NEW YORK -- A big swing, a broad smile and a ball into Monument Park. Just like that, Derek Jeter's slump was over.
A crowd that stood when he stepped to the plate cheered wildly when he connected. Often reluctant to show emotion, Jeter gave a little fist pump after he rounded first base, then took a rare
curtain call when he reached the dugout.
"A streak like that, you wouldn't want to wish on anyone, even other teams," Jeter said after the 7-5 win over Oakland. "Guys on other teams even have been giving me support."
The rut was the longest by a Yankees player in 27 years,
prompting many people to wonder what was wrong.
Bruised hands? Tough luck? Pressure from playing next to Alex Rodriguez?
True to form, New York's captain never offered excuses.
"Pitchers aren't going to feel sorry for you. You've just got
to go out and keep swinging," Jeter said earlier this week. "It's
a funny game sometimes."
The All-Star shortstop made a nifty grab on Scott Hatteberg's liner to end the top of the first inning.
Then in the bottom half, facing Oakland's former Cy Young
winner, Jeter picked on a curveball and drove it over the
left-center field wall into a place where he's destined to someday
have his own plaque.
Jeter went 1-for-4 with his first home run of the season,
raising his average to .165.
The previous night, fans tried to will him to success, chanting "Let's Go, Jeter!" each time he came up against Athletics.
Instead, it was another futile effort, leaving him without a hit since a week ago Tuesday. It was the longest skid by a position
player in the big leagues since Joe McEwing went 0-for-33 in 2002
with the Mets.
"The fans have been great," Jeter said. "They've been
cheering for me going up, but afterwards they haven't had anything
to cheer about. But they've been outstanding."
"I've been thinking all right in the box. Afterwards, sometimes
you start second-guessing," he said.
A career .315 hitter -- and the guy with the most postseason hits in history -- Jeter had never gone more than 18 at-bats without a hit. His slump was the longest by a Yankees player since Jimmy Wynn, the "Toy Cannon," went 0-for-32 in 1977.
Former Jeter teammate Robin Ventura could sympathize. In 1990, Ventura went through an 0-for-41 rut with the White Sox that ended with a bunt single.
"It's very frustrating. I know, having been there," the Los
Angeles infielder said. "But I was a rookie. He at least knows
he's not going to get sent down."
When it comes to monster slumps at the plate, pitchers rule.
Pittsburgh's Kris Benson stopped his 0-for-44 slide this year, a season after Los Angeles' Kazuhisa Ishii ended his 0-for-45 rut. The longest current string in the majors belongs to Toronto starter Pat Hentgen at 0-for-40.
The big league record for the longest hitless streak in a season belongs to Bob Buhl, who went 0-for-70 in 1962 while pitching for the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Braves.
When he came up in the eighth inning of a 5-1 win Wednesday night, Jeter had a chance to break another drought, too.
But Jeter grounded out, meaning he'd gone 4,957 at-bats in his career without a grand slam. Eric Young leads that list among
active major leaguers with 5,536 at-bats.
Jeter has been working hard in batting practice, watching tape and talking with new hitting coach Don Mattingly.
"I'd probably go through four different stances during 32
at-bats," Mattingly said Thursday. "I'd try to bat like (Rod)
Carew and try to bat like (Carl) Yastrzemski. That's one thing -- if
I look back at myself, I probably would've made a lot less
Naturally, Jeter's streak attracted a lot of attention.
Players from the Lynbrook Dodgers, a softball team of senior citizens on Long Island, sent Jeter a letter with advice.
"Do it the old fashioned way," wrote Harry Schwarzkopf, 73, and his teammates. "Pick up your bat and stand in front of the
mirror and swing away."