16 years ago, Derek Jeter made one of the most memorable plays in MLB postseason history. On the anniversary of the famous ‘flip play,” we take a moment to look back at this outstanding play and remember how it totally changed the New York Yankees’ 2001 season.
The start of the 2001 American League Division Series didn’t go as planned for the Bronx Bombers, who lost the first two games at home against the Oakland Athletics. As the series shifted to Oakland for Game 3, the Yankees were on the brink of elimination, but Derek Jeter once again was there to save the day.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Yankees held a 1-0 lead, a lead in which starting pitcher Mike Mussina was trying to preserve. With a runner on first and two men out, Terrence Long stepped to the plate, hoping to at least tie the ball game up.
Long did his part, as he smacked a hard-hit ball down the right field line that rolled into the corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer fielded the ball cleanly, but overthrew two cut-off men (Tino Martinez and Alfonso Soriano), which resulted in his throw rolling towards home plate.
At this moment, it appeared as if the game was about to be tied up, but Jeter had other plans. Realizing that Spencer overthrew the cut-off men, Jeter hustled from his shortstop position to the first base line (about 110 feet) to field the throw. On the run, he was able to flip the ball to Jorge Posada, who was able to tag out Jeremy Giambi, who represented the tying run.
The day after the game, the San Jose Mercury News featured this image to show how the exact play went down:
Some say that the “flip play” was a fluke, others say it was a play the Yankees practiced regularly, but one thing is for sure: the “flip play” changed the momentum of not only the series, but the entire Yankees season.
Not only did the Yankees win the game by that same 1-0 score, they also battled back to win the series. After defeating the Seattle Mariners in the American League Championship Series, the Bronx Bombers once again returned to the Fall Classic in 2001.
A memorable play by Derek Jeter turned out to be a huge difference maker in the team’s postseason run. If Jeter doesn’t make that play, it’s very possible that the New York Yankees’ 2001 season could have ended very differently.