So when the Yankees' shortstop finally equaled the Iron Horse, he knew it -- and it was done in style. Jeter connected for a solo home run in the fifth inning on Sunday, matching Gehrig for the most all-time hits in Yankee Stadium with 1,269.
"You think about the history of this organization when you mention players' names," Jeter said, "and Lou Gehrig is right up there at the top. To be tied with him in anything is something that I'll always remember."
In Yankee Stadium's final homestand, Jeter caught the Iron Horse with seven games to spare. Jeter stroked three hits in each game of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday and then drilled another three in a Sunday afternoon game against the Rays.
"It feels good; I'd be lying to you if I said it doesn't," said Jeter, who is batting .306. "They always say records are meant to be broken. This one, with the stadium closing here in a week, at least I know I'm tied for it."
Jeter reached on a bunt single in the first inning and scored on Alex Rodriguez's grand slam, then doubled in the second inning and scored on Jason Giambi's two-run home run. The first two hits Sunday came off Rays starter Edwin Jackson.
The hit to tie Gehrig came on a 2-2 pitch from Rays rookie David Price -- making his Major League debut -- and cleared the wall in right-center field, Jeter's 11th home run of the season. Yankees employees retrieved the ball from a family in the bleachers, and Jeter said he traded a signed bat and ball for the milestone hit ball.
"To think that he would do it on a home run is pretty special," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I salute the fan that gave it back to him, because that's a huge hit. A lot of times players don't get mementos like that. That's really a heck of a gesture."
The 34-year-old Jeter was called out of the dugout and doffed his batting helmet for a curtain call from the sellout crowd of 54,279, witnessing the eighth-to-last game at the facility.
"They've seen all of them," Jeter said. "I've been fortunate enough to play my whole career here. They've pretty much seen me grow up. The fans here have always been great. They always appreciate people when they play hard, and this is great timing with it being the last season at the stadium."
His cause was helped by numerous afternoons just like the ones he enjoyed this weekend, when he went 9-for-11 in the series against the Rays. Jeter's 120 career games with three or more hits at Yankee Stadium are the most all-time, while his 18 games with at least four hits are one shy of Gehrig's Yankee Stadium mark of 19.
A mainstay in the Yankees' lineup since he was named the Opening Day shortstop in 1996, Jeter ranks sixth among active players with 2,530 career hits. He became the 88th player all-time and the third youngest to reach the 2,500-hit plateau on Aug. 22 against the Orioles.
"It's great," Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said. "It was just a matter of time. I have seen him doing things like that more and more. Three hits a game doesn't surprise me. I'm happy for him -- well-deserved. He works hard, and when you see a guy like that, you root for someone."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.