Next for Jeter: 3,000 hits, 4,000?

NEW YORK (AP) - Derek Jeter walked to his locker, nearly two hours before game time, in his usual pregame attire of shorts and a T-shirt with cutout sleeves.

No longer the center of attention Saturday, he was back to business as usual, just the way he likes it. He didn't acknowledge the standing ovation when he came up to bat in the first inning. Plate umpire Wally Bell even congratulated him on his achievement when he first reached the plate.

"I got a lot of messages from a lot people," Jeter said. "Players on other teams, players I played with before, friends, family. I've got a lot of well wishes from people, and that always makes you feel good."

A night earlier in the rain, Jeter broke the Yankees' 72-year-old hits record held by Lou Gehrig, with an opposite-field single to right in the third inning against Baltimore.

In a game that didn't end until 1:28 a.m., Jeter provided the most memorable moment at new Yankee Stadium. He became the sixth career hits leader for the team since the Highlanders completed their first season, following Willie Keeler (1903-11), Hal Chase (1911-22), Wally Pipp (1922-29), Babe Ruth (1929-37) and Gehrig (1937-09), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

By the end of Saturday's 7-3 loss to Baltimore, Jeter increased his career total to 2,724, three more than Gehrig. It appears likely Jeter will reach 3,000 by 2011, when he turns 37. It's possible he could become the third member of the 4,000-hit club, following Pete Rose (4,256) and Ty Cobb (4,191).

He has joined Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra among the top players in the Yankees' century-plus history.

"People were saying, were you happy to get it over with? But I don't want to say 'get it over with' because I don't think it's something that you just pass along," Jeter said. "I'm happy I was able to do it quickly. But I think 'get it over with' is kind of the wrong way to put it. Move beyond it maybe is a better way to put it. Because I'm sure if I didn't get any hits today then I would have heard that I was pressing and that would have all started again."

Gerald Williams, a Yankees teammate when Jeter first came up in 1995, was among those who stuck around until the end of the game to watch. Even then, players noticed Jeter.

"You knew that he was special," pitcher Andy Pettitte said. "You knew that he carried himself a little bit different than a lot of other guys - with a lot of class, a lot of charisma, a lot of confidence for as young as he was."

He's driven to win, but tries to deflect attention. Always has.

"We saw it in '92 in Greensboro early," catcher Jorge Posada said.

On Saturday, fans still cheered when Jeter and his No. 2 uniform appeared on the video board. Almost certainly the last player to wear a single-digit uniform number for the Yankees, Jeter said the mark was important to him because it was held by Gehrig, whose Hall of Fame career and life was cut short by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in 1939.

"Being a former captain and what he stood for, when you mention his name to any baseball fan around the country it means a lot," Jeter said. "I think passing him makes it stand out that much more."

After Jeter rounded first base with the big hit, teammates came out of the dugout and surrounded him at first base, exchanging hugs and pats on the back

"I didn't know that they were going to do that, so that sort of caught me off-guard," Jeter said. "It's a special moment for me, it's a special moment for the organization. To get an opportunity to share it with my teammates was a lot of fun."

He left the game after a 67-minute rain delay in the top of the seventh, then was among the Yankees who held a rare in-game news conference, as if it were spring training or the All-Star game.

"I didn't expect that many people to be out there after the rain delay considering how hard it was raining when we started the game," Jeter said. "But the fans were incredible. It says a lot about how they feel about their team and more importantly how they feel about the history of their team. I appreciate each and every one that was there."

His $189 million, 10-year contract expires after the 2010 season and he's eligible to be a free agent. The Yankees have usually let veterans' deals expire in recent years before negotiating new contracts, and even though Jeter can leave it's nearly impossible to envision him in another uniform.

Milestones, however, are not what drives Jeter.

"All this attention has probably got him a little bit embarrassed, but at the end of the day the number that Derek really cares about is the number of wins and championships," third baseman Alex Rodriguez said.

And Berra does have a World Series ring for each finger while Jeter has "only" four.

"Now," Jeter said, "we can get back to playing games and trying to win games."


AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.


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