Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

  Remembering George Bush's First Pitch

American FlagThings are a bit strange in the Bronx this September, as the Yankees - notably without Derek Jeter, whose season has just been declared over - are scrapping for a wildcard playoff berth, instead of securing a typical division crown. Partly as a result of the team's injuries and struggles, and partly as a result of the new(ish) stadium's prohibitively high costs, September crowds just don't feel like they used to on baseball nights in America's proudest baseball city. Then you look at standings, and things seem even less special. For example, at the BetFair gambling exchange, which is home to a dynamic sports book, the Yanks are given only the 11th best odds of winning the World Series this season. Given these betting odds, perhaps it's seas to see why the lights seem just a bit dimmer in New York.

But this particular week, the relative lack of excitement in the Bronx provides a contrast that offers a jolt back to one of our country's greatest modern memories. On the week when we remember September 11, 2001, and commemorate the heroes and victims, baseball will always be on the minds of our nation's sports fans. And, perhaps ironically given the current atmosphere at Yankee Stadium, it was one bright, majestic night in this stadium - or rather, the old version of it - that will forever link baseball with the aftermath of 9/11.

On October 30, 2001 - exactly 7 weeks after the attacks, as noted by a CBS Sports article on the topic - the Yankees were about to begin a home World Series game in front of a crowd that was, of course, still reeling from the attacks on our nation. The stadium was packed to capacity, the bright lights of professional sports' most iconic stadium were blazing into the clearest and blackest of night skies - and President George W. Bush walked alone from the Yankee dugout to the pitcher's mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

It was a moment that transcended - well, seemingly everything. The nation was terrified and, truthfully, mired in depression. There were and still are questions regarding the aftermath of the attacks, and how Bush's administration handled foreign policy in the years to come. And of course, there were baseball fans on both sides of the Yankees. But in that moment - and in the confident, surreal first pitch Bush delivered from atop the mount - the United States seemed to freeze, united in sport, united in a president's strength and leadership, and united by the game we call our country's pastime.

This event may be 12 years past. The Yankees may be in a new stadium that seems a bit less lively, battling for a playoff spot instead of competing in a World Series. But as we take this month to reflect on 9/11, it's worth remembering one of the most historically significant moments ever to take place on a baseball field.