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Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter recalls famous 'flip' as his farewell tour visits Oakland

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OAKLAND, Calif. - Derek Jeter has never understood the fuss over his famous flip.

The New York Yankees shortstop just looks back on that moment in Game 3 of the 2001 AL division series as being in the right position and making an improvisational play when his team needed it most. All the attention over the flip so many years later is what surprises him the most.

"It's probably the play you see the most of, I see the most of," said Jeter, who announced earlier this year that this season would be his last. "I think all moments are special. I've never ranked them."

Jeter's retirement tour rolled through a special spot Friday night when the Yankees began their only regular-season series at the Oakland Athletics. It was here at the Coliseum on Oct. 13, 2001, when Jeter completed one of the most improbable and iconic plays in baseball history.

With New York facing elimination and leading 1-0 in the seventh inning, right fielder Shane Spencer missed two cutoff men on a hit by Oakland's Terrence Long. Seemingly out of nowhere, Jeter swooped in, scooped up the errant throw along the first-base line and made a backhanded flip to nab Jeremy Giambi — who did not slide — at the plate.

The Yankees went on to win the game, and the series.

"A lot of things have to go right, but then also a couple things have to go wrong in order for it to happen," Jeter said. "I think that one was just sort of like a perfect storm."

Jeter has long maintained that the Yankees practice the unusual cutoff formation in spring training. But, he conceded, he practices throwing to second or third — not home.

Just why Jeter was in that position is the question former A's players such as Jason Giambi and Eric Chavez have asked him when they joined the Yankees later in their career.

"Nobody believes us until they actually see us working on it," Jeter said. "I think that's the thing they bring up the most."

The A's are planning to honour Jeter — as most clubs have — during Sunday's series finale, his last scheduled visit this year. The video highlights are not expected to include his flip, which is still a sour note for fans in Oakland.

"I've seen it. I'm sure they've all seen it, too," Jeter joked.

Most in Oakland believe Giambi would have been safe had he slid. Jeter's not so sure.

"Maybe. We'll never know. I'm glad he didn't," Jeter said.

It's easy to see why. New York's Alfonso Soriano, who as the second baseman that game was supposed to be the first cutoff man, said Jeter's flip changed the outlook of the series.

"I think after that play, we had more motivation to win the series," Soriano said in the Yankees clubhouse before Friday night's game. "I think that was the big key of that series."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was not part of that club, and he doesn't even remember watching the play live on television. But he has seen the replays over the years, and said Jeter's throw was so on point that "maybe he should have been an option quarterback."

He also believes Jeter's ho-hum attitude toward the play only adds to the Yankees Captain's legacy.

"Maybe some people call it his signature play that people remember the most," Girardi said. "But it was, to me, just Derek being Derek."

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