Facing a 4-0 deficit when A-Rod came to the plate, the Yanks had loaded the bases with one out on singles by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson, then a walk by Mark Teixeira.
As he did against Teixeira in the at-bat preceding A-Rod's, Venters fell behind, 3-0. A-Rod took the fourth pitch for a called strike, fouled off two more, then lined his 10th homer of the season into the front row of the left-field seats.
"Maybe a walk right there would not have been so terrible with one of the best players to ever play the game at the plate," Venters said. "It is what it is. I made a bad pitch, and he crushed it. I was trying to attack him and throw the ball down and get a ground ball. Unfortunately, it was a sinker that didn't sink a whole lot. It stayed up, and he's Alex Rodriguez."
Rodriguez tied it. Robinson Cano then singled, and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run homer off Cory Gearrin that gave the Yankees a lead they would keep. Seven batters up, six runs. Just like that.
Rodriguez now has 639 homers, 21 behind Willie Mays, who is fourth on the all-time list. But through all of the milestones Rodriguez has reached, none was better than this.
"It means a lot," Rodriguez said. "It was very special. This game is very, very difficult. If you're not going to enjoy these great moments, then it's not any fun. Lou Gehrig is not only one of the all-time greats, but he's one of ours. He was a Yankee. He was a guy, when they say, 'If you ever have the opportunity, who would you take to dinner?' For me, he would be in the top four or five."
A-Rod was No. 1 on Tuesday for the fan who caught the ball, a 15-year-old Yankees devotee from Asheboro, N.C., named Randy Kearns, who was sitting in the lobby of the visitors' clubhouse with his mother and brother, waiting to give the ball to the right-handed-hitting slugger.
The family had driven five hours to see the Yankees, and Kearns caught the ball with his cap.
"This was the first time I've ever seen them," Kearns said of the Yankees. "It was worth the drive."
The Kearns family simply asked to see Rodriguez, who said he was going to give Randy a jersey, a couple of bats and some baseballs in return for the cherished home run ball. They hadn't asked for a thing.
"He just came to our security and volunteered to give the ball back," A-rod said. "That's pretty generous."