Another signature day for Jeter

CHICAGO -- On Sunday morning, a few hours before first pitch, Derek Jeter signed a whole box of baseballs in the road clubhouse. It is customary for the biggest stars in the game to leave autographs for the other team at the end of series, so the organization can distribute them however it sees fit.

In the middle of Jeter’s signing, New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena approached Jeter with a Yankees hat and whispered, “I need you to sign the hat for me. I need you to do this.”

Jeter jokingly shot back, “I need a lot of stuff, too.”

Pena retorted, “You need a hit.”

Jeter said, “How many do you think?”

Pena responded, “Three.”

Jeter said, “OK.”

He is Derek Jeter, so he picked up four hits -- including a triple -- grabbed a couple of RBIs and scored a run. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka returned to his winning ways, dominating again after his first regular-season loss last Tuesday.

It was a Yankee Classic kind of an afternoon, a 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, with the current face of the Yankees franchise and the next face of the franchise joining forces to dominate on a perfect sunny day in front of a rare sellout crowd at the Cell.

Jeter, who on Monday will be a month shy of his 40th birthday, was the clear star.

He entered struggling, batting a soft .259, but his demeanor has remained as consistent as always. In recent days, he felt he was swinging better, and then, boom, he gave the 39,142 on hand another little sliver of his legacy for them to keep as a memento.

"You don't see too many guys, too many players like him come through," said Pena, an All-Star with the Pirates in the 1980s. "He is the type of guy who is even-keeled. He is never up. He is never down. It is hard to find the people like that."

A half-hour before the game, the White Sox gave Jeter a Yankees bench constructed by former Sox slugger Ron Kittle, who used bats, balls and bases. They also handed him some U.S. Cellular One shortstop dirt and a $5,000 check for his charity, the Turn 2 Foundation.

Jeter made a point to continually salute the White Sox dugout during the ceremony with Paul Konerko, who is also retiring at the end of the season.

Then he said, “Thank you,” by turning back the clock. He entered with just 49 total bases and 42 hits. In other words, he hasn’t been able to drive the ball. He knocked one homer and four doubles.

On Sunday, Jeter’s triple came with two outs in the fourth, when he sprayed a liner into the right-center-field gap. Center fielder Adam Eaton decided to dive for the drive and missed making a spectacular catch. Jeter sprinted around to third and then scored on a wild pitch.

"I can still run," Jeter said with a smile.

It was his first triple since August 2011. The last time he had a four-hit game was on Aug. 20, 2012, which was also at the Cell.

When Jeter stepped to the plate in the eighth, the road crowd, littered with Yankee fans, all stood, honoring him. They chanted his name for part of the at-bat.

Jeter said he appreciates the recognition, but his focus remains on winning.

"It is a bit of an awkward feeling," Jeter said of the gifts and the applause during the final series in each stadium. "Everyone wishing you well like you are going to fall off the face of the earth."

A rookie named Scott Carroll struck Jeter out. It was about the only thing Jeter did wrong all day. Well, that and underestimating himself when it came to the prediction game.

"Tony told me, 'You are on your own next time,'" Jeter said with a little laugh.