Immediately following the New York Yankees' 12-5 win against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, the World Historical Society (WHS) officially declared both of Derek Jeter's home runs 'wonders of the ancient world.'
"Jeter's accomplishments were nothing short of miraculous," said WHS curator and president Nils Von Eimann in a prepared statement. "As an organization, we would be seriously remiss not to recognize the odd and beautiful nature of these dual occurrences."
The WHS is an umbrella institution which oversees all officially sanctioned regional historical societies, and its participating members number more than 3 million worldwide. As such, it has final jurisdiction on all matters of historical importance.
Nevertheless, the declaration came as a surprise to many historians.
"It's a bit of a shock, really," said Lionel Desmain, a professor of classical civilizations at the University of California. "It's been more than 2,000 years since anything- literally anything- was given the title of 'ancient wonder.' A lot of important contenders have been passed up. For the final breakthrough to come from a baseball player...well, as I said, it's a shock."
Other experts in the field expressed excitement. Donald Laurie, a best-selling historical novelist whose books explore Greek and Roman culture, pointed out that Jeter's home runs are the first purely physical acts to warrant inclusion on the exclusive list.
"In the past, ancient wonders have always been some kind of standing, man-made structure," he said. "You can look at the Temple of Artemis, or the Statue of Zeus, or really any of them. It's always something built by humans. This is a real departure for the WHS, and I personally think it was a brave and forward-looking move."
In response to scattered criticism, the WHS pointed to Jeter's abysmal performance thus far in the 2011 season. Jeter, a shortstop for the New York Yankees, came into the game batting just .256 with a meager .282 slugging percentage. With only three extra base hits on the year, and no home runs, the WHS noted that the prospect of even one round tripper seemed dim. Von Eimann even claimed that he lost money due to Jeter's unexpected power.
"I bet my friend twenty euros that he wouldn't hit a home run this entire year," he said. "Looking back, that was kind of stupid. But still, two home runs in one game? Historically astounding."
In a postgame press conference, Jeter downplayed the honor.
"Honestly, I haven't even thought about it," he told the gathered media. "I play baseball because I love the game, not because I'm hoping for awards, praise, or unprecedented historical designations. I know it gives you guys something to write about, but I'm focused on winning another World Series."
Still, he admitted that it was an honor to be considered in the same breath as the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
"Sure, it's something every little kid dreams about," he said. "To think I'm now in the same company as an iconic Greek God like Helios from the Colossus of Rhodes...yeah, that's a little wild."
To date, Derek Jeter is the only New York Yankee to achieve 'ancient wonder of the world' status. For many fans, the recognition has been a long time coming.
"We've watched a lot of greats be ignored by the WHS," said 89-year-old season ticket holder Salvatore Morelli. "First Ruth, with his 60 home runs, then DiMaggio's hit streak, Larsen's perfect game, and Maris with 61. It's been one screwjob after another, when you think about it. But this makes up for those lost years."
Morelli told reporters he was overjoyed that he didn't have to die without seeing a Yankee feat become an ancient wonder of the world.
Jeter's first blast was a 403-foot opposite field solo shot in the fifth inning. That brought the Yanks to within 4-3. His second home run, another opposite fielder in the 7th, gave New York a 5-4 lead in a game they'd go on to win in a rout. The home runs will replace the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus and the Lighthouse of Alexandria on the list of ancient wonders.
Reaction around the league varied.
"I think it's a tribute to a great player who worked his butt off for the better part of two decades," said St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. "If anyone deserves recognition by a worldwide historical body, it's Derek Jeter."
Others, including some of Jeter's own teammates, were less enthused.
"On one hand, I'm happy for him," said Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner. "On the other, I had this sweet diving catch in April that I thought had a chance. So, yeah, I'll admit it. This is pretty bittersweet."
Yesterday's events continue a recent trend of baseball's influence extending into unlikely realms. Last year, Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in British Literature, and umpire Jim Joyce was formally censured by the United Nations for a missed call that cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.