By Thursday, the whole baseball world would know the tale of Shane Spencer.
Spent eight full seasons in the minors. Bounced between Triple-A and the majors this year. Put up big September numbers.Spencer capped an amazing month in which he went from a virtual unknown to New York's newest hero, homering in his first postseason at-bat as the Yankees beat Texas 3-1 Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in their AL division series.
"He doesn't get cheated up there," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "He knows what that piece of wood is made for, and it's not to clean off his shoes."
The 26-year-old rookie also singled ahead of Scott Brosius' homer, and that was plenty of support for Andy Pettitte. Texas, the top-hitting team in the league this season, has managed just 10 hits and one run in the series so far.
"It won't be storybook until it's all over," Spencer said. "I'm just riding it now, cherishing the moment. Maybe someday I'll look back on it."
The Yankees will try to sweep the best-of-5 playoff on Friday night in Texas. David Cone (20-7) starts for New York against Aaron Sele (19-11).
Playing in baseball's most storied ballpark, Spencer added his own chapter. Then again, he certainly had enough time to look forward to this day.
Drafted in the 28th round in 1990, the outfielder did not even hit a home run in his first two years in the minors. He made it to the majors this year, though he made three round trips between Triple-A Columbus and New York.
Promoted for a fourth time on Aug. 31, he hit .421 with eight home runs in September and three grand slams in 10 days - joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio among the seven players in team history to hit three slams in an entire year.
Spencer, who hit 119 homers in the minors, earned AL player of the week honors for hitting six homers in the past week. Overall, he hit .373 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in helping the Yankees finish with a league-record 114 victories.
"I can't say it suddenly came," he said. "I've been hitting them in the minor leagues. I've worked on it seven or eight years. It's just a lot of practice."
Spencer happened to notice his name on the lineup card before the game and got his chance to start in left field partly because of an ominous medical report on Darryl Strawberry.
Told that doctors had "found something" on his colon, Strawberry left the team for more tests Thursday. It is not known when he will rejoin the Yankees.
Rick Helling, who tied for the AL lead with 20 wins, struck out three of New York's first six batters and threw two fastballs past Spencer for called strikes.
But on a 2-2 pitch, Spencer launched a drive over the 399-foot marker in left-center field for the game's first run.