"Lou has monstrous numbers and was like Babe Ruth," Ripken, who broke Gehrig's consecutive games streak, told the New York Times. "How was it possible to compare him to me? But I realized what we did share is playing in consecutive games. It was still uncomfortable for me. When you're mentioned with him, I'm not sure you fully understand what it means."
Perhaps no "outsider" knows Jeter as well as Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who anointed him the Yankees' shortstop at 21, and continued to manage, and marvel at, him through the 2007 season while picking up four World Series titles along the way.
"What can you say? I'm tickled for him," Torre said. "When you start saying names like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, guys like that, it's pretty amazing.
"Back in the beginning, I had no idea he'd be doing things Gehrig did. Anything Lou Gehrig did was out of sight for anybody. Even with his abbreviated numbers, a guy who played every day like that. It's tough to do that anymore. Players rarely stay with one team for their careers."
Over time, Torre saw that Jeter had what it takes to become a legend.
"This kid came with his 'A' personality all the time," Torre said. "His competitiveness just never stopped. That's something you have to admire."
Former Yankees second baseman and former Mets manager Willie Randolph also knew Jeter from the beginning, and recalled a Spring Training dinner in 1996 at Landry's Seafood House in Tampa.
"It blows my mind that we're talking about this [record] because it's happened so fast," Randolph said. "At least to me it seems fast. It seems like it was yesterday that I took him out to dinner and we talked about what it was going to take for him to get on this club and be a fixture for a long time.
"He took my advice and worked his butt off, and here we are. We're talking about passing the greats in Yankees history. It blows my mind. It's a tribute to his consistency, his work ethic, the fact he's been fortunate to be healthy and out there every day, to the fact he's accountable every day. I have so much respect for him as a person and a professional."
Kansas City manager Trey Hillman actually got to know Jeter before he became a regular Yankee, as a manager in the club's Minor League system.
All-time Yankees hit leaders
|Derek Jeter passed Lou Gehrig and now has the most hits by a Yankee. Here are the top 10 Yankees leaders in hits.|
"A tremendous achievement," Hillman said. "With the wear-and-tear on Major Leaguers' bodies and the number of games he's played since '96, I'm amazed he's able to do what he does. His leadership skills are tremendous.
"When you put professional baseball players in the dictionary, he's one of the first names that should come up. Especially since the game has moved more toward self than team, he's the epitome of the team player."
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge shared Hillman's sentiments as he complimented Jeter as "the greatest championship player of our generation."
"He's consistent," Wedge said. "A lot of players come and go in that market, and he's the one constant. And he takes on a leadership role, as well."
Players around the league also expressed admiration for the Yankees captain and 10-time All-Star.
Team-by-team hit leaders
|Here is a look at the hit leaders for all 30 Major League clubs, through games of Sept. 11, 2009:|
|Red Sox||Carl Yastrzemski*||3,419|
|Orioles||Cal Ripken Jr.*||3,184|
|White Sox||Luke Appling*||2,749|
|Blue Jays||Tony Fernandez||1,583|
|* Member of the Hall of Fame|
Rangers third baseman Michael Young, who has represented the American League in six All-Star Games, said he was in awe of Jeter's career.
"That's an incredible accomplishment, considering how many great players have played for that organization," said Young. "Their best players are guys that played their whole careers there.
"It's an amazing accomplishment. I've gotten to know Derek over the years, and as much as he won't admit it, I think this means a lot to him."
Veteran reliever Brendan Donnelly, who spent seven seasons in the American League before joining the Marlins this season, was also impressed by Jeter's work ethic and role as the face of baseball.
"Jeter has been one of the best role models in Major League Baseball in recent history," said Donnelly before Wednesday's game. "He's done it the right way, from start to finish, at the highest level and probably the hardest place to play. He's been the face of Major League Baseball for years. You just don't hear guys staying in one spot that long. For him to do everything he's done, I think he's earned every bit of his fame.
"To me, it's not surprising that he's about to become the Yankees' all-time hit leader. He's always healthy. He's just done it the right way. I think more players in baseball should follow his way."
Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge is wowed by Jeter's consistency during his 15-year career.
"When anyone looks back at Jeter's career, he's been one of the only players throughout baseball who is consistent," Inge said. "His numbers are consistent every year. You can rely on a certain amount of hits per year, the way he plays the game. The hardest thing about baseball is consistency. He's got it mastered. That's the most impressive thing about it."
Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick recalled kind words Jeter gave him when he collected a hit at Yankee Stadium early in his career.
"I remember facing Mike Mussina in New York," Kendrick said. "I stayed on a cutter and hit it to right field for a base hit. He said, 'Nice swing. Not a lot of hitters would have stayed that long on that one.' Coming from him, something like that means a lot to a guy.
"I can't tell you how much I admire Derek Jeter, everything about him. He's a symbol of everything that's right about the game, as far as I'm concerned. He's a great role model for other players. When I tell my kids or grandkids about the great players from my time, I'll be proud to say I was on the same field with Derek Jeter."