Derek Jeter has put on a hitting clinic this weekend. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
For Yankee fans born after 1939, Lou Gehrig exists in legend. His is an image in black-and-white photos, grainy TV footage and, of course, seminal speeches. He was, even as he approaching death, the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. We know him as a retired number, a plaque and a Yankee Great.
Today, as the Yankees battle for the pride of third place, we all saw another Yankee Great in action. In my mind, it’s hard to link Derek Jeter with Lou Gehrig simply because Gehrig is who he is. But there’s Derek Jeter, and in seventy years, when someone else great comes along, they’ll talk about Derek Jeter with the same reverence we reserve for Lou Gehrig now.
When the Yankees came back to the Bronx after their four-town road trip, Derek Jeter needed to collect ten hits in ten games to establish himself as the all-time hits leader at Yankee Stadium. The man he’s shooting to pass is, of course, Lou Gehrig. Well, Jeter has responded in a big way. In his last 14 ABs spanning the first three games of the last homestand in Yankee Stadium history, Jeter has collected 12 hits.
In the fifth inning today, Jeter tied Lou Gehrig’s record of 1269 hits, and he did it in grand fashion. As has long been Derek’s wont, Number Two lofted a ball the opposite field and over the right-center field wall for a home run. It was Derek’s 206th career home run and the 106th he’s hit at Yankee Stadium. More than a bunt single or a booming double, this home run allowed Jeter to trot around the bases, enjoying the adulation of a crowd who knew they were watching one of the all-time Yankee Greats accomplish a once-in-a-lifetime feat.
Meanwhile, the Yanks handily downed the Rays today. As our team limps to a middle-of-the-pack finish, they wrapped up the season series with the Rays, winning two of three this weekend and 11 of 18. Carl Pavano, strong enough until tweaking his hip, picked up his third win of the season. The oft-injured righty says he’ll make his next start on Friday. His career is probably depending on it.
Four batters into the Yanks’ first, A-Rod launched a grand slam deep into the right field bleachers. The Yankees had a lead. They wouldn’t look back, and with Derek’s name atop the Yankee Stadium hit list, and Mariano Rivera on the mound, the final sight my parents — lifelong Yankee fans — would see at the House that Ruth Built was a strike out as a Rivera cutter bore down on Willy Aybar. What a way for my parents to say their final good byes to Yankee Stadium.