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Jeter explains how 'The Flip' came to fruition

No. 2: 'Respectfully, the Giambi family is not very fast'
@JayCat11
January 23, 2020

In a career filled with numerous accomplishments, countless highlights and memorable moments, perhaps the most iconic one from Derek Jeter’s playing days was “The Flip.” But how does Jeter, fresh off being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 99.7 percent of the vote on Tuesday, remember the play?

In a career filled with numerous accomplishments, countless highlights and memorable moments, perhaps the most iconic one from Derek Jeter’s playing days was “The Flip.”

But how does Jeter, fresh off being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 99.7 percent of the vote on Tuesday, remember the play? And what went into the longtime Yankees shortstop’s remarkable presence of mind to be in that position -- drifting toward the foul line halfway between home plate and first base -- to pick up an errant throw all the way from the right-field corner just in time to make a shovel pass to get Jeremy Giambi at home plate in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against the Athletics?

Jeter discussed all of that at length with host Harold Reynolds in an MLB Tonight segment as part of his visit, along with fellow electee Larry Walker, to MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J., on Wednesday.

“Doing my job,” Jeter said of his mindset as the flip play was unfolding. “My job is to watch the runner. The runner at first was Jeremy Giambi, and I saw the ball down the line. My job is to, one, see if there’s going to be a play at third base, but once you see that Giambi is going to go home, my job is to then be the third cutoff man to redirect the throw to third base.”

Instead, of course, what happened was Jeter wound up being in just the right spot to field Shane Spencer’s errant throw that sailed over the heads of both second baseman Alfonso Soriano and first baseman Tino Martinez.

“Now, we don’t practice actually shovel passing the ball to home plate,” Jeter said, noting that he would have had a chance to get the hitter, Terrence Long, on his way to third base if there wasn’t going to be a shot to nab Giambi’s would-be tying run at home for the third out of the seventh inning.

“I have said this before, and I say this very respectfully -- the Giambi family is not very fast,” Jeter said. “So I knew we had an opportunity to get him at the plate.”

The play wound up changing the momentum of that ALDS. The Yankees entered the contest in Oakland down two games to none in the best-of-five series, but they would capture Game 3 by a score of 1-0 before taking Games 4 and 5 to advance to the ALCS -- and eventually the World Series.

Jason Catania is a reporter and editor for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JayCat11.