|Baseball Keeps Bringing Country Together||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on May 09, 2011
Baseball has been known as America's pastime for as long as anyone can remember. Though the sport itself has captivated the country, it's the unifying factor that baseball exhibits that makes the game so great.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, shook the core of the nation, the Mets converted their home park, Shea Stadium, into an all-purpose facility for rescue workers. In the first game back on September 21, the Mets took the field hoping for a return to normalcy.
Countless police officers, firefighters and military personnel were on hand to show the world that the healing process had begun. Though innocent victims perished, the nation raised its flag proudly in an example of sports transcending society.
The Mets played their arch-rival, the Atlanta Braves, that fateful night. In one of the most memorable games of the past decade, future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza launched a two-run home run in the eighth inning with the Mets down by a run to give the Mets and the city of New York a much-needed victory.
In what was later referred to as the "Healing Power of a Swing," Piazza's home run allowed the nation to forget -- albeit just briefly -- everything and place its faith in baseball.
One decade later, the Sunday Night Baseball analysts broke away from the action during last week's game to announce that bin Laden had been killed. Ironically, the Mets were the team playing, this time in Philadelphia.
In an even more ironic twist, the announcement was made in the ninth inning of 1-1 ballgame (9/11).
For a short time, Phillies fans forgot about the game against a hated rival and starting chanting "U-S-A" in the stands. The news was not posted anywhere at Citizens Bank Park; however, in today's society, everyone was able to find out the information via cell phone, and the news spread throughout the stadium like a wildfire.
The game lasted 14 innings, with the Mets eventually taking the lead on an RBI double by Ronny Paulino -- another catcher coming up with a big hit.
Once again though, the game did not mean as much as the significance of the event. What must it have been like to be a player or coach and hear the "U-S-A" chants without really knowing what was going on?
WFAN's Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts interviewed former Met outfielder and current first base coach Mookie Wilson about what he thought of the chants and what it meant for the country.
Wilson responded by saying that he didn't even know bin Laden was dead until after the game. He said he was puzzled by the chants and had no idea why the fans were chanting "U-S-A."
Mets starting pitcher that night, Chris Young, found out the news during the game while he was in the trainer's room after being removed from the game. Young said it was a night he would never forget.
The Mets players saluted the Phillies fans for their actions during the game. David Wright, who said he does not like to credit Phillies fans with anything, believed the fans got this one right.
An incident like the announcement of bin Laden's death and the fan reaction that followed won't soon be forgotten among avid baseball fans. Just like in the aftermath of 9/11, fans of opposing teams forgot their petty differences and united around common causes: America and baseball.
While the mood in 2001 was more solemn at first until Piazza's home run, the recent event took on a more joyous feel. The United States had finally brought justice to the man responsible for so many innocent deaths.
These two games will not only go down in Mets lore forever, but they will also be synonymous with this nation's triumph over the jealously and hatred that terrorist groups exhibit. America's pastime served as a means of both commemoration and celebration.
In a time of changing political ideologies and economic upheaval, baseball has been a constant that has survived and will continue to be a medium that shows the strength and fortitude of the nation.