Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Jeter avoids punch by Ali


Boxing legend Muhammad Ali , second from right, and his 13-year-old son Asaad, right, with players before the 75th Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Minute Maid Field in Houston, Texas, Tuesday.


Add another impressive line to Derek Jeter's glittering resume: the most successful hitter in All-Star game history.

Jeter went 3-for-3 Tuesday night, upping his career totals in the game to 7-for-10.

That .700 batting average is the highest for anyone with at least 10 at-bats, topping the .600 of former Philadelphia Phillies star Richie Ashburn.

While that's pretty nice, and the AL's 9-4 victory was good, too, Jeter said he'll remember the game mostly as the night he got to meet -- and spar with -- Muhammad Ali.

"I was scared," Jeter said, smirking. "I didn't want to get hit."

Jeter saw Ali in the American League clubhouse on Monday, but said he was "drawn back -- too intimidated to meet him."

He said the last person who awed him like that was former Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio.

Jeter overcame his shyness in a big way Tuesday night. After catching the ceremonial first pitch from a Little Leaguer, Jeter went to the mound to greet Ali and saw fists coming his way. Jeter laughed, then motioned with his glove for his fellow All-Stars to come closer to Ali for a group photo.

"It looked like some people might have been scared," Jeter said. "It's something I think everyone will remember."

Jeter's night kept rolling in the bottom of the first when he hit a two-out single off former Yankees teammate Roger Clemens. Alfonso Soriano, Jeter's double-play partner the last few seasons in New York, followed with a three-run homer that broke the game open.

Jeter came up again with one out in the third and singled off Randy Johnson. He led off the fifth with a single off Carl Pavano. All three of his hits went to the opposite field.

"It's not just good fortune," said Jeter, who also went 3-for-3 in the 2000 All-Star game, winning the MVP award. He went on to win the World Series MVP that season, making him the first player to pull off that double.

Jeter's perfect night against the NL's best arms makes it even more mind-boggling that he was batting under .200 nearly two months into the season.

His turnaround came in June, when he hit .396 with nine homers, helping to lift his average to .277 at the break.

"Well, it's a long season. It's not over after the first month and a half or two months," Jeter said. "We've still got a long way to go. I just try to keep things in perspective and take it day-to-day."

Two weeks ago, the New York Yankees' shortstop made one of the season's best fielding plays when he ran full-speed into the stands to catch a popup with two on and two outs, helping the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 in 13 innings.

Although he's a four-time World Series champion and the career leader in postseason hits with 123, Jeter had never been voted by fans to start an All-Star game.

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