It all began 17 years ago on this day for the New York Yankees. In a season shortened by 18 games due to extended negotiations that would put an end to the 1994 players strike, a 21 year-old shortstop would have his first taste of major league baseball. May 30, 1995 is the date that Derek Jeter would get his first base hit and that served as the launching point to a certain Hall of Fame career.
The previous day Jeter made his pro debut, going 0-for-5 against the Seattle Mariners. This game he would pick up where he left off the day before, watching a called third strike on a 2 – 2 count against Mariner pitcher Tim Belcher with men on first and third base. His next at-bat came in the 5th inning, and little did New York Yankees fans know that would be the first hit of a legendary career. In what became the initial step to the top of the all-time New York Yankees hit list, Derek Jeter jumped on the first pitch of the inning and grounded a ball between third and short for a single to left. Four batters later he scored his first run on a Jim Leyritz double, and the ice was broken.
Jeter would finish the game with two hits (he grounded a single to center to lead off the 7th inning) and two runs (scoring later that inning on a Paul O’Neill single).
The New York Yankees finished 1995 with a 79-65-1 record, and lost to that Mariners team in the first round of the playoffs 3 games to 2 (after leading the series 2 – 0). Jeter played in 15 games that season and hit .250.
He hasn’t hit lower than .270 in any season since.
The list of accomplishments already reads like a Cooperstown plaque: All-time New York Yankees hits leader, 5-time World Series Champion, 1996 Rookie of The Year, 12-time All-Star, 5 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Slugger awards, .321 batting average in the Fall Classic, .313 lifetime batting average, and is the current post-season leader in games, runs scored, hits and total bases. Simply put, he is the greatest shortstop in the history of the New York Yankees.
This season the Yankee captain leads the team, once again, in hitting. At the age of 37 he continues to play like that 21 year-old nearly two decades ago and shows little signs of slowing down.
Jeter once said “I want to be remembered as someone who had a lot of respect for the game, his teammates and opponents, and I want to be remembered as a winner. But most importantly I want to be remembered as a Yankee.”
Given the career that he jump-started on this date in 1995, it is a safe bet that he always will.