Baseball commemorates Sept. 11
Pregame ceremonies mark occasion at nine ballparks
With one voice we say, "There's no choice.
Today, there is only one thing to do."
Jack Buck, the legendary broadcaster, read those words from a poem at old Busch Stadium on the night Major League Baseball returned, nearly a week after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
On a Monday in which a nation recognized a solemn fifth anniversary of the event that changed a world, baseball commemorated the occasion with a "We Shall Not Forget" theme that was apparent on the side of players' caps, on the side of the bases, in nine emotional pregame ceremonies and in the general mood.
In the morning, amid four moments of silence at Ground Zero to mark the precise moments of both World Trade Center plane crashes and both building collapses, the names of 658 employees at the Cantor Fitzgerald investment firm were among those read by surviving spouses, partners and significant others. At night, a representative from Cantor Fitzgerald sang the "Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" at a crucial Mets-Marlins baseball game. It was that kind of Monday.
Here is a look at the remembrances of 2006:
Cubs at Braves, Turner Field
The Braves, who participated in the first game in New York that followed the terrorist attacks, remembered the fallen at their home game against the Cubs. In recognition, each of the players wore an American Flag on the side of their hat, standard across the Majors on this day. Before the game, Braves players and coaches signed autographs in exchange for a $5 donation that raised just shy of $3,300 for the World Trade Center Memorial Fund.
Before Army National Guard members from Dobbins Air Force base staged a Blackhawk helicopters flyover at the conclusion of the National Anthem, Metro Atlanta police officers and firefighters gathered in a diamond around the infield dirt. At the same time, military personnel unfurled a flag in center field. Service men and women took their spots on the field to the symbolic sound provided by the Atholl Highlanders Pipes and Drums team, which played "Amazing Grace" and "Taps" after a moment of silence.
"It doesn't seem like it's been five years because you're reminded day-in and day-out because of some terrorist act. I can't believe it's been five years," Brian Jordan said. "It seems like it was yesterday."
Mets at Marlins, Dolphin Stadium
Fans entering the park were handed small American Flags, which many stuck into their caps. The fifth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy was touchingly remembered in a pregame ceremony that included the honoring of the Miami-Dade Urban Search & Rescue Teams. The team was one of the first groups to respond to the World Trade Center sites after the attack in New York City.
Jeffrey Kindwell was the representative for Cantor Fitzgerald. In the crowd were many fire, law enforcement and rescue personnel, who wore uniforms and were invited free with guests to the game.
Marlins manager Joe Girardi was playing for the Cubs at the time of the attacks, and while his focus was on the significance of this game involving his Wild Card contenders against the runaway division leaders, he remembered what happened back then.
"We were out with the kids and a friend of ours called us and said, 'Turn on the TV,'" Girardi said. "It's probably the most horrific thing I think I've ever seen in my life. We kept the TV on, and it just got more and more depressing, everything that you watched."
Yankees at Orioles, Camden Yards
The Yankees will recognize 9/11 when they return to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. In the meantime, they were on the field against a Baltimore club that staged a remembrance ceremony. Soldiers and civilians took to the field before the game, and the first pitch was thrown out by Bill Spade, the only surviving member of Rescue Company 5 in Staten Island.
"Sometimes it feels like it was a long time ago, but sometimes it feels like it was yesterday," said Brian Roberts, Baltimore's second baseman and leadoff hitter. "Unfortunately, there are always things that bring you back to it. It's one of those things in history that will always come up."
The National Anthem was sung by Army Specialist Vicki Golding, and the crowd at Camden Yards helped honor the memories of the 9/11 victims with a lengthy moment of silence before the game.
Astros at Cardinals, Busch Stadium
Although Jack Buck is gone, his words were timely again. The Cardinals played a video of his famous reading of "For America" as the centerpiece of the ceremonies. "We're fortunate that we were here," said manager Tony La Russa, who helmed the Cards in 2001 as well. "Whoever heard his words, benefited. But seeing it and hearing it in person ..."
