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The Vault
September 21, 2009
Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT
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September 21, 2009

The Vault

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | May 6, 1996

Rookie Promise

Lou Gehrig? When this story came out, Derek Jeter had fewer hits as a Yankee than Dion James

A month after the 21-year-old shortstop hit an Opening Day home run, Gerry Callahan delivered SI's first story on him.

The Yankees are hoping Jeter is a young Ripken or Larkin, an all-around shortstop with a sizzling bat to match his solid glove. Jeter, who's batting .265, is long and lean (6'3", 185 pounds), with the body of an NBA two guard and the raw athletic ability to play any position. He is friendly and outgoing, and he only ducks a question when he is asked to praise himself. He was proud to get number 2 because all the other single digits (except 6, which belongs to manager Joe Torre) were worn by Yankees legends and have been retired. Jeter can match the names of those legends to their retired numbers, a feat for a rookie in this day and age.

Jeter is the all-American boy, born in New Jersey and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich. As a kid he would return to Jersey in the summers to visit relatives. He wore Yankees caps and T-shirts and idolized Dave Winfield. But what if he starts booting balls all over the Stadium? How long before Torre is ordered by George Steinbrenner to bench the kid or even send him down? When Jeter struggled in spring training, Steinbrenner said, "We'll be patient with him. Every year you look for Derek Jeter to stumble, and he just doesn't. He dominated rookie ball, so we moved him to [Class] A, and he dominated there. We sent him to Double A, and he dominated there. At [Triple A] Columbus it was the same thing. He could be one of the special ones."

In winning the AL Rookie of the Year award Jeter had 183 hits; last Friday he stroked his 2,722nd hit as a Yankee, a team record.

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