Results tagged ‘ Craig Biggio ’
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Randy Johnson’s two seasons with the Yankees may not have been the finest hours of his remarkable career, but he has fond memories from his time in the Bronx.
Johnson was 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA combined for the Yankees in 2005 and ’06 but was roughed up in two American League Division Series starts (0-1, 6.92 ERA). To his credit, he did pitch with a shoulder ailment much of his second Yankees season when he had a 5.00 ERA.
“I still remember getting a phone call from George Steinbrenner welcoming me to play for the New York Yankees,” Johnson said in his induction speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “I also enjoyed playing for Joe Torre.”
The former Yankees manager, who was elected to the Hall in 2014, was among 49 former Hall of Famers seated on the platform for the ceremony honoring Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.
Johnson took note of another returning Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, when he said, “Look behind me and you can see the best who ever played this game. I had the honor of playing against many of these gentlemen. Some I watched on TV. But it would have have really been fun to face you, Reggie.”
I had a brief chat with Johnson over the weekend, and he told me that he had no regrets about his Yankees experience.
“I actually enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “I remember being able to sit in the dugout and talk pitching with Whitey Ford. How can you not love that?”
No sooner had the words come out of Johnson’s mouth, but Whitey and his wife, Joan, walked out onto the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel. That ended our conversation. The “Big Unit” went right over to the “Chairman of the Board” and spent the rest of the afternoon with him.
Craig Biggio, who grew up on Long Island and played college ball at Seton Hall, had kind words for Yogi Berra in his speech. Yogi was a coach with the Astros when Biggio broke into the majors in 1988 to begin a 20-season career, all in Houston, his adopted home town.
“Yogi was the smartest baseball man I ever knew,” Biggio said. “I know he is known for his Yogisms, but he had a solid knowledge of the game. When I was at Seton Hall, he and [then owner] John McMullen came to scout me. How many owners bring a Hall of Famer to watch some college kid play?”
Unfortunately, Yogi was unable to attend the ceremony.
I ran into Phil Niekro at the Saturday night reception in the Hall of Fame gallery, and he told me a story I had never heard before. On the last day of the 1985 season for the Yankees, Niekkro won his 300th game with a complete-game shutout of the Blue Jays in Toronto. The famed knuckleballer actually threw just one knuckler the whole game — the last pitch — and had the Jays off balance with an array of fastballs and changeups.
“We get back to Yankee Stadium after the flight from Toronto,” Niekro said, “and there in the players’ parking lot is a brand new, white Chrysler LeBaron convertible with a license plate reading ‘300WINS.’ I said to my teammates on the bus, ‘Hey, is there anyone else on this team that has 300 wins?’ It turned out to be a gift from George Steinbrenner. I was shocked. It was a good car, too. The problem was that I could not keep the license plate. It was stolen twice, once in Cleveland the year I played there and once in Atlanta when I went back to the Braves. But I loved that car.”
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — One of the many distinctions Mickey Mantle had in his legendary career was that for 45 years he was the only player who wore No. 7 to have his number retired. That changed this year when the Astros retired No. 7 in honor of Craig Biggio, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday alongside Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.
I chatted with Biggio, a native New Yorker from Smithtown, Long Island, who has made Houston his home, on the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel here about that situation. I asked him if he wore the number because of Mantle.
“No,” he said. “Actually, I sort of got the number by accident.”
Biggio recalled that in his second spring-training camp he asked for a number lower than the 67 he wore the previous year as a late-season callup.
“I had worn No. 44 when I played baseball and football in high school and hoped to get that number again,” Biggio said. “But the equipment manager said I was too thin to wear a double number. So I asked him if I could have ‘4.’ The problem was that another infielder had that number — Steve Lombardozzi, who was senior to me and had played on a World Series championship team [1987 Twins]. So they gave me No. 7, the only single digit that was available at the time.
“The irony is that Lombardozzi was cut just before we broke camp, and I made the team. I could have taken ‘4,’ but since I made the team wearing ‘7’ in camp, I figured I better keep it.”
Biggio would have made Mickey proud. He was an All-Star at three positions (catcher, second base, center field) and banged out 3,060 hits, of which 668 were doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. The only players in front of him are left-handed hitting Tris Speaker (792), Stan Musial (725) and Ty Cobb (724) and switch hitter Pete Rose (746). The active leader among right-handed batters is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols with 574. Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez has 532.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will salute the ballplayers who served during World War II and honor the contributions of a modern baseball pioneer’s legacy with two special recognitions during the annual Awards Presentation at Hall of Fame Weekend Saturday, July 25, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Hall will recognize all the players who served in World War II, with United States Navy Secretary Ray Mabus speaking on behalf of all military branches as America marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. More than 500 major leaguers joined the military during World War II, including Hall of Famers such as Bob Feller, who enlisted in the Navy just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941; and Hank Greenberg, who re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 after being drafted and serving in the Army in 1941 before being honorably discharged Dec. 5, 1941.
