Derek Jeter paid Jimmy Fallon a visit Wednesday night, joining the popular late-night host, along with guest Rita Ora, for a game of "True Confessions." Throughout his career, the Hall-of-Fame shortstop never resorted to performance enhancers, unless you include his use of a slump-busting undergarment.
Belonging to Jason Giambi, the miracle thong was a fixture in the Yankees’ clubhouse throughout the early 2000s, with the All-Star slugger insisting teammates borrow it as a good-luck charm, including Jeter, who found it to be a useful antidote amid one of the worst dry spells of his MLB career.
“I had a new teammate that I played with in 2002 who always had a gold thong hanging from his locker,” said Jeter, who, through context clues, we can safely surmise was Giambi. “He told me anytime you struggle, wear the gold thong, you’re guaranteed to get a hit.”
Teammates have spoken at length of this phenomenon, making believers out of Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, among other converts to the healing powers of Giambi’s immortal thong. Jeter was understandably skeptical at first, but after a prolonged slump to open the 2004 season, the Yankees slugger was ready to try anything, even if it meant taking the drastic step of wearing another man’s drawers.
“In 2004, I went through the worst offensive stretch of my career. Every day I’d walk in and he’d point at the thong. So finally, I wore the thong,” said Jeter, who was recently announced as the cover athlete for this year’s Collector’s Edition of MLB The Show. “Now it wasn’t thong to skin. I had shorts on underneath. So I put the thong over the shorts. First pitch, home run.”
Going off his game log for that season, Jeter’s home run most likely came April 29th against Oakland, breaking out of an 0-for-32 slump with one mighty swing, hammering the first pitch he saw from A’s lefty Barry Zito. It’s hard to know how much the thong actually helped Jeter (FanGraphs, unfortunately, has nothing in its database to quantify that metric), even as a placebo. Still, its effect on locker-room camaraderie can’t be understated, united by the shared bond of an eccentric—not to mention highly unsanitary—superstition.
A vocal supporter of all things pinstripes (despite starring as a diehard Red Sox fan in Fever Pitch), Fallon had another Yankee appear on the show last week, with Aaron Judge stopping by 30 Rock to talk about his new contract, being named captain and how he picks his walk-up song, among other interview topics.
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