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NEW YORK -- The most famous three-homer game at the old place, and probably in baseball history, belonged to Reggie Jackson. Jackson encapsulated everything those old Boss Yankees represented -- from his flamboyance, to his all-or-nothing approach at the plate, to his ability to whip up some back-page barbs with just a few utterances.
|Granderson received a curtain call after his third home run of the night.|
Jackson's three World Series-clinching cuts in October 1977 are forever swings that represent George Steinbrenner's early glory as the Yankees' owner.
Curtis Granderson is the anti-Reggie.
Granderson owns the main traits of Hal Steinbrenner's Yankees of today -- he is corporate and productive. Granderson will never say anything about being the straw that stirs the drink. He won't call anyone a crook -- especially the guys that sign his checks or manage him.
Still, on a Rivalry Eve Thursday night in the Bronx, Granderson delivered a taste of Mr. October-sized drama as he became the first Yankee to nail three homers since the new digs opened in 2009. In the Yanks' 7-6 win over the Twins, Granderson joined names like Ruth, Gehrig and Jackson, becoming the 20th Yankee to have a home-run hat trick.
Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four in one game, back in 1932. Granderson became the first Yankee to nail three homers and have five hits in one night in team history. The anti-Reggie had four RBIs.
"He is quiet," the 65-year-old Jackson said in the postgame clubhouse, relishing the chance to reminisce about '77 once again. "He is very confident. He knows the things he can do. He carries himself very well. He is a good team player and a good humble guy.
"I was certainly confident in the things I could do -- maybe too confident."
The 31-year-old Granderson came to the ballpark early on Thursday to work with hitting coach Kevin Long. Entering the game with a .208 average, three homers and six RBIs, Granderson was searching for his timing.
In the first inning, Granderson fell behind before pulling a 93-mph 3-2 fastball off righty Anthony Swarzak. In the second, he torched a 90-mph 3-1 Swarzak fastball. In the fourth, against reliever Jeff Gray, he picked up No. 3 on a 2-2 changeup.
In the sixth -- with some, but not all, fans on their feet -- Granderson worked the count to 3-2 before knocking a line single into right field.
In the eighth, again at 3-2, now against lefty Glenn Perkins, Granderson hit a soft bouncer between the mound and first. He then beat the throw and was 5-for-5.
Granderson didn't try to go deep in those final two at-bats, because he said it messes him up. Afterward, he spoke humbly, emphasizing that he enjoys fitting in below Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia on the Stadium marquee.
"I feel like I fit in right under the bottom of that," Granderson said.
In reality, he may be the second-most important offensive player on the Yankees after Robinson Cano. With a team-best 41 homers and league-best 119 RBIs, he finished fourth in the MVP race last year.
Granderson had been struggling against right-handed pitching. Dating back to late August of last year, Granderson only had six homers and a .174 average (20-for-115) against righties in 45 games.
"I've had some big issues with my timing," Granderson said.
It all came together on Thursday with three historic swings. Granderson ended his night by wearing a suit and nicely answering questions, while not saying much. As for Jackson, he knows that three in April aren't the same as three to win a World Series.
"Well, that's another level there," Mr. October said.