Jeter reaches 3,000 hits in style

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter rounds the bases after hitting a home run on Saturday. It was the...

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter rounds the bases after hitting a home run on Saturday. It was the 3,000th hit of his career. (AFP)

Bob Elliott, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:07 PM ET

We should not have been surprised.

Derek Jeter, who has amazed since he came out of Kalamazoo, Mich., reached the 3,000-hit milestone Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

With two games remaining before the all-star break and the possibility of the New York Yankees shortstop of collecting his 3,000 hit at Rogers Centre when plays resumes, Jeter went out and had a 5-for-5 afternoon.

Jeter was signed by the Yanks in 1992 by Dick (The Legend) Groch and the next season Jeter had 56 errors at class-A Greensboro.

Along with centre fielder Bernie Williams, the Yankees captain was the cornerstone of a rebirth for pro sports’ most storied franchise.

After not winning the World Series since 1978 and not making the post-season from 1981 to 1995, Jeter took over as a rookie for Tony Fernandez in 1996. The Yanks won the Series five of the next six seasons.

As he was approaching 3,000 hits, George Brett said he wanted to hit a ball up the middle, have an infielder make a great play and beat the throw by half a step for No. 3,000.

Jeter was never so insightful during his chase and was never considered a slugger. This was the 237th homer of his career.

He had been 4-for-18 (.222) this month since returning from an injury before this explosion.

He led off the game against lefty David Price with a single to left on a 3-2 pitch and then hit No. 3,000,

420 feet to left — his second longest homer ever — tying the game.

Next, he doubled and scored in the fifth, singled to right in the sixth and stole second and hit a run-scoring single in the eighth to break the 4-4 tie.

On his homer, he raced around the bases like it was his third or fourth of his career. He hugged teammates one-by-one at home plate and then paid tribute to Price and the rest of the Rays.

Jeter, 37, becomes the fourth youngest to reach 3,000 hits behind Ty Cobb (34 years, 244 days), Hank Aaron (36 years, 101 days) and Robin Yount (36 years, 359 days).

And believe it or else, he’s the first Yankee with 3,000.

Babe Ruth never did.

Joe DiMaggio never did.

Not Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle.

Only Jeter.

MEMORIES

How feisty was the late Dick Williams?

Former Montreal Expos coach Russ Nixon once told us of an Expos off day in San Diego where he hooked up with the former Padres manager to go fishing.

After some stories and a maybe the odd beer, both feel asleep in the boat in Mission Bay.

They awoke to hear someone on a loudspeaker from a naval destroyer, telling them they’d drifted far too close.

“Dick wakes up, stands and gives the guy heck,” Nixon said. “We’re in a row boat and Dick is yelling at a guy on a destroyer. We laughed at that one ... once we got back to the dock.”

Williams, the former Toronto Maple Leaf, won back-to-back World Series with the Oakland A’s (1972-73) and took the 1967 Boston Red Sox and 1984 Padres to the Series, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers respectively.

He always said his fifth trip to post-season play would have been the 1981 Montreal Expos had he not been fired that September.

Bob Smyth, sent to golf at the Cooperstown Classic Father’s Day weekend by former player Joey Votto, sat shoulder to shoulder with Williams last month.

“It was the first time we’d talked since 1966,” Smyth said from Ladysmith, B.C. “He and Ralph Houk were the best managers I ever saw. In 1966, when Dick managed the Maple Leafs I learned what pro ball was all about. He was a tough guy who always had time to answer my questions and encourage my interest.”

Smyth’s last conversation with the Hall of Fame manager was at a table along with Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, Jim Rice and others.

Smyth told Williams how he had been told “Larry Doby might have been better than Jackie Robinson.”

“Dick immediately sat up and got face to face with me and said “whoever told you that is dead wrong” with the same 1966 fire in his voice,” Smyth said. “Made my night.”

Smyth described Williams as a “great player, even better manager but most of all a true baseball person,” and he was deeply saddened by his passing, Williams was “one of my heroes.”

