(Long Island, N.Y.) When Stan Ross collected his 3,000th major league hit, he abruptly retired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the middle of the 1995 pennant race. The star then used the moniker “Mr. 3,000” in several business ventures and laughed all the way to the bank.
That is, until nine years later when a thorough official scorer’s check revealed that Ross was credited with three more hits than he should have. At 47 and far from game shape, he then needed to come out of retirement in an attempt to reach the milestone.
Don’t expect Derek Jeter to go through the same experience as the late Bernie Mac did in the 2004 comedy. The Yankee captain needs only 11 more hits to get there following Wednesday night’s 11-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox and is primed to become only the 28th player in major league history to do so.
More importantly, Jeter will become the first Yankee to amass 3,000 hits. When you consider the greats that have worn pinstripes throughout the years that is as surprising as anything. Neither Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio nor Mickey Mantle holds that distinction.
It is no coincidence that the Yankees are having a strong season with Jeter back in the fold after he was re-signed to a three-year, $51 million contract last December. Although his numbers may not be high (Jeter was hitting .261 with two home runs and 17 RBI through the first 57 games of the season), it is his leadership qualities that are most important. Even with his production down, Jeter still puts the team on his back and leads it to the Promised Land.
“Every year we go out and try to prove that we have the best team in baseball,” the 11-time All-Star shortstop said. “And that hasn’t changed. That has been my focus since Day One and that will always continue.”
But even Jeter realizes that there will be certain people who question his abilities as the veteran grows older. “Criticism is a part of the game,” he admits. “I’ve never shied away from [it]. I’ve always taken it as a challenge. I’ve gotten older over the years but I’ve never seen anyone getting younger.”
Although he will be turning 37 later this month, Jeter has a lot left in the tank. “I’ve always tried to get better year in and year out, and that will continue,” he said. Jeter’s conditioning and preparation are the standard and he is emulated by teammates young and old.
In the Bombers’ clubhouse, he is tied for the longest tenure with Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, and the trio is the last group from the all-important 1996 team. That World Series championship club began the current dynasty that is still paying off, with a title as recent as 2009. And Jeter isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
“I don’t look towards the end of a career when you’re in the middle of it.”
And 3,000 hits is certainly an indication that Jeter’s career would make a great movie some day. But the script is far from finished.