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Jeter Breaks Gehrig’s Hit Record

NEW YORK -- Years from now, the story will sound implausible. But Dick Groch swears to its validity.

The Yankees had the sixth pick in the annual draft of amateur players in 1992 and were debating whether to take Stanford outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds or a high school shortstop from Michigan named Derek Jeter.

The prevailing wisdom was that Jeter would attend the University of Michigan on scholarship. Team scouting director Bill Livesey suggested to the room that selecting Jeter carried too much risk.

But Groch, then a regional scout for the Yankees, had been watching Jeter for several years. He put his career on the line, insisting that the Yankees take Jeter. Such was his faith in the young man's talent, character and desire to play in pinstripes.

"He's not going to Michigan," Groch said. "The only place he's going is to Cooperstown."

Jeter's path to the Hall of Fame was long ago paved by the four World Series championships he helped win. But he celebrated perhaps his greatest individual accomplishment last night by becoming the player with the most hits in the long history of the Yankees.

Gehrig played for the Yankees from 1923-39, leaving the team because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal disease that took his life in 1941.

"Any time your name is associated with a player of that stature, it's an honor," Jeter said earlier this week. "I grew up a Yankees fan and I played my entire career here. I know what he stood for and what he meant to this organization."

With the Yankees in first place, Jeter has sat uncomfortably in the spotlight in the days leading up to the record-breaking hit, eager to get the focus back on the team and what he considers more important matters. But other milestones seem sure to follow.

The 35-year-old Jeter is on pace to join the exclusive fraternity of players with 3,000 career hits. Some believe he could one day challenge the record of 4,256 held by Pete Rose.

"I'll keep playing as long as it's fun for me," Jeter said. "Right now, it's a lot of fun."

Groch is now an executive with the Milwaukee Brewers and follows Jeter's career daily.

"I can't tell you I'm surprised by what he has done. Derek looked to me like he would be that kind of player," Groch said. "I'm proud of him and I think everybody in baseball is, too. He brings a lot of credit to the game."

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