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Jeter, a new Mr. October in town
10/07/2004 10:24 PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- With all due respect to Reggie Jackson, there is a new Mr. October.

Derek Jeter added yet another memorable night to his postseason career on Wednesday, scoring the game-winning run in the 12th inning to cap a remarkable comeback victory. Jeter also made some great plays in the field, laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, and, for good measure, crushed a home run to the "black" section in center field, joining Jackson as the only Yankees to do so in a postseason game.

"He hit a ball to Reggie-land," said manager Joe Torre. "That's not really part of his signature, but he made a statement there."

"My job is to get on base, that's the bottom line," Jeter said. "It doesn't make a difference whether it's a home run, single or a walk, you try to set the tone and get on early, try to make something happen. I was fortunate to hit a home run, but that's not what I have been trying to do."

Jeter's postseason legend started in his rookie year of 1996, as he helped the Yankees to their first World Series title in 18 years. New York went on to win four titles from '96-2000, with Jeter smack dab in the middle of each championship run. He was MVP of the 2000 World Series against the Mets.

"He's a special player," said general manager Brian Cashman. "A lot of people have the physical ability, but they don't have the mental ability to back it up. Something in him allows him to deliver. He finds a way to win, and he expects to do it."

If someone had never seen Jeter play a single baseball game, a tape of Wednesday night's game could demonstrate what he means to the Yankees. In his first at-bat, he smoked the home run to center. In his third trip to the plate, he bunted Miguel Cairo to second base, allowing Alex Rodriguez to bring Cairo home with a single.

Then, in the 12th, Jeter walked, advanced to third on A-Rod's game-tying double, then scored on a shallow line-drive sac fly to right field, a ball which most players wouldn't have had the guts to run on.

"He wasn't going to be denied," Torre said. "He got to third base, and I am not sure any third base coach would say, 'Tag up and go,' when that ball was hit. He just basically was going to go on any ball hit in the air and force them to make a play."

That's Jeter's style of play, be it a game in April or October.

Jorge Posada, who is Jeter's closest friend on the team, has seen the shortstop's leadership skills grow both on and off the field over the past eight years. The personality of the team is that of Jeter's, which is why the Yanks were able to post a record 61 comebacks during the regular season. Oh yeah, and No. 62 on Wednesday.

"He's a guy we follow," Posada said. "He does it over and over again, and it's fun to see the way he approaches the game. It was like [Wednesday] was a regular-season game for him. He's as relaxed as anybody."

"I think it's the only approach you can take," Jeter said. "Baseball is baseball, whether it's in April or in October. It's just the stakes are a little bit higher. You are under the microscope a little bit more, but it's still the same game."

Some players melt under the bright lights of October, but that's all Jeter has known throughout his nine-year career. The Yankees have gone 67-34 in his 101 playoff games, winning four titles and six AL pennants in that time.

With that experience comes knowledge, and Jeter knows that a playoff game can be won or lost on the simplest of plays.

"A bunt in the third or fourth inning can be the difference in a game, and I just try to pay attention to the little things," Jeter said. "Every out is important. I think every play, every pitch is something that you have to pay attention to. I try to focus on the details of the small things."

Jeter's postseason highlight reel includes several clutch hits, a couple of game-winning home runs, one ridiculous flip play and countless key at-bats. October is his month, regardless of whether Jackson holds the title of Mr. October or not.

"You have to enjoy yourself, have some fun," Jeter said. "All I have known since I have been 21 years old is playing in October, so this is the time you have to enjoy."

If you're Derek Jeter in the month of October, what's not to enjoy?

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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