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Color by Numbers: Stepping Stones

A baseball player’s 3000th hit is often referred to as a milestone, but the plateau is really more of a destination. After all, very few hitters ever reach that level, and of the ones who do, not too many travel on much further.

The real milestones are all the dinks, dunks and drives that add up to a career. Even though the round numbers at the end are what we most remember, the smaller steps along the way can sometimes create our fondest memories. So, instead of looking forward to Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit, what better way to celebrate his accomplishment than by looking back over the previous 2,998?

What are your favorite Jeter moments? Listed below are some highlights culled from the Captain’s long road to 3,000.

May 30, 1995 (#1): One day after going 0-5 in his major league debut, Derek Jeter recorded his first major league hit on a ground ball pulled through the shortstop hole. The single, which came of the Mariners’ Tim Belcher, was an atypical hit for Jeter, who would quickly establish himself as a prolific opposite field hitter.

Breaking Down the Road to 3,000 Hits (click to enalrge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

April 2, 1996 (#13): Although Jeter played 12 games in 1995, he truly announced his presence on opening day in 1996. During the spring, an injury to Tony Fernandez thrust him into the role of an everyday shortstop, leading to inevitable questions about whether the 22-year old could handle such a prominent role. By the end of the game, Jeter had provided all the answers. Not only did he make a sensational over the shoulder catch, but the lanky rookie also delivered his first major league home run off Dennis Martinez.

Derek Jeter’s Favorite Victims

Visitor Stadium Hits   Opposing Pitchers Hits   Opposing Team Hits
Camden Yards 160 Tim Wakefield 32 Orioles 303
SkyDome 139 Sidney Ponson 29 Red Sox 286
Fenway Park 133 Rodrigo Lopez 26 Blue Jays 285
Tropicana Field 120 Josh Beckett 22 Rays 268
Angel Stadium 101 Jamie Moyer 22 Angels 194
Network Associates 94 Pedro Martinez 22 Rangers 179
Jacobs Field 93 Roy Halladay 22 Tigers 173
Rangers Ballpark 92 Aaron Sele 20 Mariners 171
Kauffman Stadium 72 David Wells 20 Indians 171
Safeco Field 71 Kelvim Escobar 18 Athletics 169

Source: Baseball-reference.com

September 21, 1996 (#190): With the score tied 11-11 in the bottom of the 10th inning of a game versus Boston, Jeter singled with the bases loaded to give the Yankees a walk off victory on national TV.  The winning tally was the first of  Jeter’s six game-ending hits to date.

August 20, 1997 (#345 and #347): For the first time in his career, Jeter belted two home runs in a game. The first was a lead off homer off the Angels Mark Langston, while the second (Jeter’s third hit of the game) was a three-run blast off Shigetoshi Hasegawa that helped provide the margin of victory. The Yankees’ shortstop would match the feat on nine other occasions.

May 6, 1998 (#423): Jeter’s ninth inning home run off old teammate John Wetteland gave the shortstop his first of only three games with five RBIs.

September 25, 1998 (#585): Jeter reached the 200-hit plateau for the first time with a first inning single of the Devil Rays’ Dave Eiland. Over the course of his career, he surpassed 200 hits in seven different seasons, the most every by a big league shortstop.

Most 200-Hit Seasons by a Shortstop*

Player Yrs From To
Derek Jeter 7 1998 2009
Michael Young 4 2004 2007
Miguel Tejada 3 2002 2006
Alex Rodriguez 3 1996 2001
Johnny Pesky 3 1942 1947
Cal Ripken 2 1983 1991
Garry Templeton 2 1977 1979
Harvey Kuenn 2 1953 1954

*Based on players with at least 80% of all games played at SS.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

September 26, 1999 (#798): The Devil Rays were the victims of another Jeter milestone when Steve Sparks surrendered a double to Jeter that plated his 100th RBI. That season would be the only time Jeter topped the century mark for RBIs. Also during 1999, Jeter established career highs in just about every major offensive category.

May 23, 2001 (#1060-1064): Jeter’s 5-5 performance against the Red Sox was the first of two times he had at least five hits and the only time he was perfect in doing so. Making the game more memorable was the fact that the first three tallies came off former Yankee David Cone.

May 13, 2003 (#1392): After missing six weeks with a dislocated shoulder suffered on opening day, Jeter returned to the lineup and was greeted by loud ovations before each at bat. Finally, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jeter rewarded the crowd with a single to left field off the Angels’ Brendan Donnelly. Although inconsequential to the game, Jeter’s ground ball through the third base hole was a comforting sight for the Yankees, who had played without their Captain for almost 40 games.

April 29, 2004 (#1561): Jeter entered the game against the Athletics mired in the worst slump of his career. In addition to a shockingly low average of .161, he was also in the midst of a nightmarish 0-32 stretch, which, for the first time in his career, elicited some boos from the Stadium crowd. However, Jeter’s bat finally awoke with a lead off homerun against Barry Zito. From that point forward, the Captain returned to form by batting .313/.368/.514.

