After 10 years, I can admit to myself a truth I’ve tried hard to forget. I can admit I was a teenager more concerned with a girl than a terrorist attack on our country. I can admit, as a high school senior, I made a joke about the attack on my way to home room. I can admit my insensitivity and ignorance. But that all stopped the moment I saw the television. It changed and I matured the moment I saw the billowing smoke, like so many of the victims, reaching out into the New York sky.
There have been many stories about baseball and 9/11. This is mine.
Much like the rest of our country, I was changed that day. I was moved and hurt and saddened and angered. I was depressed and resilient and proud and fearful. I was an American bound not only by faith in recovery and a thirst for justice, but in my need to heal.
My immaturity quickly faded that day. The empty skies, moments of silence, and ever-increasing death toll did that to people. To ease the sickness I felt in thinking of the senseless and immense loss of life, I turned toward something only a sports fan would understand; baseball.
The game was gone for six days. But when it returned, it was like battlefield patch-work for a wounded soldier. It wasn’t a permanent fix, but it helped get us through. The New York Mets and New York Yankees stood paramount for obvious reasons. The Mets failed to make the postseason, so New York City’s hopes and continued healing rested solely with the Yankees.
The Yankees made it all the way to the World Series, their run seemingly guided by destiny. But they were facing an Arizona Diamondbacks team in just its third year of existence. That team didn’t know any better. That team didn’t realize the
Hollywood scribes were writing a different story, one that saw the Yankees win the title and help heal the hearts of New Yorkers.
I was living in Arizona at this time and remember that series like it was yesterday. I remember the Diamondbacks pitching dominance. I remember the Yankees comeback. I remember Randy Johnson coming in from the bullpen the day after he started. I remember a tie game in the ninth. Most of all I remember the distraction of a game we played as children, and I remember welcoming it with open arms.
When Luis Gonzalez blooped a single over the drawn in infield, the state of Arizona rejoiced. Yankees fans were left stunned. A walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series is baseball lore. It’s what Little Leaguers dream of when they are on the practice fields. It’s what fans hope for ever year.
While the magical run was over for the Yankees and the Diamondbacks celebrated into the night, the next day would mark a return to what we were all hiding from. It would mark the return to mourning, questioning, and doubt. But for a month and a half baseball gave us a distraction. For the first time in history we had November baseball, and nothing could have been more beneficial to a grieving nation.
“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended.” — President George W. Bush