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Baseball

Remembering The 2001 MLB Season and President Bush’s Iconic First Pitch

It was a day that will live in infamy for the rest of time. The worst day in this country’s long history happened 18 years ago today. September 11th, 2001 is a day that changed our lives as a whole.

9/11 is a day that I remember very well, despite being 7 years old at the time. My family is from New York but lived on the West coast at the time. I remember being in the 1st grade and my mother was getting me ready for school.

From the living room, my father yelled to my mother. My mother ran into the living room and I followed. As soon as I saw her, tears were flowing from her face. My father, who is the type of man that never showed feelings, was obviously horrified.

New York Post

We didn’t know why. We didn’t know if it was on purpose, or an accident. All we knew was something terrible just happened. Phone calls back home to make sure everybody was okay would continue throughout the day. News outlets speculated on what happened and more importantly why it happened.

The world stopped. America is the super power of the world, but we were under attack on live television for the entire world to see. Everything came to a screeching halt, including the sports world.

A lot was happening in sports the week of September 11th. Venus Williams defeated her sister Serena Williams to win the U.S Open. The NFL just began their first week of football. The United States Women’s Soccer team was in the World Cup. NASCAR was approaching the New Hampshire 300 race in the Winston Cup Series.

While all that was happening, the MLB season was coming to an end. Commissioner Bud Selig would cancel all games on September 11th, and would eventually postpone all games up until September 16th.

Baseball returned and gave us sports fans an absolutely incredible moment. In the Mets first home game back in Shea Stadium against the Atlanta Braves, Mike Piazza would hit a go-ahead 2 run home run in the bottom of the 8th inning. Shea Stadium went insane that night following the win.

People’s World

The New York Yankees were on a mission. The team clinched the American League East, then went on to beat the Oakland Athletics. They then went on to face the 116 game winning Seattle Mariners in the ALCS. The Yankees would end the Mariners historic season to claim their 37th AL Pennant.

The Arizona Diamondbacks became an MLB team in 1998. In 1999 they won their division, but would lose to the New York Mets in the NLDS. In 2001, they not only won their division, but they won the NL Pennant for the first time in the franchise’s young history.

The first two games of the World Series were held in Arizona in Bank One Ballpark. The Diamondbacks would win both of those games before the series headed to the Bronx. Then, on October 30th, one of the most iconic moments in not only sports history but, in my opinion, this country’s history would happen.

NBC Sports

President George W. Bush would throw out the ceremonial first pitch. President Bush was the first incumbent President to throw a World Series first pitch since Jimmy Carter in 1979, and the first President to throw a first pitch in Yankee Stadium.

Derek Jeter would meet President Bush in the cages beneath Yankee Stadium. Jeter asked Bush if he was going to throw the ball from the base of the mound, or the mound itself. When the President told him he would throw it from the base, Jeter said “You better throw it from the mound, otherwise you’re gonna get booed”. Before Jeter exited, he turned to the President and said “Don’t bounce it, they’ll boo ya”.

President Bush would come out of the Yankees dugout, baseball in hand, sporting an FDNY jacket and went straight for the pitcher’s mound. President Bush was wearing a kevlar bulletproof vest under his jacket, and would have a member of his secret service on the field, dressed as an umpire.

Tensions were obviously very high. This was the first World Series game played at Yankee Stadium since the attacks. The President stood on the mound, took in the crowd, and gave them a thumbs up. It was a thumbs up that said one thing, “We’re okay”.

Medium

President Bush wound up and threw a strike to Yankees backup catcher Todd Greene. Yankee Stadium was filled with chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A”. President Bush would walk off the field to Bob Sheppard simply saying “Thank you Mr. President”. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about this moment.

I consider it one of the greatest moments in this countries history for a number of reasons. It meant so much. It was a show of strength by the President of this great nation. It was a show of unity by the entire country.

Nothing else mattered. Political parties didn’t exist at that moment. Race wasn’t a issue at that moment. Religion didn’t matter at that moment. What mattered was the United States of America. The September 11th attacks will forever be in our heads and our hearts. But the aftermath is something to be proud of.

NBC New York

We came together. We held hands. We hugged each other. We showed love and compassion to each other. 2,977 people were killed. Families were ripped apart. Buildings were torn down like paper. But the country stayed strong and showed the rest of the world that this horrific accident will not break our spirit.

“United we stand, we stand together in the face of this threat. We will play baseball in the midst of the beginnings of this war. No matter what the threat may be to us, the United States of America will stand strong, and will never be intimidated.”

President George W. Bush

September 11th was a terrible day. The weeks and months and even years after weren’t any easier for people that were deeply affected. But for me, when I think of that horrible day, my mind goes straight to that first pitch. When the President of this great nation threw a perfect strike down the middle and told the entire world that no matter what may happen, America will never be beaten.

Featured Photo Source: MLB.com

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