After 9/11, Baseball Brought Hope Back to America
Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will not falter, for You are with me.
On September 11th, 2001, four airplanes were hijacked by terrorists from the group Al Qaeda. The planes were destined for the Pentagon, either the White House or the Capitol Building, and the other two were to strike the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
Three of the planes made it to their destinations. The one heading to the White House was brought down in Pennsylvania by brave passengers.
2,993 people died that day. America was forever redefined.
One week later, a baseball game helped heal some, albeit small, parts of the wound.
...We will show the world that we will pass this test.
President George W. Bush
President Bush was at an elementary school in Florida, reading to children when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:53 AM, EST. A Secret Service operative informed the President, as he did also with the second, third and fourth planes crashing.
Networks, including sports networks, broke away from their normal programming to bring live coverage of the World Trade Center burning.
At 9:59 AM, the South Tower collapsed. 30 minutes later, the North Tower joined its twin at Ground Zero.
Commissioner Bud Selig of the MLB immediately delayed the season, with the playoff race in full swing. The NFL also delayed a week off their schedule, moving Week 2, scheduled for September 16 and 17 for January 2 and 7, as Week 18.
Without the coping method most Americans would use, people were left to sit, think and mourn for those lost.
The only two things that got my mind off [9/11] were baseball and my son's football games
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
With the sports world, so many people found ways out of their grief, mourning and sorrow with other traumatic events.
But because the NFL was also off, and the NBA and NHL not starting until October, the American people were left without their coping method.
10 days after the terrible catastrophe, baseball returned, along with America's heart.
The New York Mets faced off against their bitter rivals, the Atlanta Braves. The game had huge playoff implications between the two teams, as they were fighting for playoff ground in the tightly-packed National League East.
The game was played at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York. The ballpark was near LaGuardia Airport, and unease came upon the crowd when planes flew over the Stadium.
But through it all, the American Spirit remained. The players from the Mets and the Braves stood on the first and third base lines during an emotional Star Spangled Banner. The New York Police Department Band took the field, along with other heroes of 9/11.
The Braves and Mets shook hands after the National Anthem, a feat uncommon between opponents in the baseball world. Players from both sides also shook the hands of many firefighters and police officers who attended that nights game.
The game eventualy got underway. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be waiving an American Flag. Someone held up a sign that read "Once bitter rivals, now United!"
The game was tight. The Braves led 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th when New York native Steve Karsay of the Braves walked Met Edgardo Alfonzo. Mets captain Mike Piazza, choked up with all the emotion of the events of the past week and a half, stood in next.
I'm glad I could give people a diversion from the sorrow, to give them a thrill,
Piazza stepped into the batters box.
And he took a swing.
A swing, to try and heal a wound.
A swing, to try to return America to normality.
A swing, to try and bring hope back to a broken city.
A swing that sent a tiny leather ball over the centerfield wall.
The ball, which was carried by the might of New York, the will of it's citizens, the will of it's firefighters, police officers and paramedics, gave New York the lead. A 3-2 lead that would end the game.
People stopped being sorry. They started enjoying life again.
That is just a great sight. A firefighter, smiling because of a home run...
New York Mets color commentator
The Mets went on to win the game, but miss out on the playoffs. The Braves won the division, and the Mets finished in third place, six games behind them.
The American League's New York Yankees, the most decorated team in all of baseball, went on to win the American League championship that year, but lose to the four-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series.
But, on September 21, 2001, baseball wasn't about wins and losses; home runs and RBI; stolen bases and batting average.
It was about America; New York's sons playing the American game.
God Bless You.
God Bless America.
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