NEW YORK (AP) — Delirious only minutes earlier, fans at Yankee Stadium sat stunned in utter disbelief while they watched Derek Jeter being helped off the field, his left leg dangling.
Their worst fears were met, too. The durable captain broke his left ankle in the 12th inning of the AL championship series opener Saturday night and is out for the rest of the postseason.
"It's kind of crushing," outfielder Nick Swisher said.
Three innings after Raul Ibanez sent the 47,122 in Yankee Stadium into a frenzy with a tying two-run homer, the New York shortstop silenced the crowd when he went down and didn't get up after making a tumbling stop on Jhonny Peralta's grounder.
That feel-good moment was gone in a flash.
Jeter took four steps to his left for the sharp grounder, landing hard on his left foot, falling and wincing in pain as he flipped the ball toward second base. He then rolled onto his stomach, and a collective gasp was heard when the player who symbolizes championship baseball didn't get up.
Jeter remained on his side, rolling slightly, as trainer Steve Donahue and manager Joe Girardi checked him out. He was helped up, and he put an arm around Girardi and Donahue. They coaxed him off the field, with Jeter not moving his left leg as chants of "Derek Jeter!" rang out.
"You can see the disappointment in his face," Girardi said after the 6-4 loss.
A teammate on three World Series championship teams, Girardi wanted to carry Jeter off the field but he would have none of it — not the player who has always been reluctant to sit and prides himself on playing through pain.
"He said, 'No, do not carry me.' That is the kind of guy he is," Girardi said.
Girardi said the injury won't jeopardize Jeter's career. But the recovery will be about three months.
Now if the Yankees are going to go deep in the postseason, they'll have to do it without the five-time World Series champion for the first time in 16 years.
Tigers outfielder Delmon Young found it difficult to watch one the game's greats leaving the field in the manner Jeter did.
"He is an idol for many baseball players," Young said.
Jeter has been a constant in the Yankees' lineup since he was Rookie of the Year in 1996. In fact, the 2000 World Series MVP has played in all 157 of New York's postseason games since then.
That's over now.
"I can't tell you how much I appreciate his toughness and his grit," Girardi said. "It's, to me, a great example for everyone. And I am not just talking about athletes, I am just talking about everyone that goes through struggles in life or goes through pain in life."