April 5, 2005 (1737): On the heels of their historic collapse against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees opened the following the season with Boston on the schedule. In the first game, the Yankees enacted a measure of revenge behind the pinstripe debut of Randy Johnson, but when the Red Sox touched up Mariano Rivera for a blown save in the second, it seemed like the ghosts of the following season might be revisited. Instead, Jeter restored the karma by starting the ninth inning with a walk off home run versus Keith Foulke. To date, that homer remains the only walkoff in Jeter’s regular season career (he also had one in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series). Although mostly symbolic at the time, every victory over Boston proved vital as the division title was decided based on a head-to-head tie breaker.

June 18, 2005 (#1811): By 2005, Derek Jeter had accomplished just about everything. However, despite 155 plate appearances with the bases loaded, he had never hit a grand slam. That string, which at the time was the longest in the majors, was finally snapped when Jeter lined a fastball from the Cubs’ Joe Borowski over the left center field wall for a bases clearing homer.

May 26, 2006 (#2000): Jeter’s infield single off the Royals’ Scott Elarton wasn’t exactly a booming way to reach the 2,000 hit mark, but it counted just the same.

September 16, 2006 (2132): Jeter concluded a 25-game hitting streak, the longest of his career, with a fifth inning single against the Red Sox’ Josh Beckett. Over the span, which encompassed 106 at bats, Jeter batted .377/.432/.538.

Derek Jeter’s Longest Hitting Streaks

Strk Start Strk End G H BA OBP SLG
8/20/06 9/16/06 25 40 0.377 0.432 0.538
4/8/07 5/3/07 20 32 0.364 0.418 0.466
5/5/07 5/25/07 19 30 0.417 0.517 0.597
9/13/07 4/2/08 17 30 0.385 0.395 0.615
6/5/07 6/23/07 17 27 0.415 0.493 0.631
7/30/04 8/17/04 17 25 0.338 0.380 0.486
9/7/96 9/25/96 17 28 0.412 0.438 0.574
5/17/09 6/2/09 16 30 0.429 0.487 0.600
5/9/02 5/25/02 16 24 0.348 0.400 0.507
5/4/99 5/22/99 16 22 0.344 0.432 0.531

Source: Baseball-reference.com

September 16, 2008 (2531): Jeter’s first inning single off the White Sox Gavin Floyd was his 1,270th at Yankees Stadium, passing Lou Gehrig for the most ever by any player at the House that Ruth built. With the Yankees’ scheduled to head across the street in 2009, Jeter entered the final home stand needing 10 hits in 11 games, but after three consecutive games with 3 hits apiece to start the stretch, the record breaker soon became inevitable.

September 11, 2009 (2,722): On the anniversary of 9/11, Jeter provided a reason to celebrate when his third inning single moved him past Gehrig into first place on the Yankees’ all-time hit list.

Categories:  1: Featured  Bronx Banter

Tags:  color by numbers  william j

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1 Shaun P.   ~  Jul 8, 2011 4:56 pm

An excellent walk down memory lane . . . err, stepping stone path.

You'll have to forgive me for one tiny quibble, William - Jeter wasn't the Captain when he recorded hit #1392 upon his return in May. It was later that year, in June IIRC, that Steinbrenner made him Captain.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Jul 8, 2011 5:12 pm

great stuff, William.

[1] impressive memory. So by my math (finger and toe counting) Jeter has now been a Yankee Captain for more than half of his career as a fulltime ss.

3 Shaun P.   ~  Jul 8, 2011 5:27 pm

[2] For some reason, I remember 2003 vividly. I'm not sure why.

4 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jul 8, 2011 5:47 pm

For some reason, the two ABs that stand out in my mind are both failures and I think both from the same series and maybe even from the same game of that series.

Against California, 2002, maybe? I guess yeah, 'cause it wasn't 2005.

The drive he hit in late innings in a crucial situation with men on base, it was a rope to deep left-center and I thought "That's it!!" but fucking what's-his-name--Garrett Anderson, I think?--ran it down on or just before the track. It was a demoralizing catch.

The other one I remember was another key situation with men on base (must have been the ninth, because Percival was pitching) and Derek had a very long ab, fouling off pitches, clearly unable to handle the fastball, just staying alive looking for a BB. He ultimately struck out looking on a borderline pitch under his hands. I believe that ended the game.

5 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jul 8, 2011 5:51 pm

I think I remember those, btw, because, although they were "failures," there was something heroic about both of them; even when he was retired he made outs he did so in heroic fashion, as a tough, scary out. The opposite of the double plays and weak dribblers that sadly seem more and more to define his performance.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 8, 2011 6:13 pm

Great stuff, man. Man, the '90s seem like a long time ago.

7 joejoejoe   ~  Jul 9, 2011 3:59 am

Jeter has been on base 4126 times so far in his career. That's more than Rod Carew or Tony Gwynn but 379 fewer times than Craig Biggio. It's funny how little press Biggio got over his career. He probably got less total press than Jeter has had in just this one season.

8 RIYank   ~  Jul 9, 2011 6:50 am

[7] That's true, wow. Except Biggio gets plenty of props among the Sabermetric geeks. Bill James raised him on a pedestal.

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