We don’t go to Yankee Stadium very often, but when we do, we happen to take in really amazing games completely by accident. (Case in point: the first of the four Yankee games we’ve seen in person in the past decade was Game Four of the 2001 World Series. Due to 9/11, it was the first Major League Baseball game ever played in November, and ended with Derek Jeter hitting a home run that won the game in the bottom of the tenth inning.)
So it was pretty amazing to get to witness Jeter today go five for five at bat — a pretty remarkable feat for any player in any game — and oh, at the same time, pull off career hits 2,999; 3,000(!); 3,001; 3,002; and 3,003.
Today was an exceptionally beautiful New York City summer afternoon for a ball game. Our first visit to the new Yankee Stadium proved that, boondoggle that it is from a development point of view, it’s a pretty comfortable park with great sight lines. Compared to the old stadium, it seems like you don’t feel very far from the players no mater where you are.
Like us, many people in the stands had bought their tickets weeks or months ago, long before any realistic sense of when “DJ3K” would actually happen. Over the past few weeks, we watched as Jeter ended up on the disabled list. When he came back, he was getting in about one hit a game. This week, that average put him at hitting number 3,000 approximately last night.
And then, the rain came and cancelled last night’s game, letting in the possibility that if Jeter could somehow hit two today, we in the park might get to see baseball history made in person. Most people sitting around us, though, seemed resigned to just enjoy the anticipation they’d be able to feel if he made it to 2,999, at least bringing the crowd to the brink.
They didn’t have to wait long. Starting at the top of the lineup, Jeter got his first hit at the start of the game. The crowd, already on its feet, was stunned: DJ3K was on, and we’d have the possibility of seeing it!
Again, when Jeter was back at bat not even a half hour alter, the crowd was on its feet. As he swung a few times, racking up fouls and balls and strikes, they were cheering him wildly. But by the time he had three balls and two strikes, they were nearly mute. As his bat made contact with the ball, and what looked like a pop fly went into the air, there was silence in our section. The ball went higher, and disappeared into the clouds and sunlight and outfield. When the fans incredulously realized that Jeter had gotten two hits in a row, and that the second was a homerun, and that, oh shit, that actually was number 3,000, there was much whooping and hollering and high-fiving. For about five minutes, everyone congratulated each other and screamed until they were hoarse.
Then there was a collective sigh because, as our baseball date put it, everyone was “Glad that’s over with. Now, let’s enjoy a game.”
Of course, Jeter didn’t stop shining. He went on to unbelievably hit five for five, with his last at bat driving in the winning run so that the Yankees beat the Rays. (Oh, yeah, there was another team playing, wasn’t there?)
It was one of those games where it didn’t matter who you were: a casual fan, a diehard pinstripe, someone who’d gotten your tickets to this particular game accidentally or from a scalper. Watching the Yankee Captain become the 28th player (and first ever Yankee) to hit 3,000 made for a pretty awesome excuse just to celebrate en masse being a New Yorker.
“Jeter 3000” video courtesy James Schmitz.