Derek Jeter’s 3,000th milestone hit further cemented his stature as a Yankees legend, but it’s a professional and humble demeanor off the field that has fans hailing him as a New York hero for the ages.
“I’ve been a Yankees fan since I’ve been out of the womb. … I think he’s a good role model for young kids to look up to,” said John May, 27, of Astoria.
Added Juan Marty, 22, of the Bronx: “He’s always been a name, but this makes him an icon.”
Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg was quick to compliment the team captain after his historic hit Saturday, saying that he embodies the city’s can-do spirit.
Jeter, 37, 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,” the mayor said in a statement.
Robert Boland, a sports business professor at NYU’s Tisch Center, said Jeter is an appealing sports figure because his career – including what people know of his personal life – hasn’t been tainted by major scandal.
“I can’t think of any missteps. What, dating Mariah Carey?” Boland joked.
Some of Jeter’s teammates over the years have been slammed by negative publicity: Alex Rodriguez for his steroid use and accusations of adultery, and Roger Clemens’ perjury trial for allegedly lying about using performance-enhancing drugs.
Jeter, however, has taken his lumps. In 2007, New York State accused him of failing to pay three years of income taxes, although a deal was reportedly worked out. Last fall, a contentious contract dispute with management had some commentators labeling him as “greedy.”
Still, “people in New York have always respected Derek Jeter,” said blogger Ben Kabak, of River Avenue Blues. “It’s a testament to his upbringing. He’s not a guy looking for the headlines.”
And fans can’t get enough of the superstar shortstop. On Sunday, they were snatching up “DJ-3K” merchandise to commemorate his 3,000th hit – much to the delight of retailers.
“Obviously there’s been a spike in anything Derek Jeter,” said Michael Tirado, general manager at the Modell’s in Times Square. “Every couple hours we’re replenishing merchandise to make sure we have enough.”
(With Tiffany Lo and Tim Herrera)
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We asked New Yorkers about Jeter’s impact on New York City and baseball:
"He is New York, and I think people will look to him as a symbol for this city. ... He's an upstanding type of guy, and that's what we want in our heroes. This cements him in New York sports history. It's a tremendous accomplishment. George Steinbrenner is smiling in his grave."
— Mike Perricelli, 46, Bayside
"He did it clean, and that's what matters, because that's what separates him from all the other record-chasers, and that's why he means so much to the city …. in a lot of ways he represents the best about the city."
—Matty Berk, 59
"He's a role model as well as a humble player.”
— Ian Jones II, 26, Woodlawn, Bronx