MINOR MATTERS

Scout: “I was there for Dustin McGowan’s first outing with Dunedin and he was 97 m.p.h. My guess? He’ll be back with the Jays by September at the latest.” ... Jays have the Pitch-f/x similar to the ‘K zone’ shown on ESPN’s Game of the Week at their minor-league parks to gather data on swings and misses as well as monitor how many strikes each pitcher throws ... There is a car with a set of Ontario plates in the Lansing player’s lot. It belongs to strength and conditioning coach Jason Dowse of Cannington, Ont., an intern with the Jays a year ago. And Lansing’s trainer is Toronto’s James Gardiner, a former Brock University Badger. “Players ask if I played when we start long toss at 120 feet.” ... Scout II: “I’ll give you a better comparison to Lansing outfielder Michael Crouse ... Jermaine Dye.”

BRIEFLY

Oh my goodness, when ESPN’s Baseball Tonight shows highlights with the voiceover you’d swear it was Gregg Zaun when it comes to tone and inflection of voice, even similar expressions. Except it’s Jamie Moyer ... Rockies’ Aaron Cook may be at the end. He’s 0-4 with a 5.82 ERA in six starts. Lefthanders are hitting .403. Cook hasn’t hit 90 m.p.h. and has a 7.50 ERA plus a .416 average against in first three innings compared to 3.94 ERA and .246 average against after the third ... White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen started left-handed hitting Adam Dunn against Royals lefty Bruce Chen on Wednesday, overlooking Dunn’s .034 average against lefties (2-for-58). “Have you seen Bruce Chen pitch? I might get an at-bat.”

SAD FOUL-BALL TALE

We’ve always been amazed with fans’ fascination of going home from a game with a baseball.

Hank Aaron’s record-breaking homer or Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit maybe?

This week’s tragic death of fire fighter Shannon Stewart, 39, when he fell over a railing in Arlington, Tex., reminded me a spring in the late 1980s at Sarasota, Fla.

The Blue Jays were in to play the Chicago White Sox.

The day before, as fans lined up outside on the busy street for tickets, a batting practice foul ball cleared the grandstand, bouncing into the street.

Without looking a fan raced into traffic and was fatally hit by a car.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR PICKS

With 36 days remaining to the deadline to sign drafted players (or else teams lose their rights) the Jays are 1-for-their-first-17 draft picks, signing right-hander Joe Musgrove, a high schooler from El Cajon, Calif. for $500,000 U.S. Musgrove was a sandwich pick, selected 46th over all.

Some say second-round pick lefty Daniel Norris of Johnson City, Tenn., who committed to Vanderbilt University, has not received an offer as yet.

A total of 16 drafted Canadians and four free-agents have signed, but the top two Canucks have not: Right-hander Tom Robson of Ladner, B.C., a fourth-round choice of the Jays and first baseman Trevor Gretzky of Thousand Oaks, Calif., chosen in the seventh round by the Chicago Cubs.

FIRST SQUEEZE?

When Davey Johnson took over the Washington Nationals he wanted more three-run homers and less bunting.

Over a 17-inning stretch from Monday-Tuesday this week, the Nationals scored six runs on a ground out, bases-loaded walk, wild pitch, fielder’s choice, throwing error and an infield single.

With Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman scuffling, Johnson attempted a suicide squeeze in the seventh of a tie game Wednesday. Two pitches after Wilson Ramos missed the sign, he swung away and nearly killed a hard-charging Michael Morse with a foul ball. Ramos’ second attempt worked, and Morse scored the eventual winning run against the Cubs.

Johnson claimed it was the first squeeze called in his managerial career.

Research on baseball-reference.com Play Index shows the New York Mets pulled off a successful squeeze on June 30, 1988, with Johnson asking Wally Backman to bunt Dave Magadan home.

MY BEST DAY IN BASEBALL

Charlie Manuel

Oct. 27, 2008

“It would have to be the day we won the World Series,” said Manuel, who gained his first Series ring managing the Phillies to a win over the Tampa Bay Rays after breaking into pro ball in 1963 as a 19-year at rookie-class Wytheville.

“It was only the second time the city had won and the first since 1980,” Manuel said. “After Brad Lidge struck out the final guy, I hugged my coaches, sat there watched the guys celebrate, run onto the field and hug each other.

“I’ve seen some phony stuff over the years in the post-season, but every second of that was genuine. It was real. It was happiness on our team and it was the same when we had 2-to-3 million people out to watch our parade through the streets a couple of days later.”


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