By Jason Klein
Originally Written For “Yankee Legacy Magazine” – 11/30/11
Destined for Yankee greatness from day #1, a young Derek Jeter was assigned to wear #2. All the pinstriped greats wore single digits. By thetime the scrawny kid from Kalamazoo, MI arrived in the Bronx, there was only one such number left to choose from – all others had been retired, and his manager, Joe Torre, was doing his best to take #6 off the board. So, with expectations high, Jeter was given #2 – everything else had to be earned.
The kid didn’t disappoint.
For fourteen seasons, Jeter has done nothing but validate his numerical assignment. The 1996 American League Rookie of the Year has appeared in 10 All-Star games, won 4Gold Glove awards, and won 5 World Series titles. In 2000, he was named MVP of both the All-Star Game and World Series. In 2003 he was named team captain. He has led his team to the Post Season in 13 of his 14 seasons, including 7 World Series appearances.
He is perhaps the most clutch performer to ever don the pinstripes, consistently coming up big in big spots. At age 35, and showing no signs of slowing down, Jeter continues to produce at a staggering clip, breaking club records on a nightly basis, and passing single-digit-wearing legends in the process.
On November 30, 2009, just weeks after leading the Yankees to their 27thWorld Series title, Jeter was named the 2009 Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year.” He becomes the first Yankee to ever earn the title, and does it during a year that saw many great accomplishments for the Captain of the Yankees.
This season, he batted a stellar .334, won a Gold Glove for his defense, a Silver Slugger for his offense, and a 5th ring for his thumb. In addition, on September 11, 2009, Jeter etched his name deeper into Yankees lore when he collected his 2,722nd career hit.
Playing within the confines of his new home – he is the all-time hits leader at the original Yankee Stadium – Jeter singled to right field in the third inning of a game with the Baltimore Orioles. The base hit moved him past Lou Gehrig and into first place all-time on the Yankees career hits list.
Teammates poured out of the dugout to surround the newly-crowned hits king, congratulating him on his accomplishment. The always stoic Jeter showed true emotion as the packed house in the Bronx chanted his name over and over, as if to thank him for his years of service.
Within hours of collecting the monumental hit, fans swarmed SteinerSports.com looking to grab one of many commemorative items released to honor Jeter’s accomplishment. Since that historic night in the Bronx, Jeter has hand signed images of the moment, jerseys embroidered with the date and hits total, and inscribed baseballs detailing the moment. Along with commemorative 2009 World Series items, they remain among the hottest Yankees collectibles on the market today.
By passing Gehrig, the next hits milestone for Jeter will be #3,000. No Yankee has ever reached the benchmark number – like being named “Sportsman of the Year,” Jeter seems destined to be the first. It also appears certain that one day, #2 will find its way into Monument Park, joining the other single digits enshrined in Yankees lore.
There was really never any doubt from day #1 that Jeter deserved to wear #2. But, following a season that saw Jeter pass Lou Gehrig, lead his team to another World Series Title, and earn “Sportsman of the Year” honors, it would be tough not to argue that #2 is really #1.
Connect With JasonFollow @ByJasonKlein