Thirty-six Hall of Famers – more than 11 percent of all Hall of Fame members – served during World War II, including eight players with the Yankees: Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing and Enos Slaughter. Other Hall of Famers with Yankees connections who served during WWII were executives Larry MacPhail and Lee MacPhail and manager Bob Lemon.
The rest of the Hall of Fame roster of World War II veterans were Feller, Greenberg, Luke Appling, Al Barlick, Willard Brown, Nestor Chylak, Mickey Cochrane, Leon Day, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Charlie Gehringer, Billy Herman, Monte Irvin, Ralph Kiner, Ted Lyons, Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese, Robin Roberts, Jackie Robinson, Red Schoendienst, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Bill Veeck, Ted Williams and Early Wynn.
The Museum will also pay tribute to the legacy and contributions of former Reds, Cardinals and Senators outfielder Curt Flood, whose test of the reserve clause via the United States Supreme Court in 1970 laid the groundwork for the advent of free agency several years later. Major League Players Association executive director Tony Clark will speak on behalf of Flood’s challenge of the system and contributions to the Supreme Court case that led to free agency.
A three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Flood petitioned the Court to allow him to choose his employer instead of being subject to a trade. Flood sat out the 1970 season. That year the Court ruled against Flood in a 5-to-3 decision. His efforts inspired pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to pick up the fight five years later when they challenged the reserve clause through the players’ right to binding arbitration in 1975. Flood passed away in 1997.
These two special recognitions will join the Museum’s annual presentation of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Dick Enberg, the television voice of the Padres, will receive the Frick Award. Tom Gage, who covered the Tigers for the Detroit News for 36 seasons, has been selected the Spink Award winner by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Now in its fifth year, the Awards Presentation takes place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at historic Doubleday Field, the day before the 2015 Induction Ceremony.
Admission for the Awards Presentation is free. The one-hour ceremony precedes the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends, featuring Hall of Fame members in a Main Street parade through Cooperstown.
The Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame features Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez and John Smoltz, who were all elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in January. More than 50 Hall of Famers are scheduled to be in Cooperstown to honor the Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the Clark Sports Center, which is one mile south of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
For more information on Hall of Fame Weekend, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/visit/hall-of-fame-weekend.
The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.
“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”
Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.
“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”
“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”
Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.
“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’
“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”
I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.
They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.
And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.
This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”
He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”
Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.
Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.
Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.
Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”
That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”
With each game it seems Derek Jeter reaches another milestone. He hit a pair of them in the first inning alone Monday night at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field in a four-hit game that was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing game for the Yankees. They blew leads of 3-0 and 6-5 with the White Sox using four home runs to construct a 9-6 victory as the Yanks’ lead in the American League East fell to four games over Tampa Bay.
Jeter led off the game with a single, which he does a lot. DJ is hitting .391 in 110 at-bats leading off games in 2012 and .355 in 872 at-bats for his career. The hit was career No. 3,252 for Jeter, who tied Nap Lajoie for 12th place on the all-time list. Jeter eventually scored on a two-out single by Mark Teixeira. That was career run No. 1,844 for Jeter as he tied Craig Biggio for 13th place on that all-time list.
It did not take Jeter long to break the tie with Lajoie with an infield single in the third for his 3,253rd career hit which left him only two behind No. 11 Eddie Murray. The Captain still has a way to go to catch the 12th-place guy in runs, Mel Ott, at 1,859.
Teixeira returned to the lineup after sitting out the weekend series at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox to nurse a sore left wrist. Curtis Granderson singled in a run in the second as the Yanks took a 3-0 lead against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, who was surrounded by base runners in his brief time on the mound.
Considering that Floyd allowed five hits, four walks and a hit batter, the Yankees should have done better than to just knock him out of the game one out into the third inning, but they stranded eight runners over the first five innings against Floyd and left-handed reliever Hector Santiago.
