How baseball healed New York City
In honor of the 17th anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to share two moments that helped heal a city. The 9/11 attacks were the worst in American history, and while New York was unraveling, it was also the strongest the city has ever been. The efforts of NYPD, FDNY, and all civilians willing to help out was amazing. New York wasn’t just a city anymore, it was a community. It was New York against the world, but the entire world was on its side. It makes you think why the people of New York can’t be like that all the time.
Anyway, part of the healing process for New Yorkers was being able to get back to their normal lives. As you all know, New Yorkers are some of the toughest and most resilient humans on Earth. It’s in our nature to just shake bad times off and rise above. We have an attitude about us that not many other cities have. Part of that attitude comes from the sports teams we watch.
The teams that New Yorkers love most are the teams that play the hardest. From the New York Sack Exchange to the ’94 Knicks and Rangers, those teams all had a gritty element to them. After 9/11, there were only two teams playing, both beloved by their fans. The Mets and Yankees took on the task of becoming that grit that held the city together. They became the distraction from the horrible attacks. They became the hope that drove New Yorkers forward.
The home run that awoke the city
The first sporting event in New York after 9/11 was a meaningless baseball game between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. The Mets had disappointed all year after a run to the World Series the year before, but standings really didn’t matter that night.
The Mets were down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth when future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza came to the plate. Braves pitcher Steve Karsay was trying to work out of a jam. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for all New Yorkers, this happened;
Piazza scorched a two run home run to straightaway Centerfield and the rest is history. The Mets won the game 3-2 and Piazza was forever remembered as a hero in New York. It may seem like an insignificant moment, but Piazza took away some pain that the Mets fans had felt the previous week. He distracted them from real life and had them focus all their energy on cheering for their team. Shea Stadium exploded and it was an amazing moment.
Right down the middle, to signify that we’d be alright
Meanwhile in the Bronx, the Yankees were stringing together another playoff run. After three straight World Series victories, most people were sick of the Yankees and their winning ways. However, for just one postseason, they seemed to be the underdog.
It’s strange when the most “evil” franchise in sports history is somehow turned into the darling of sports. The Yankees carried their fans until early November with another great playoff run. While they lost in brutal fashion, it was the journey that meant a lot more than the destination. Whether it be the first Scott Brosius home run against Byung-Hyun Kim, or the second and more famous “Mr. November” home run by Derek Jeter, the 2001 World Series was filled with moments that made New Yorkers proud of their Yankees.
The defining moment of those playoffs though was something that happened before the game started. Then President George W. Bush came to visit Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the World Series. He was to throw out the first pitch of the game. The crowd at Yankee Stadium was buzzing with excitement, and as a someone who was lucky enough to be there, it was the most emotional I’ve ever seen a stadium.
Bush calmly walked to the mound (the actual mound) and game some thumbs up before getting into his windup. What happened next made everyone in that stadium feel that everything was going to be alright.
Bush threw the pitch right down the middle. You couldn’t have scripted it any better. It was a perfect strike at the perfect moment. It encapsulated everything that it meant to be an American at that time. We are strong, we will move on, but we will never forget. That may have been the greatest strike in MLB history.
Whether you’re a Mets or Yankees fan, the weeks after 9/11 were some of the most emotional weeks you could think of. It didn’t matter what team you rooted for because you were a New Yorker and that’s all that mattered. Seventeen years later, we still feel the effects of those few weeks. We still proudly wear our jerseys and puff out our chests because these teams mean so much to us. Without the Mets and Yankees, who knows where New York would have been. Never Forget.
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