Barring a terrible slump from Derek Jeter, Lou Gehrig is entering his final days atop the Yankees all-time hit list. With 2,713 hits, Jeter is just eight away from the Iron Horse and he could set a new mark as early as Monday if he continues the torrid streak he's been on since the calender turned to August.
Given the history of the Yankees and the greatness of the players who have come before Jeter, this record could mean more than Jeter's eventual ascension to the 3,000 hit club. Having more hits than any other Yankee is not just a round number given somewhat arbitrary meaning by those that watch the game. It means that you've done more of something in pinstripes than Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and all the others that have built the legacy that Jeter's been so judicious in protecting throughout his career.
It's a remarkable feather in Jeter's cap and a record that fits a player who has been consistently good since the moment he first set foot in the Yankee clubhouse. That he's going to do it in the midst of one of his best offensive seasons, at the age of 35, does add a tinge of sadness to the proceedings however.
No one made a big deal about Gehrig's final hit, because no one knew that the man, also 35 at the time, was dying when he singled on April 29th, 1939. But it was only a few days before he benched himself, never to play again, and only a couple of years before he died of a mysterious and awful disease that robbed him of a chance at 3,000 hits, 600 home runs and, of course, things that matter far beyond the diamond.
Hopefully that gets mentioned when Jeter sets the mark, a brief note that there would still be miles to go if the world was a fairer place. It doesn't take away from Jeter's accomplishment to spend a few minutes celebrating Gehrig's record, especially since Gehrig never got the chance to do it himself.