeter. I admire him."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.