By SAM BORDEN
When Jeter swung, his shiny black bat meeting a full-count, off-speed pitch from Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price, Posada shot his arms up in the air. He knew, even before the ball had landed in the left-field bleachers, what had happened: Jeter had reached the coveted 3,000-hit mark, the first to ever to do so in a Yankee uniform, in the most dramatic of fashions.
The Yankees poured out on to the field, waiting at home plate as Jeter rounded the bases. The symmetry was remarkable: With his second hit of the day, in his second at-bat, Jeter — No. 2 — became the second player in history to reach the milestone with a home run just as the clock struck 2 p.m.
Posada pushed the front of the mass of players, wrapping Jeter in a tight embrace after he crossed home plate. Mariano Rivera, the third remaining Yankee from the dynasty teams of 1990s, was right behind Posada and the receiving line of teammates was at the heart of an on-field celebration that lasted approximately five minutes. Even the relievers ran in from the bullpen.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” third baseman Alex Rodriguez said to Jeter.
The ovation from the crowd of 48,103 lingered, long and loud. Price walked off the mound to get a drink of water, and he waited by the Rays dugout, where several players — led by the former Yankee Johnny Damon — stood and cheered for Jeter, too.
Jeter accepted the congratulations, acknowledging Price and the Rays, as well as waving to the crowd. He then raised a fist toward the luxury suite where his family and friends, including his parents and his girlfriend, Minka Kelly, were seated. Kelly appeared to be blinking back tears.
When the cheers continued even longer, Jeter returned to the field for a curtain call, but, not surprisingly, he seemed to want to let the game continue. Finally, after Price had thrown a few warm-up pitches, it did.
But Jeter was not done. He doubled his next time up, in the fifth inning, then singled in the sixth and drove in the go-ahead run with another single in the eighth, matching a career-high with a 5 for 5 afternoon as the Yankees beat the Rays, 5-4.
Jeter, ever the team player, might try point to single in the eighth (which scored Eduardo Nunez) as the biggest hit of the day but the magnitude of his 3,000th hit was felt around New York as well as throughout baseball.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released a statement congratulating Jeter, calling him “one of New York’s icons” and saying: “Perhaps above all else, Derek is someone who loves this city and who has a long history of giving back to the place and the people that helped make him the superstar he is. New York has a greater baseball tradition than any other city, but we’ve never had a player get all 3,000 hits in a New York uniform until today. Congratulations Derek — you’ve made all of New York City proud.”
Wade Boggs, a former teammate of Jeter’s, who in 1999 became the only other player to get his 3,000th hit on a home run as a member of the Rays, said: “It is a monumental achievement, and Derek has climbed the mountain. He’s reached that honor, where he can stake his flag in the mountain and call it his own.”
Boggs, a Hall of Famer, added, “It won’t be too long now before we are on the veranda in Cooperstown at the Otesaga Hotel celebrating his induction to the Hall of Fame.”