Freddy Garcia was cruising along until he hit a wall with one out in the fifth. After getting his eighth strikeout for the first out of the inning, Garcia put the next five batters on base. DeWayne Wise started Chicago’s comeback with a two-run home run off his former teammate. Wise had been a valuable utility outfielder for the Yankees before he was designated for assignment last month to create roster space for Ichiro Suzuki, who was acquired from the Mariners.
Garcia was replaced after loading the bases on a single and two walks. Manager Joe Girardi went to his bullpen using Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada and Joba Chamberlain, but after a force play and two singles the White Sox had taken a 5-3 lead.
Jeter led the Yankees’ comeback with a home run, his 11th, leading off the sixth, crawling one hit behind Murray. It was also Jeter’s 251st home run, which pushed him past Graig Nettles into ninth place on the franchise list. Ironically, it came on Nettles’ 68th birthday. The Yankees added two more runs on singles by Teixeira and pinch hitter Casey McGehee.
Chamberlain’s continuing troubles cost the Yankees the lead in the bottom of the sixth. He had given up a run-scoring single the previous inning and was taken deep by Gordon Beckham that tied the score again. Opposing hitters are batting .455 against Chamberlain, whose ERA swelled to 9.45.
Other relievers had problems, too. Boone Logan was touched for a two-run home run by Alexei Ramirez in the seventh inning and Derek Lowe yielded a solo shot to Adam Dunn in the eighth.
Jeter got even with Murray in lifetime hits when he doubled with two out in the seventh for his fourth hit of the game and 3,255th of his career. Cap leads the majors in hits with 167, five more than he had all of last year, and ranks third in the majors with 51 multi-hit games, six more than his 2011 total.
Curtis Granderson received the Heart and Hustle Award from another Yankees center fielder, Mickey Rivers, before Tuesday night’s game at Yankee Stadium. Granderson, the Yankees’ current center fielder, is the team’s representative for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s annual award to honor active player who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game.
The MLBPAA formed 30 committees comprised of alumni players with established relationships to each club. One player from each major league team is chosen by the committees based on the passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field. As the season draws to a close, fans, all alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners.
Previous overall winners were Craig Biggio in 2006 and ’07, Grady Sizemore in 2008, Albert Pujols in 2009, Roy Halladay in 2010 and Torii Hunter in 2011.
The final winner for 2012 will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the 13th annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York. The event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics, which impact more than 10,000 children each year. Two of my favorite people in the game, Dave Winfield and Rusty Staub, will be honored at this year’s dinner. To purchase tickets for the event, visit http://ow.ly/ch395.
Anyone expecting a head-hunting mission in the Yankees-Red Sox game Wednesday night was sorely mistaken, at least in the early inning work of Phil Hughes and Josh Beckett.
Collars got pretty hot Tuesday night when John Lackey hit Francisco Cervelli with a pitch in the at-bat following the catcher’s home run and somewhat over-expressive celebration. CC Sabathia and Matt Albers also hit batters Tuesday night, but the Lackey-Cervelli confrontation caused the dugouts to empty, although not much came of it except heated words.
If Lackey was targeting Cervelli, and the pitcher insisted he wasn’t, he picked the wrong time, since Cervelli was leading off the inning. Putting the 9-hole hitter on base to start an inning is pretty dumb, and it cost the Red Sox because Cervelli eventually came around to score.
Wednesday night, however, it was business as usual as the Yanks and the Red Sox concentrated on baseball.
Derek Jeter moved into the top 20 of all-time hitters with singles in his first two at-bats to pass Craig Biggio and take over 20th place with 3,061. That leaves the Captain 20 knocks behind No. 19 Cap Anson. DJ’s first hit was a single off the glove of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to score Eduardo Nunez, who had opened the inning with a double.
Hughes gave up the lead in the third. Marco Scutaro singled and Ellsbury doubled, and a big inning appeared on the way for Boston, but Hughes limited the damage by getting Dustin Pedroia on a grounder that scored the tying run and retiring Adrian Gonzalez on a fly ball. The Yankees then decided to walk David Ortiz intentionally and go after Jed Lowrie, a strategy that backfired when Lowrie singled to drive in the go-ahead run.
It’s too bad the Yankees didn’t walk Ortiz two innings later. After Gonzalez singled (his first hit in the series in eight at-bats) with two out, Ortiz drove a 3-2 fastball to center for his 28th homer and a 4-1 Boston lead.
Beckett hit Mark Teixeira at the start of the sixth, but the pitch was a breaking ball that got the first baseman in the foot, hardly a message pitch of any sort. Now it was the Yankees’ turn to take advantage of a leadoff hit batter, and did they ever.
