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09/16/01 10:00 PM ET

Schlegel: Like America, baseball must go on

While the world's troubles weigh heavily, the game returns

This story was originally published on MLB.com in 2001.

America's Pastime, like our great nation, has paused. But, like America, baseball will not be stopped. It cannot be stopped.

Without question, that tiny orb of horsehide with the red stitches on it, the object we spend so much of our time watching bounce around ballparks all over the country summer after summer, seemed so very insignificant this past week.

That's because it is.

In the face of a national crisis, nobody cares about a ballgame. Nobody should.

Yet, starting today, baseball will be part of our lives again, part of what will help America get back on its feet after a daunting blow, and part of what brings us to our new version of normalcy.

And baseball will be all those things simply by being baseball, not by being anything deeper than what it is: a game, a beloved pastime for generations in this country.

Shocked along with the rest of the world by last Tuesday's horribly tragic events in New York City and Washington, D.C., baseball rightfully postponed games, helping lead the sports world into a necessary moment of silence. But baseball's games weren't canceled, just postponed, until a more appropriate time.

That time is now, and may we all soak in the life baseball brings, and appreciate it for the diversion it is. It's a place to escape from life's troubles, a place where the greatest concern is having the bases loaded with no outs and the cleanup hitter at the plate.

When the more important aspects of life become so overwhelming as they did last week, baseball steps aside, as it should.

The days after the terror struck were a time to gather with family and friends, at home or at places of worship, not at stadiums where men play like boys on a field of grass and clay. This was a time to gather our strength to help the victims of this horrendous act, and to move on toward a future that suddenly holds so much uncertainty.

The lesson we know from the past and need to clutch to our hearts now is simple: America perseveres.

And, right along with the country, baseball perseveres.

Baseball always has been a haven for America's troubles.

We played on during wars, and sent our ballplayers to fight for freedom -- aside from being baseball's greatest hitter, Ted Williams was a true hero, and he's among hundreds of other players who served in the military. Baseball played on during the Great Depression, through the Cold War and while our own society went through so much upheaval in the 1960s.

Indeed, the scale of the disaster leveled upon our nation's soil by terrorists won't be understood for months and years. Our lives have changed forever.

But, through the haze of uncertainty, we can still turn our lonely eyes to baseball, one of many places we Americans will go to release ourselves from the sadness and grief an insane day of destruction and lost innocence brought to the fore. Those of us who have turned to baseball in peace can turn to it during these difficult times as well.

Baseball fans can't stop being baseball fans, and shouldn't.

We need to see Barry Bonds hit another home run (or eight), and maybe we'll all feel something different when he reaches home plate and points to the sky.

We need to see the Cubs win another game and maybe, just maybe, reach the postseason this year instead of waiting for another "next year."

We need to see another Roger Clemens fastball trim the hair under someone's chin.

We need to see Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn take their deserved bows as two splendid examples of great American traits -- loyalty and hard work.

We need to see Ichiro face El Duque with Mike Cameron and Bret Boone on the basepaths, just one example of how baseball reflects the diversity of our American society.

We need to second-guess the manager, curse the umpire and slap our foreheads when the guy can't even lay down a simple bunt, for crying out loud.

We need baseball.

We give that up, and the evil has conquered a piece of our souls.

No doubt, when we gather again at baseball stadiums around the country, we'll have heavy hearts for those we lost in these senseless acts of violence, and for what lies ahead. It's a different world we're living in now, and things will be different at the ballparks, just like everywhere else, from increased security to a more somber perspective in general.

Together, we'll observe a moment of silence to honor those innocent victims, and their families. Together, we'll sing the National Anthem like most of us have never sung it before, not so much as a pregame ritual but as a testament to the patriotism that it took such a terrible blow to stir in so many of us.

Together, we will move on. We will play again.

As inconceivable as it may have seemed a few days ago, we'll smile. We'll laugh. And we'll cheer. We'll probably shed a tear or two.

America is strong, and baseball is part -- a small part, but a part -- of the glue that bonds us all. It's part of our pursuit of happiness, one of the basic tenets of our country, the one that comes right after life and liberty in the same sentence.

Baseball will be there for you, America. It always has been, and it always will be.

Nobody can take that away. And nobody will.

John Schlegel is a regional writer for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.