Fans try to fathom Jeter's achievement
Many travel miles to see one legend pull even with another
NEW YORK -- The anticipation started every time No. 9 batter Jose Molina stepped to the plate and Derek Jeter emerged from the shadows of the Yankees' dugout.
By the time the recording of Bob Sheppard's legendary voice filtered through the speakers, 50 Cent's lyrics -- Jeter's chosen at-bat song -- were barely audible above the thunderous applause. But on Wednesday night, there was little need for the rapper to command the fans to "Get up and watch me do my thing." The 45,848 fans who packed the new Yankee Stadium had been watching No. 2 all night.
Jeter, who entered Wednesday's 4-2 Yankees win over the Rays three hits shy of tying Lou Gehrig's franchise record of 2,721, went 3-for-4 to cement a permanent place next to the Iron Horse. Jeter's record-tying hit came on the first pitch of his at-bat in the seventh inning, a sharp grounder down the right-field line off rookie Jeff Niemann.
Pandemonium ensued, as Yankee Stadium and its fans shook with emotion -- awe, bewilderment and appreciation. As the standing crowd chanted Jeter's name, he took off his helmet and pointed up to the crowd, as if to signal his love for New York. Although he was standing on first base, Jeter had left his mark on the hearts of every person inside the park, as even the visiting Rays stopped to take part in the applause.
As the game stopped, phones starting buzzing, with shrieks of "Can you believe it?" becoming almost as common as sightings of Jeter's jersey, which dominated the backs of the Bronx faithful.
"It's very exciting -- definitely a night I'm going to save my ticket," said Dawn Buynoch, who secured her seat months ago and found herself -- for the first time -- selfishly rooting against Jeter on Monday and Tuesday, when the captain went hitless across 13 plate appearances and three games.
"I was hoping he would get at least one hit on [Tuesday] so we would have a shot to see it," Buynoch said. "But we just got lucky."
All-time Yankees hit leaders
|Derek Jeter passed Lou Gehrig and now has the most hits by a Yankee. Here are the top 10 Yankees leaders in hits.|
Some fans, like Rob Booth, weren't willing to leave it up to luck. The Nyack, N.Y., native -- a season ticket holder -- attended Monday and Tuesday's games and bolted back to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday after watching Jeter bunt for a single in his first at-bat.
"After I saw that [hit], I knew I had to get over here," Booth said. "I know Jeter is more concerned with the wins and that this game isn't about individual stuff, but he should take in the moment as much as he can. The pride and the history of Lou Gehrig's record is something he needs to stop and think about."
Jeter, who is enjoying a resurgent year, ended his slump by pushing a textbook bunt between Niemann and third baseman Evan Longoria to leg out an infield single in the first inning. After grounding out two innings later, Jeter blasted a 2-2 pitch to center field that one-hopped the fence for a ground-rule double in the fifth inning. Jeter's next at-bat further secured his status in Yankees lore.
"It has just been an incredible night," said Frank Huhn, a Long Island native who traveled nearly two hours to get to Wednesday's game but still wore an ear-to-ear grin.
"The only game better than this I ever saw was Aaron Boone's [pennant-winning home run in 2003]," Huhn said. "I think the pressure got to [Jeter] the last two games, and I'm glad he finally got it done."
Just then, a fan nearby started rubbing her eyes.
"Did this all really happen? I can't believe it," she yelled.
And for the fans lucky enough to sit inside the Yankees' brand-new ballpark, it was a sight that won't soon be forgotten.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.