Remembering September 11: The Yankees Healed a City and Country

September 11, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

I was a 17-year-old high school senior on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

I was a little bummed out because the New York Giants lost their opening game on Monday Night Football to the Denver Broncos, but that would soon become a distant memory.

Around 9:30 in the morning, I heard whispers in the hallway that something terrible happened in New York City. I raced to the first empty classroom I could find and turned on the news, where I saw something so horrific it wasn’t even imaginable five minutes prior.

Some of my other classmates joined me, skipping lunch to watch the events unfold. Planes crashing. People jumping out of buildings. People dying. Families destroyed. Lives destroyed. A country shaken.

I remember going through each class. No teachers taught lessons, as they were just as interested in what was going on as we were. It was like our classes had shut down—just as the world had seemingly shut down.

After our last period ended, I went to my football coach’s classroom to see what was going on regarding practice that day. It was cancelled, of course, along with every other after school activity that day. The entire school was being sent home, for their safety and because of all the unknowns.

When I got home, every channel focused on what had happened. Every baseball game was postponed, all the football games for Week Two were postponed. Absolutely nothing was going on that week.

In fact, the first time anything happened in the United States with a large gathering of people was Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001, when the WWE held Smackdown at the Compaq Center in Houston. For the first time, it gave people an alternative outlet to something other than the acts of that day.

The next day in school, Sept. 12, a very tearful Pledge of Allegiance was given over the PA system. During the day, we all learned the names Osama bin Laden, Al Queda, and everything else related to terrorism.

Because of the uncertainty, baseball season was pushed back. It would soon resume. Everyone remembers the first game back in New York City between the Mets and Braves, when Mike Piazza crushed that home run in Shea Stadium.

For the Yankees, their magic was soon to come in late October and in early November.

The Yankees defeated the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners to win the American League Championship, and had a date with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Fall Classic.

After terrible losses at Chase Field in Games One and Two to Arizona, the Yankees returned to Yankee Stadium on Oct. 30 for Game Three down 0-2.

On that night, then-President George W. Bush came out to throw the first pitch. Underneath a FDNY (Fire Department of New York) jacket was a bulletproof vest, but that didn’t stop Bush from throwing a strike down the middle to Shane Spencer, who crouched behind the plate. The crowd in the Bronx was on their feet for their leader, chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” as Bush waved.

It wasn’t a movie. Game Three didn’t provide epic dramatics or symbolic storylines. But Roger Clemens out-pitched Brian Anderson and Scott Brosuis’s RBI single gave the Yankees a 2-1 win, pulling the series within one game.

Game Four provided some dramatics.

The game started around 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, but ended on Nov. 1, the first time MLB had ever played in the month.

It started out as a pitching duel between Orlando Hernandez and Curt Schilling, all knotted up 1-1 going into the eighth inning. Erubiel Durazo’s RBI double and Matt Williams’ fielder’s choice RBI made the score 3-1. If the Yanks lost and fell two games back in the series, the likelihood of a ring seemed remote.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees’ rally started with a single by Paul O’Neill. After Bernie Williams struck out, Tino Martinez came up with two outs and one on. Martinez hit a two-run home run to right-center field off Byung-Hyung Kim to tie the game at 3-3.

Yankee Stadium was electric. Martinez, a postseason hero of the past, updated his heroics for the present. Now, the Yankee faithful were back into the game and back in the series.

After Mariano Rivera breezed through the top of the 10th, Arizona sent Kim back out to the mound for the bottom of the 10th. He got Brosius and Alfonso Soriano out before facing Derek Jeter.

Jeter took a Kim pitch and drilled it into the right field seats for a game-winning home run, and a final score of 4-3. The Bronx was rocking that night. The game ended after midnight, and while most people had work or school the next day, nobody cared that early Nov. 1 morning, because Jeter and Martinez hit two amazing home runs.

If you think that was dramatic, wait until you hear about Game Five. Did I mention it was on Nov. 1?

It was another pitching duel between Mike Mussina and Miguel Batista. Rod Barajas hit a two-run home run in the top of the fifth to give Arizona a 2-0 lead. That lead held until the bottom of the ninth.

Bob Brenly decided to gamble again with his closer, Kim, who blew it the night before. This night would prove no better.

Jorge Posada led off with a double. Shane Spencer and Chuck Knoblauch both made outs, which brought up another postseason hero of the past, Brosius.

Brosius took a Kim pitch and drilled it over the wall for another game-tying, two-run home run. The Yankees did it again, thanks to Kim.

As the game wore on, you also heard the chants in the stadium: “PAUL O’NEILL! PAUL O’NEILL! PAUL O’NEILL!”

It was going to be O’Neill’s last season—he was retiring after 2001—which the crowd knew, and it would be the last time he would play a game in the Bronx. The Yankee crowd showed their appreciation by chanting his name religiously during the game.

The game went until the bottom of the 12th with Albie Lopez pitching for Arizona. Chuck Knoblauch singled to center and Brosius bunted him over to second, which brought up Soriano.

Soriano hit a single to right field to bring home Knoblauch to score the winning run and the Yankees won Game Five by a score 3-2, which meant they led the series by one game.

All of a sudden, the city went from a state of mourning to a state of celebration and jubilation. The Yankees gave them something to look forward to and, for a little while, there was a lot of hope in the Bronx.

Now, we all know the end of the 2001 World Series; Randy Johnson and Schilling shut down the Yankees in Game 6 and 7 and Luis Gonzalez hits the game-winning hit off Mariano Rivera in Game 7 and the Diamondbacks won the World Series 4-3.

Nobody remembers the games in Arizona. They all will remember Games Three, Four, and Five in the Bronx. Because those were the memories that lasted forever.

At a time where the country was in uncertainty and maybe even in fear, the Yankees gave a reason why people should go on with their everyday lives. The crowds and people in New York looked to the Yankees as heroes, and for three nights the Yankees were bigger than life.

If it was a storybook ending, Mariano Rivera closes out Game Seven and the Yankees win in 2001. But that didn’t happen and, truthfully, it doesn’t matter.

What mattered was the Yankees gave hope back to the people in New York and gave hope to people all over the United States.

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