PHILADELPHIA – There was the chant from the 45,000 fans, Sunday night at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. They repeated “U-S-A! U-S-A!, as the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies continued to play a baseball game on a Sunday evening in early May. The game on national television, ESPN, at this point in the season meant more for the Mets who were trying to snap another brief but significant three-game losing streak.
We got word in the press box, through the technology of social media, and the on the press box televisions, that Osama bin Laden had been killed as the Mets were at bat in the top of the ninth inning. Fans checked their phones, and media in the press box went to the CNN and Fox News web sites to verify what was going on.
It was that type of night in Philadelphia, and another memorable one for the Mets as it pertained to the events of September 11, 2001. “Probably a night I will never forget,” said Mets’ pitcher Chris Young who was back in the training room after pitching seven strong innings.
“I got chills hearing that crowd,” he said, as once again, baseball and the New York Mets were a part of history. “It’s a historic night and a great victory for the United States,” said Young. He wasn’t on the Mets team, neither were any members of the current roster when baseball returned at Shea Stadium 10 days later after the attacks of September 11.
However, as news reverberated around the stadium, and into the ears of the players, coaches, and manager, the events of that night of September 21, 2001 were recalled. Once again baseball was being played but the events taking place were more important. The Mets and Phillies, rivals in the National league east, just like the Mets and Braves in that game when baseball returned 10 years ago, were no longer rivals.
“This is a good win for us and obviously a huge win for America tonight,” said Mets manager Terry Collins in his post- game press conference with the media. Collins did not immediately talk about the game. The Mets would win in 14-innings, maybe not as dramatic to the Mike Piazza home run at Shea Stadium that beat the Braves that night, when baseball became the healing process for New York City and all of America.
Collins heard the chants. “You almost want to stop the game,” he said. “You almost want to just stop the game and have that girl come and sing another beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless America,’” he said. But the game did not stop. And up in the press box, the media continued to monitor how it all unfolded.
They, too, got caught up in what was now more than reporting about a baseball game. It was news again, historic, as America finally got retribution and took down the most sought after mass murderer of this era. Baseball was still being played but those who lost their lives in New York City, Washington D.C. and in Pennsylvania, the brave military and uniform service personnel, and all who have been a part of this mission, they, were the story this evening.
Baseball was being played as scheduled. The military mission to end this 10-year hunt of searching, capturing, or killing bin Laden on the same night was a coincidence. And the Mets happened to be around this story again, the New York impact where the events of September 11, 2001 were mostly captured.
This was no longer going to be a night when the Mets snapped their latest losing streak and not a story about the Mets avoiding a three-game sweep by the first place Phillies. It was about America, and all the victims, and heroes of that tragic day of September 11, 2001.
And when David Wright of the Mets scored on a double hit by Ronnie Paulino in the top of the 14th inning, for the go- ahead run, there probably weren’t that many still tuned into the game on ESPN. They were watching the network news feeds and determining where do we go from here? Are the threats against America over?
Probably not we were saying up in the press box. We will still have to be scanned before going into the ballpark, and be conscious of threats to our security. The implications will always be a part of our lives due to that tragic day of 10-years ago.
And for one night again, baseball was a part of the story. Except this time we were not the victims and America stayed strong. Some of us at times wonder why at the ballpark, in particular every seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, do we stand and sing the words, “God Bless America?”
It won’t be questioned again next week at Yankee Stadium, or this week at Citi Field. Baseball was significant for America 10-years ago and again Sunday night May 1, 2011. We cheered what was going on the playing field and more so for those who help keep us protected.
Most of all, we never forget the victims of September 11, 2011.
Email Rich Mancuso: [email protected]