The old Yankee Stadium had more than its lions share of Hall of Fame players exhibiting historic feats and performances.
On Wednesday night, the new Yankee Stadium hosted its first such moment. Mired in an 0-12 slump — his worst of the season — Derek Jeter entered the game three hits behind "The Iron Horse" Henry Louis Gehrig for the all-time hits record by a New York Yankee. He led off the night with a bunt single that ended the slump promptly, but it was his opposite field, slashing, prototypical-Jeter single to right field in the seventh inning (his third hit of the night) that ended Derek's chase of Gehrig and created the most dramatic spectacle in the short history of the new stadium in the Bronx.
Jeter has never been one for ceremony, especially when the honoree is himself. Getting him to take the customary Yankee Stadium curtain call is a battle no matter the weight or importance of the situation. But on Wednesday, lauded with a two-minute-plus standing ovation that poured from the stadium into the cool New York night like few explosions of human emotion have in recent baseball memory, Jeter stood on first base and raised his helmet to the sky. Partly this was in recognition of his accomplishment, and also out of respect to the legend he has now joined. Yet mostly, it seemed, it was in understanding of what the moment meant to the crowd that thundered their cheers throughout his every at bat and have chanted his name in pounding, rhythmic unison so many times since his first hit in 1995 against Tim Belcher and the Seattle Mariners.
Yankee fans embrace those who bring the franchise glory (see Paul O'Neill's last game or Tino Martinez's return to Yankee Stadium with the Cardinals) but Derek Jeter means something more to the fans. He will never challenge any home run records but Jeter has inarguably taken his place in the lineage of Yankee Hall of Fame Legends that began with Boston's sale of Babe Ruth in 1920 and passed generation by generation through Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle until it awakened from dormancy and rose once again in the embodiment of a new Yankee champion (with a similarly low number) and a future Yankee captain. Four World Series championships and 2,721 (and counting) hits later, Jeter still provides Yankee fans with a near-constant view of historic proportions; the rare chance to watch a Hall of Famer take his place in the pantheon of the greatest Pinstripers that have ever lived. For a franchise and a fanbase so deeply steeped in a rich history, this is a privilege not taken lightly.
The Yankees inevitably won the ball game over Tampa Bay 4-2, locked away when Jorge Posada hit a three-run eighth inning home run. But the game will always be remembered in New York Yankee history as the night two Yankee Captains, two men of historically pristine character, two all-time baseball greats, and inevitably two Hall of Famers, met each other in statistical passing, in remembrance of the greatness of one man and on the continuing progression of another.