Twelve years ago. Twelve years ago my life and everyone reading this right now life changed. As I am watching victims’ families read their names in downtown Manhattan, where the world changed forever on September 11th, 2001, we all think about where we were the exact moment when he world stopped.
As a New Yorker, the attacks affected everybody in a different way. I am not going to go into the unbearable fear, pain and suffering 9/11 brought because no one wants to relive that day ever again. Instead, I am going to bring up two events that lifted the soul of the city.
They say sports imitates life. Life gives you a lot of real hardships and a lot of real tests. Having to put food on the table and dealing with a loss of a loved one, that’s something that eats you alive. The Yankees playoff race this season is something all Yankee fans are stressing, but when you put it into the perspective of life, it’s really nothing.
Sports are supposed to do that to you. For those 3 hours of a baseball game, you put whatever you are doing or thinking about on hold. You sit down, kick your feet back, and root for your guys. Nothing else really matters for those 3 hours. Baseball was therapy for New Yorkers in 2001.
There’s two monumental moments in New York baseball history that happened after 9/11. The New York Yankees were the toast of the baseball universe for the last 5 seasons, and were probably not the most likeable team. The 2001 team was the last year before the “Evil Empire” reign began with George Steinbrenner spending money like it was water. The 2001 team had very likeable players like Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, and Mariano Rivera to name a few.
The Yankees became America’s team for that one playoff run. A month removed from the horrors of 9/11, the Yankees were defending their World Series title and had the whole city rooting for them. Yankees playoff games were something to look forward to at night after the worst days of people’s lives.
The Yankees fought, just like the city they represented, in the ALDS. Down 2-0 in the series to the Athletics, the Yankees had their backs against the wall in Game 3. In the 7th inning in a 1-0 game, Derek Jeter made one of the best plays you will ever see and swung the momentum in New York’s favor, right on to the World Series. The flip play will go down as one of the best plays in baseball history.
In the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees were in a familiar hole down 2-0. In Game 3, the first game at Yankee Stadium, President George Bush walked to the mound of a roaring Yankee crowd. With all eyes on him, as he represented a heartbroken country, he threw a perfect strike down the middle.
As the whole country watched, Bush sent a message that we are strong and reassured everything will eventually be ok. It is one of my most memorable moments in the old Yankee Stadium. The Yankees would win all 3 games at the Stadium, with 2 of the most memorable walk-offs in baseball history. It’s a shame that the Yankees eventually lose the Series in a Game 7 heartbreaker, but New Yorkers were happy the Yankees fought, just like they were doing.
On the other side of town, Mike Piazza and the Mets delivered one of the most memorable home runs in the city’s history. It wasn’t a playoff home run, in matter of fact it wasn’t even a walk-off home run. On September 21st, 2001, 10 days after the worst day in New York history, the Mets were back in Queens for the first time.
Wearing FDNY, NYPD, and other first responders’ hats instead of the Mets hat, it was obvious this game was being played for the people of New York. In the bottom of the 8th down 2-1, the face of the Mets franchise stepped up the plate. Mike Piazza hit a moon shot to straight away center. Not only did Piazza win a game against the rival Atlanta Braves, he gave New Yorkers uncontainable joy. For those few minutes, all they thought about as the Mets and Piazza jogging around the bases. It is one of the few moments in baseball that will give you chills every time you watch it.
Twelve years ago all of our lives changed forever. It was an absolute tragedy, but life must go on. Baseball was there to help us get our lives back on track.