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Maybe it was standing on third base Tuesday night and watching four players from the Blue Jays breeze past him finishing their home run trots that got to Alex Rodriguez or perhaps he was just waiting for Wednesday, the third anniversary of his reaching 500 career home runs.
Whatever the reason, A-Rod finally became the seventh member of major league baseball’s 600 Club with a first-inning blow off a 2-0 fastball from Shaun Marcum that landed on the netting atop Monument Park.
Considering the traffic around Yankee Stadium Wednesday, there were quite a few ticket holders that had yet to reach their seats before Rodriguez went deep for the first time in nearly two weeks, ending an odyssey that had grown to epic proportions and coincided with a five-game Yankees slide down the American League East standings since July 23, the day after A-Rod got to 599.
They were a second-place club when they took the field Wednesday, but all that seemed to be on everyone’s mind was whether Rodriguez would end this drought that covered 46 at-bats that included a hitless string of 17 at-bats leading into his first plate appearance.
So the long wait is over, and Alex can now breathe freely and intake the rarified air that he shares with Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa. Exclusive company that. So now A-Rod’s team can get back to the business at hand, which is to catch the Rays and keep the Red Sox from climbing up their backs.
Oddly, Rodriguez’s quest drew scant national attention beyond the nightly ESPN SportsCenter updates. Not a single national baseball columnist flew into town to witness the event. And when Sunday’s game in St. Petersburg, Fla., was cablecast by TBS, A-Rod was not in the lineup, although he did get an at-bat late in the game as a pinch hitter.
Part of that has to do with the tight-belt budgets of newspapers these days and part with Rodriguez’s admission last year that while in his three seasons in Texas he used anabolic steroids. Nevertheless, fans were into it, even in the games last weekend against the Rays. The crowd at the Stadium went ballistic as the ball went into the air. And it was somehow appropriate that the teammate who first met Alex with a hug at the plate was Derek Jeter, who had led off the game with a single.
One more thing; it was no bum off of whom Rodriguez struck his 600th home run. Marcum took a 10-4 record into the game and was on a three-game winning streak in which he had a 2.04 ERA with one walk and 19 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. That was not some tomato can out there.
Those in the Stadium had the opportunity to purchase a special commemorative issue of Yankees Magazine entitled “All in Stride, an Extraordinary Look at Alex Rodriguez and his Chase for 600.”
The 32-page souvenir featuring in-depth articles and laden with color photographs will be available for the bargain price of $10 at the Stadium for the duration of the homestand as supplies last.