Steinbrenner shows admiration for Jeter
Owner calls captain, issues effusive statement on big night
NEW YORK -- Back in the quiet and the dryness of the clubhouse, with the game delayed and fans streaming out of a soggy Yankee Stadium on Friday, the phone rang. It was George.
"I really appreciated that," Derek Jeter said of the call from Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner, shortly after Jeter set the franchise record with 2,722 hits. "It was great to hear from him. I think our relationship has been well-documented throughout the years. We've been pretty close since I came up. We miss seeing him around here as much as we used to, but it was great to hear his voice, and he had a lot of great things to say."
The affection, it seems, was mutual. After Jeter laced a single down the right-field line to pass Lou Gehrig in the annals of Yankee history, Steinbrenner released a statement extolling the virtues of one of the franchise's most iconic players.
"For those who say today's game can't produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter," the statement read. "Game in and game out, he just produces. As historic and significant as becoming the Yankees' all-time hit leader is, the accomplishment is all the more impressive because Derek is one of the finest young men playing the game today.
"That combination of character and athletic ability is something he shares with the previous record holder, Lou Gehrig. It adds to the pride that the Yankees and our fans feel today. Every Yankees era has its giants. It's thrilling to watch Derek as he becomes one of the greats of his generation, if not of all time."
Over the past few seasons, the once-boisterous Steinbrenner has become virtually non-existent in the public realm, making few appearances -- he was last seen at the opening of new Yankee Stadium -- and limiting his comments to written statements released by his publicist.
On occasion, though, he remains in contact with his players. And Friday, if nothing else, was an occasion. Jeter's Yankees teammates idolize him as much as they fraternize with him. Everyone in the organization, from Steinbrenner on down, speaks of him with reverence.
Later in the night, Jeter signed a duplicate lineup card for another one of his fans -- manager Joe Girardi, who has worked to preserve a collection of mementos throughout the course of his baseball career.
"Derek's a very humble guy, and he's not going to talk about it much," Girardi said of the hits record. "But me, I'm very excited for those types of milestones."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.