9-11 and Baseball
As the years roll on, the terror and the feeling of uncertainty and remorse do not wane on this day. It was the awakening moment of this Nation to the horrors and the tragic events that unfold daily in other corners of the World. We had taken a direct terrorist attack upon our shores, and the Nation took a step back, then collectively joined their hearts and hands together to initiate a healing process that doesn’t seem completed even today.
Today millions of words of remembrance and prospective of this horrific event will fill the blogs and pages of newspapers and the Internet to again always remember this day, and the way this country rose from the dust and tangled mass of our beloved twin towers to again soar high as an eagle. For this 11th day of September used to be remembered for other Worldly events, but now it will be a day of mutual spirit and sadness as we remember those lost and other who searched and fought to bring a positive moment to this tragic event.
Everyone has their own stories and versions of the visual and audible sights and sounds of this day, including a few of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays players and coaches who were bunked up in their hotel outside of New York City awaiting that evenings game against the New York Yankees. They could see the towering smoke and the increased activity along the streets below, but many did not know the cause and effect of this day until most of their cell phones or hotel phones began to ring with the news from worried loved ones and friends.
Paul Hoover, now a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, will be in uniform during the pre-game ceremonies at Citi Field as the New York City citizens again remember the courage, and the pain of that faithful day. Back in 2001, Hoover was just two games into his 2001 stint with the then Devil Rays when September 11th changed the landscape of not only the World, but baseball. As he stands there by the dugout during the moment of silence followed by the singing of the National Anthem by a FDNY member, emotions and reactionary moments in his mind will instantly bring him back to the chaos and the extreme uncertainty of that day.
“When we came to New York, we didn’t even stay in the city,” Hoover told the Courier Post Online. “We stayed in Jersey cause they didn’t know what could happen with what was all going on. I didn’t feel scared, but you’re definitely on alert.”
The events of that day bonded the young Rays as players began to assemble to watch the events of the 9-11 tragedy unfold. They consoled each other as some of the players phoned friends and relative to hear what the reports were outside the city to the cause and effect of that days events. Rumors and innuendo were running rampant in their team hotel with unsubstantiated reports of additional attacks all over the country.
The series against the Yankees was suspended along with the rest of the Major League Baseball schedule as the Nation grieved and collected itself to begin the healing process and begin the enormous task of assessing and reporting the physical damage and begin the healing process for so many around the country. The Rays and the Yankees finally brought a bit of instant normalcy again to the city when they began their delayed series, and the New York populous could make a collective sigh and give thanks for the many who helped build their city again from the ashes of the twin towers.
“There was a lot of emotion,” Hoover said. “I just remember all of us playing, thanking all the policemen and firemen. We were on the line together. When we came down the tunnel, they were all there and then when we lined up it was fireman, policeman, player, fireman, policeman, player. You talked to them the whole time. Some of them were actually down there for 9/11. It was a neat experience, but an unfortunate experience.”
Hoover’s experience was just one of many that day that felt the full emotional tear and angst of seeing his country suffer and also begin rebuilding within the scope of baseball. Two days after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who had suspended the season to let the Nation gather and mourn, Selig announced:
“I believe in the spirit of national recovery and a return to normalcy. Major League Baseball, as a social institution, can best be helpful by resuming play at the most appropriate time.”
That day was September 17th when the Rays and Yankees again be able to bring their talents together to help the New York rebuilding process by getting back to normal life in the city and bringing the fan together to focus and feel joy again in the aftermath of the 9-11 events. The Yankees showed support to the efforts of the NYPD and FDNY brave souls by wearing their collective symbols upon their caps for the rest of the season on their baseball caps.
Every MLB club emblazoned on the back of their jerseys an American flag upon the usually prevalent MLB logo to shoe mutual support and respect towards their New York and Washington brethren who had suffered. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter visited a hospital and armory in New York to be with families awaiting word of missing persons.
“If anything, playing again will give people an option to watch something else on TV. This (tragedy) is closer to home because it’s New York.”
The seventh inning stretch became a patriotic moment as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was replaced by “God Bless America“. Red, white and blue bunting adorned all MLB ballparks and the American flag made an appearance with great gala in the stands during the completion of the 2001 season. Not only did New York remember and embrace the normalcy, but the rest of this Nation also showed respect, honor and moments of individual remembrance of this event.
Nine years later, the images and the sounds heard that day are still fresh in my mind. The hours of watching and digesting those horrific moments and hearing the eventual tumbling of the twin towers to the ground still send chills through me. It was a moment when this country felt insecure, fragile and subject to the World’s ills.
Bringing the grieving American fans into the 30 chapels of the Church of Baseball after the events of 9-11 only seemed right. I still have a D-Rays cap given to me by Rays pitcher Bryan Rekar that shows the symbols of NYPD and FDNY written onto its brow. No matter if you are a Mariner, Rays or even a Yankee, 9-11 will always be honored and remembered.