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Derek Jeter breaks Yankees hits record

The Yankees' Derek Jeter singles in the third

The Yankees' Derek Jeter singles in the third inning Friday to pass Lou Gehrig and break the Yankees' all-time hit record. (Sept. 11, 2009) Photo Credit: John Dunn

What Derek Jeter means to Yankees fans could be summed up by the number of empty seats Friday night at the Stadium.

There weren’t many of them.

After a 1-hour, 27-minute rain delay pushed the start of Friday night’s game to 8:32, less than an hour later, the boisterous crowd in the Bronx got what they came to see.

>> View photos of Derek Jeter's record-breaking night

At 9:23, Jeter, who struck out in the first against rookie Chris Tillman, slapped an opposite-field single past Orioles first baseman Luke Scott in the third inning to put him atop the Yankees’ career hits list at 2,722, one more than Lou Gehrig. The ground smash looked almost identical to his seventh-inning slashing hit Wednesday night that tied him with Gehrig.

The Yankees spilled out of the dugout to surround Jeter after first-base umpire Wally Bell called time.

 “I didn’t know that they were going to do that, so that sort of caught me off-guard,” Jeter said.

The ball came in from Orioles rightfielder Nick Markakis to second baseman Brian Roberts. As the Yankees encircled Jeter, Bell beckoned for Roberts to throw him the ball. After the Yankees retreated to the dugout, Bell handed the ball to Yankees first-base coach Mick Kelleher, who brought it to the dugout.

Jeter took off his batting helmet several times and waved it to the crowd, which included his parents and sister, who had been in attendance all week since Monday’s doubleheader against the Rays.

As the roars continued, Jeter gave a nod to Nick Swisher that he should get into the batter’s box so the game could continue. That did nothing to quell the ovation, which finally subsided as Swisher struck out.

    “The whole experience has been overwhelming,” Jeter said. “This is more than I could’ve imagined.”

Jeter added an opposite-field RBI single in the fourth that made it 4-1, but Andy Pettitte and the Yankees' bullpen couldn't hold the lead in what became a 10-4 loss.

“For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter,” principal owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. “Game in and game out, he just produces. As historic and significant as becoming the Yankees’ all-time hit leader is, the accomplishment is all the more impressive because Derek is one of the finest young men playing the game today. That combination of character and athletic ability is something he shares with the previous record holder, Lou Gehrig. It adds to the pride that the Yankees and our fans feel today. Every Yankees era has its giants. It’s thrilling to watch Derek as he becomes one of the greats of his generation, if not of all time.”

ALS Association Greater New York Chapter president Dorine Gordon also released a statement: “[The Association] congratulates Derek Jeter for surpassing Lou Gehrig’s 70-year-old record. Derek epitomizes so much of what we admired in Gehrig.”

Notes & quotes: Johnny Damon was held out of the game because his lower back “locked up” Friday morning.

“It’s still pretty tight, pretty sore,” said Damon, who also disclosed his hamstring had acted up the day before. “I don’t know how it happened.”

Still, Damon said he’s not concerned that it will be anything long term.

“I’m just hoping this is a one-day thing and hopefully by tomorrow, I’ll be fine,” Damon said. “Just one of those unfortunate things.”

. . . Reliever Dave Robertson, who visited with Dr. James Andrews on Thursday, said he hoped to begin his throwing program in 5-7 days. “About as good news as we could have expected,” Girardi said.

Robertson said: “Whenever you’re dealing with an elbow, you know what can happen, but thankfully nothing was wrong. The plan is to get ready for the playoffs.”

. . . The Yankees honored the crew of the USS New York, whose bow stem includes 7 ½ tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center site, in a pregame ceremony.

With the Associated Press

>>Complete Derek Jeter stories, photos, videos and more

>> View photos of Derek Jeter's record-breaking night as well as photos of  Jeter through the years.

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