The scene was absolutely perfect.
There was barely a cloud in the sky. Yankee stadium had more than 48,000 people in seats (and not in some exclusive indoor, air-conditioned club). And heck, even Joe Torre came back to the Bronx for the festive occasion.
It didn't take long at all before Derek Jeter got hit 2,999 -- and it didn't take long, thereafter, for him to smack a ball into the left-field seats for hit 3,000. And let's face it, he hit to the perhaps the dumbest 23-year-old on the planet (more on that kid later).
There he was -- on top of the world again -- this time for a personal accomplishment, something he often ignores in favour of team accomplishments. But this was to be special, said the media and fans of the New York Yankees. Because of all the greatness the franchise has experienced, no former Yankee, dead or alive, had ever had 3,000 hits in a Yankees uniform. Not Joe DiMaggio. Not Lou Gehrig. Not Yogi Berra. Not Mickey Mantle. No one.
Except now, for Jeter.
I can't tell you how many times I was told, over the weeks this chase was on-going, how it was wrong for me, a fan of the "other team" in New York, not to care about Derek's chase. I was told it was wrong not to be happy for him. I was told it was bitter NOT to love everything Derek Jeter has done not just for baseball, but for New York and society as a whole.
Let me tell you this -- these assertions bugged me, because for the life of me, I've detested Derek Jeter since 1996 and grew to despise him in 2000 when he celebrated his fourth World-Series Championship on our Shea Stadium field. I can still see him jumping high into the Queens air. I can still see him, just one night earlier, smacking the first pitch of a World Series game into the far skyline of body shops and chop shops of Flushing, Queens.
I mean, the guy broke Mets fans' hearts one stinking pitch into that game. One pitch -- a homer. How could I not grow to detest the guy?
And not only that, in Interleague play, the guy totally destroyed the Mets in the 2000s. Like totally.
And yet I'm supposed to treasure this man's accomplishment yesterday afternoon?
A couple of NHL seasons ago, Martin Brodeur, of the New Jersey Devils, won his 552nd regular-season hockey game to surpass Patrick Roy as the all-time wins leader in the league. Brodeur, mind you, is enemy Number 1 at Madison Square Garden, where these days, his name is chanted there more than Denis Potvin's is.
When that great feat happened a few years ago, far be it for me to tell any Rangers fan that they were wrong NOT to celebrate in Brodeur's new record. I enjoyed it because he's been my team's goalie since October 1993 -- even longer than Jeter's term -- and as a fan of the team, like Yanks fans and Derek, I celebrated what happened.
But do you think for a second there was a Ranger fan alive who was in awe of Brodeur's mark?
They hate the guy.
Not because he's a prick (Jeter isn't either).
Not because he doesn't give back to the community (Jeter does, too).
But because he's on a team you've loved to hate forever.
Make no mistake about it though -- he has done something very special, has Jeter.
But excuse me if I'm not thrilled to death that for weeks, all we heard on the radio and TV was about his pursuit of 3,000 hits. He's burned me too many times to forget that in celebration of all the good he's done.
The 23-Year-Old Dope Who Caught Hit 3,000
|Christian Lopez, the man|
who caught Derek Jeter's
3,000th hit -- a homerun.
His name is Christian Lopez, and he's a 23-year-old salesman, and perhaps his first name caused him to lose out on a great opportunity.
Some had estimated whomever caught or got Jeter's 3,000th hit, were it to be a homerun, would net about $150,000.
But Lopez, a big-time Yankees fan, gave the ball back to Jeter, no questions asked.
He was rewarded with a suite for today's game, excellent season tickets for the rest of this season and the playoffs and a ton of Derek Jeter memorabilia.
Perhaps it's just me, but with all the cash Jeter has, this writer feels the kid got royally robbed.
Sure, the touch the Yankees made was nice. And wouldn't you, as a die-hard fan, love to sit in those cushioned seats for the next two months for free? And wouldn't a Jeter-signed bat look great on your wall?
Jeter needs to whip out his checkbook and write this kid one for something substantial. Today, on Ed Randall's "Talkin' Baseball" on WFAN, Lopez reminded Randall that he had substantial student loans to pay off.
Jeter should be paying them off for the kid's kindness.
Tell ya' what -- if he does, it might just sway me to enjoy his 3,000th hit a lot more than I already have.
Think about it.