Robinson Cano, an absolute hitting machine at Fenway Park, doubled to left-center to score Tex. Nick Swisher worked a walk, and Eric Chavez followed with a drive into the right field corner. The ball caromed past right fielder Josh Reddick, who quizzically was charged with an error that cost Chavez an RBI for one of the two runs he drove in to tie the score. What should have been a triple was instead scored a double and an error on Reddick and one RBI. Swisher is no track star, but I doubt Reddick was going to be able to throw him out at the plate. Besides, third base coach Rob Thompson had been waving Swisher home all the way, so it was not as if the ball getting by Reddick allowed Swisher to score.
The Yankees then regained the lead on Nunez’s sacrifice fly to center. Beckett may not have sent a message when he hit Teixeira, but the Yankees sure sent a message to Beckett.
It is no longer a question of if Derek Jeter can get his batting average to .300 this year. It is only a matter of time. The Captain keeps passing Hall of Famers on the career hits list while marching into the land of .300.
You keep hearing these days that batting average isn’t as relevant a statistic as it used to be. So how come they still put batting averages on the scoreboard? I agree that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better gauges of a player’s offensive profile, but hitting .300 is still a cool thing, particularly if you’re someone like Jeter who is not a traditional power hitter.
Jeter hits at or near the top of the lineup, a place where .300 hitters are always welcome. Jeter was being written off by the same people who say batting average doesn’t count for much anymore when he hit .270 last year and was stuck on .260 this year while on the disabled list due to a right calf injury.
Mickey Mantle told me in an interview years ago that the greatest disappointment as a player was that his career batting average fell below .300 at .298. Another Hall of Famer, Tigers great Al Kaline (.297), said the same thing. Sure, you can say those guys played in the 1950s and ‘60s when hitting .300 was still a big deal, but I maintain that the .300 level remains a badge of honor.
You won’t hear Jeter talk much about individual stats, which is one of his greatest attributes. The stat he plays for is the W. All he cares about is his team winning and what he can do to make that so. You can be sure that what he liked most about his third-inning single Wednesday night was that it scored Brett Gardner from second base to tie the score against the Athletics.
Maybe years from now DJ will remember that it was the hit that tied him with Rickey Henderson for 21st place on the all-time list. Jeter passed another Hall of Famer, Rod Carew, with his infield single in the first inning. Jeter can move into the top 20 with five more hits that would bring him even with Craig Biggio.
In the meantime, .300 is a knock away – literally. That 3,055th hit got Jeter to .299. This has been quite a ride for the Captain since his July 4 return. That spell on the DL could have been the best thing that happened to Jeter.
He got to step away from the game, take a look at himself with perspective and get in some work with old pal Gary Denbo, who preached the message of stay back and trust your hands. It was a simple message, really, but one that took hold after a long year of getting into bad habits such as jumping at the ball and top-handing everything.
By hitting .351 in 168 at-bats in the past 40 games, Jeter has raised his season batting average 39 points. In his previous 16 seasons in the majors, Jeter batted over .300 11 times. An even dozen is suddenly looking like a lock.
The jersey Derek Jeter wore when he became the 28th player in history – and the first Yankee – to get 3,000 hits in a major-league career will go on display Tuesday through the remainder of the 2011 calendar year at the New York Yankees Museum Presented by Bank of America.
The Captain reached the plateau in the third inning July 9 at Yankee Stadium with a home run off Tampa Bay lefthander David Price as part of a 5-for-5 game that included a game-winning, RBI single in the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the Rays.
Jeter joined former teammate Wade Boggs as the only players whose 3,000th hit was a home run. The five-hit game also matched the achievement of the previous player to reach 3,000 hits: Craig Biggio, in 2007 for the Houston Astros.
In addition to the historic Jeter jersey, fans should also check out the newly added “Latino Living Legends” exhibit. Constructed in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame, the exhibit pays homage to the six living Hall of Famers of Latino descent currently enshrined in Cooperstown – Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparicio, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Tony Pérez. The exhibit features player jerseys, trophies, collectible merchandise and autographed memorabilia.
The New York Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America is located on the Main Level of the Stadium near Gate 6. Guests can access the museum on game days from the time gates open until the end of the eighth inning, and on non-game days as part of the Yankee Stadium tours.
Move over, Craig Biggio, and make room for Derek Jeter.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Earlier, I wrote the same lede for a blog when Jeet cracked a home run for his 3,000th hit, matching Hall of Famer Wade Boggs as the only players to do that. Well, Biggio had been the only player to get his 3,000th hit in a five-hit game, and now he is not alone with that distinction.
