Ordonez recalls chain of events in NYC on 9/11
Tech officer avoided elevator to take slugger off fantasy roster
DETROIT -- Most people have some sort of story about where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. Magglio Ordonez has two.
Ordonez himself was part of the White Sox team that was in New York City on the date when two jetliners struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center. They had arrived in the city in the early-morning hours from Cleveland, where Ordonez had injured his hand and left the game Monday night.
His father, Magglio Sr., was on the trip. He had never seen New York and wanted to see the sights. He was up early Tuesday. The younger Ordonez and his aching hand were going to sleep in. One call changed that.
"When it happened, I was asleep and [people] started calling me," Ordonez said. "I didn't know what was going on. My dad was there with me, his first time in New York, and he was scared. He woke up really early and he was walking around. He didn't know what was going on."
He looked out the window, then joined the crowds of people heading down the elevators to get to street level and see something.
"What I saw," Ordonez said, "was thousands and thousands of people walking."
What he didn't know at the time, what he couldn't have known, was that inside the north tower of the World Trade Center, a Port Authority technology officer named Ernie DiFranchi had escaped down the stairs after the first plane hit. And he was thanking Ordonez for it.
According to the story, which appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times a year later and recalled recently by Ordonez, DiFranchi had read that morning about Ordonez's hand injury. Ordonez was on DiFranchi's fantasy baseball roster, so he wanted to get him out of the lineup for that week. Because his league had a deadline for setting lineups, he went upstairs to his office early to make the move rather than linger around downstairs for coffee.
Had he not gone up early, DiFranchi believed, he would have been in one of the elevators with friends going up when the first plane hit. Nearly all the elevators stopped working after the impact, trapping people inside.
Ordonez had a chance to meet DiFranchi a year later in Philadelphia when the White Sox faced the Phillies in Interleague Play. The story amazed and moved him. DiFranchi gave Ordonez a Port Authority pin and told him the story.
"It was crazy," Ordonez said.
Ordonez is one of a rare few players from that White Sox team still playing, joined by Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko. With commercial flights grounded nationwide, they were stranded in New York, waiting for Major League Baseball to decide what to do with the schedule.
MLB put games on hold for a week. But somehow, the White Sox had to get back to Chicago.
"We were stuck in New York for two days," Ordonez remembered. "And after what happened, you didn't see any people walking around outside. It was weird. You know New York, there's always something around. For those couple days, it was quiet.
"Obviously, everybody who was in New York after what happened over there, you're maybe thinking they're going to do something again. But fortunately, nothing happened after that."
Eventually, the White Sox arranged for a bus to take them home, embarking on an 18-hour trek over the mountains of Pennsylvania, across Ohio and through Indiana.
"It was pretty quiet," Ordonez said.