Police, fire and military personnel were recognized, and a large U.S. flag was unveiled on the field. Opening the events on Monday were Jeff Suppan and his wife, Dana, contributing $10,000 to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The fund is Suppan's charity of choice, aiding the families of those who lose their lives fighting in the United States military.
White Sox at Angels, Angel Stadium
Before the game, all fans stood and applauded five members of the Wounded Warriors Program at Camp Pendleton, who were honored at the pitcher's mound. They had all spent time fighting in Iraq. To represent the group, Corporal John Walker of Ohio threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Angels veteran Tim Salmon.
A contingent of Orange County EMS volunteers gathered behind the pitcher's mound and unfurled an American flag, while members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department served as honor guards. The Orange County Sheriff Bugle Corps then played a rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" as the message "We Shall Not Forget" appeared on the two jumbotrons in the outfield.
A's at Twins, Metrodome
From rolling out emergency vehicles on the field to listening to the bagpipes play and holding another long moment of silence in memory of the victims, the Metrodome ceremony was a reminder that the events may seem long ago, but they are never far from the minds of many. There were a number of local first responders on hand at the event -- policemen, firefighters and emergency medical servicemen -- to celebrate what they have done for the community.
One of those responders in attendance was Lakeville fire chief Scott Nelson, who had been invited to take part in a firefighter's memorial service at Madison Square Garden that took place 13 months after the horrific event. "There is a little bit of complacency and people forgetting, and we need to keep that in the forefront of our minds and spirits, because this is our modern-day Pearl Harbor," Nelson said. "It's a tough one, but we all have to come together."
In addition to a video tribute, the St. Paul Police Band performed the National Anthem, there was a pipe band from the Minnesota Fallen Firefighters, and retiring Hennepin County Sherrif Pat McGowan threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Blue Jays at Mariners, Safeco Field
During a pregame salute to heroes, representatives from 11 Puget Sound-area law enforcement agencies stood on the foul lines and were joined by each team during the ceremony. Participants during the on-field ceremony included representatives from Seattle, Bellevue, Shoreline, Redmond, Bothell and Everett Fire Departments; Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver Police Departments; King County Sheriff's Department; and Washington State Patrol.
The Colors were presented by King County Sheriff's Office, the American and Canadian anthems were performed by Susan Ditusa, Renee Witt and Krista Bair of Seattle Police. The Seattle Fire Department bagpipers performed "Amazing Grace," which was followed by a moment of silence. Washington State Patrol Trooper Kelly Kalmbach, who was shot in the arms and legs last June while making a DUI stop in Tacoma, Wash., threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Mariners closer J.J. Putz.
Nationals at Diamondbacks, Chase Field
The Diamondbacks were World Series winners in that unforgettable Fall Classic the month after the attacks, and before Monday's game, Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said "it gives me goose bumps" when he thinks of those games at Yankee Stadium.
On this night, Melvin walked together to the mound with Nationals manager Frank Robinson and placed the ball on the rubber, instead of throwing out the first pitch. The band Valor sang the National Anthem in addition to "God Bless America" in the seventh inning.
There was an expanded Color Guard presentation comprised of the greater Phoenix Police and Fire Departments, an extended moment of silence, and remembrance video, which aired on the big screen.
Brewers at Pirates, PNC Park
A video tribute to the 40 passengers and crew members who were aboard United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., was presented on the stadium scoreboard. During the presentation, 33 family members of the Flight 93 victims -- all of them holding American flags -- lined up along the infield dirt between first base and third base.
A 60-by-90-foot American flag that was sewn together by high school students and donated to the Flight 93 National Memorial was unfurled in center field by members of the United States Armed Forces. The Pirates and Brewers staff also watched silently from outside their dugouts.
"It's a tough moment for a lot of people out there," said Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, one of the uniformed personnel who watched silently from their dugouts during the video tribute. "It's a tribute to those people who were heroes. To have their families out there in remembrance of them was very important. It's very important to have a chance to recognize them."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. MLB.com club reporters contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.