That was the sort of day Jeter had Saturday at Yankee Stadium. He will have no problem years from now remembering July 9, 2011 because it was one of the best games of his career. One thing everyone agrees about Jeter is that he is all about winning, so the most satisfying of the quintet of hits he had was the single through a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning that scored Eduardo Nunez with the deciding run of a 5-4 victory over the Rays. If DJ had not been thrown out at second base trying to steal for the third out of the inning, it would have been a perfect day.
As it was, the day was magnificent for the Captain. It could not have been much better. A homer for 3-ding-ding, a threat for the cycle, the first five-hit game at the current Stadium all adding up to a Yankees victory. Type a script of this and send it to a Hollywood producer, and it would be torn up with the executive saying, “Now give me something plausible!”
“You don’t need a script,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s already movie-ready.”
“I wouldn’t even believe it,” Jeter said.
Yet it all happened in real life, not a movie. Jeter provided so many highlights in the past at the old Stadium and is doing the same at the new Stadium. The 2009 World Series was a starter, and Saturday was a continuation.
“This has to be number one, the first one to do it for the New York Yankees,” Mariano Rivera said. “When you think that [Babe] Ruth and [Yogi] Berra and [Joe] DiMaggio and [Mickey] Mantle did not do it, all Hall of Famers. I hope he has another one or two thousand more.”
Said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, “Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude. And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization’s objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It’s only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals. Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment.”
A crowd of 48,103 has an indelible memory to cling to, especially a guy from upstate New York named Christian Lopez, who got his hands on the 3,000th-hit home run and didn’t let go of the ball until he handed it to Jeter after the game.
“He actually took it away from his girlfriend, so he has some making up to do,” Jeter said.
After Jeter singled in the first inning, the anticipation so intensified that the dugout became over-populated. It seemed Girardi that everyone on the field level of the Stadium was in the dugout.
“It was like when we had one out to go in the 2009 World Series,” Girardi said. “The dugout was packed. He really knows how to do it, a big-time guy in the big moment.”
Waiting for Jeter as he crossed the plate was close buddy Jorge Posada, the first to hug the 28th member of baseball’s 3,000 Hit Club.
“It was very spontaneous,” Posada said. “I told him I was proud of him. I was so happy for him that I got emotional. He looks forward to things like this. There is nobody better in the clutch. You guys saw that in post-season play.”
“The best thing is how he prepares himself day in and day out,” said Rivera, who was able to chalk up his 22nd save by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth after Jeter’s eighth-inning single put the Yankees back into the lead. “To be honest, I was expecting a triple.”
That was the hit Jeter needed for the cycle. He had doubled in the fifth. To Jeter, the best part of the fifth hit was the RBI attached to it.
“It would have been awful to be out there on the field after the game being interviewed and waving to the crowd if we had lost,” Jeter said.
The Captain opened up a bit after the game, admitting that his answers to questions leading up to 3,000 hits were not entirely truthful, particularly those with regard to the pressure he felt about getting the milestone hit at Yankee Stadium.
“I have been lying to you, saying there was no pressure, but I felt a lot of pressure trying to do it here,” Jeter told reporters. “It would not have felt right if it happened somewhere else. I’m pretty happy the way it went.”
Jeter also said he changed his approach at the plate somewhat since coming off the disabled list earlier this week and was not as patient. He walked one time in five games. Jeter battled Rays lefthander David Price in the first inning running the count to 3-2 before hitting a single off a 95-mph fastball.
“He could have thrown the ball in the dugout, and I’d have swung at it,” Jeter said.
Price tried something different in the third when the count to Jeter again went to 3-2. He threw a curve that Jeter drove into baseball history. Price, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award in 2010, is a very quality pitcher to have given up a 3,000th hit. Only one player, Dave Winfield, Jeter’s favorite growing up, got his 3,000th off a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckerlsey, in 1993. The only Cy Young Award winner other than Eck to give up a 3,000th career hit was Frank Viola, to Rod Carew in 1985.
“I knew [left fielder Matt Joyce] wasn’t going to catch it,” Jeter said, “but I didn’t think it was going out. To be honest, I was relieved.”
DJ said he had never envisioned what the 3,000th hit would be and that “I didn’t care as long as [a fielder] didn’t catch it. I just didn’t want it to be a slow roller that they would replay forever.”
Knowing Jeter, he would like that game-winner in the eighth to be replayed alongside No. 3,000.