09/19/01 2:00 AM ET
Baseball returns en masse
Emotions readily visible during a full slate of games
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
All of Major League Baseball went back to work on Tuesday, with players giving it all they have to create a pleasant diversion from the realities of life.On Monday, only six games were played -- all in the National League. On Tuesday, all 30 teams were back at ballparks across North America, just more than one week after the tragedies in New York City, Washington D.C. and western Pennsylvania. Both New York teams were in action, away from their home parks, for the first time since the World Trade Center towers were decimated. And the New York Mets had to make another tough decision. The Mets and Braves had discussed the idea of moving the three-game set, scheduled to begin Friday, to Atlanta in wake of the attacks on New York City. Shea Stadium also has been used as a staging area for the relief effort, serving as a command post for police, fire and EMS officials. Because of that, the current series between the Mets and the Pirates, originally scheduled for Shea, was moved to Pittsburgh. But after a Tuesday meeting between Mets officials, representatives of Major League Baseball's security office and New York state and city representatives, the decision was made that the series would take place in Queens as scheduled. There will be heightened security as well as some changes in how the facility is managed, all of which are designed not to interfere with play and to hinder the fans' experience as little as possible. "We just wanted to confirm that, as scheduled, we are going to play our games this weekend at Shea Stadium," Mets General Manager Steve Phillips said. "[New York City] Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani has been calling for a return to normalcy, which is what we've also heard from [New York] Governor [George] Pataki and President [George W.] Bush. With that, the mayor assured us of all the necessary resources to provide a secure facility for the weekend." The Yankees were in Chicago playing against the White Sox. The pregame festivities included moving renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" by Chicago native Phyllis Arnold. Many of the Yankee players and coaches wore caps from the New York police or fire departments or rescue workers. There were many fans waving flags (right) or decked out in red, white and blue. And there were several signs, homemade and not, which displayed Chicago's support for New York City. Words such as "Chicago luvs N.Y." and "We're with you, N.Y." sent messages of support halfway across the nation. Before the game, firefighters and policemen lined up around the infield and applauded as managers Joe Torre and Jerry Manuel were presented candles by officers. And then, in the most moving moment of the night, during the singing of the national anthem, New York native and Yankees first base coach Lee Mazzilli saluted the flag. "To see those firemen and policemen out there, people we take for granted, they've sacrificed themselves all week trying to find survivors," said Torre, who got teary-eyed during the national anthem and singing of "God Bless America." Torre was overcome by the pregame tribute on the scoreboard that included pictures of children. He said he kept thinking about his 5-year-old daughter. "I had to come in here and throw some water on my face," Torre said. Torre, who signed autographs before the game (left), said all was well once he sat down in the visitor's dugout. "It was normal," he said. "We had a great presence on the bench and it was baseball." In Boston, where two of the lost planes began their flights, the 30,909 fans at Fenway Park were more reserved than usual for their team's game against Tampa Bay. They heard an ecumenical prayer, observed a moment of silence and then were stirred by the voice of Boston native Todd Angilly. Angilly works as a chef for the Red Sox executive staff and players at Fenway and also doubles as singer of the national anthem. And this time, with the special circumstances, Angilly put everything he had into it, first with "God Bless America" then the national anthem. "Usually, I enjoy doing this as purely a performer and entertainer," Angilly said. "Today, it was a duty and an honor. Just time to give the five minutes to the people in the stands who needed and wanted it. That's what meant the most to me." As Angilly sang, two American flags were unveiled in left and right fields, while the colors were presented by representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. "To have that opportunity tonight, I'm at a loss," Angilly said. "To see people in the stands singing along was just so powerful." And, as he made his way through the stands afterward, Angilly felt proud. "People came up and stopped me and said thanks," Angilly said. Brian Hardmann of the Boston Fire Department and Tom Rose of the Boston Police Department threw out the first pitches to catchers Joe Oliver and Doug Mirabelli. In Cleveland, where the Indians took on the Royals, the players were just trying to stay to keep their minds on the game. "I try to block that stuff out and just play the game," said Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton. "You deal with it before and after, but during you just got to focus on what you need to do. It's another baseball game, but until the first pitch you start thinking about what happened and why. "It's just a case where we have to put things back in perspective," he added. "You have to move on and make the best of a bad situation, and starting to play the game is just something we have to do." But the first game back was anything but ordinary. "Yes, it was (different), the fans yelling, 'USA!, USA!' You got the sense that this was a special game," said Cleveland third baseman Travis Fryman. "I was pleased and surprised. I thought the fans would be more subdued, but they were like every other game." In Seattle, where the Mariners faced the Angels, Mariners President Chuck Armstrong said the club wanted to have a "simple and poignant" pregame ceremony, more of a low-key approach. Both teams lined up along the third- and first-base lines during the singing of "Amazing Grace." Several flags were unfurled in the stands, including one in the upper deck in right field that covered nearly half of a section. During a rendition of "God Bless America" a jet flew past SAFECO Field en route to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and another commercial jet flew over while "The Star-Spangled Banner" was being sung by the Gospel Outreach Youth Choir from Olympia, Wash. "I feel very sorry for everyone involved and I think it's important for everyone to get back to the games to show our support to our nation and get back on track," said Sherry Nash of Spokane, Wash., who attended with her husband, Randy. "This is our anniversary and we want to be here." Ray Pierce of Gig Harbor, Wash., was dressed in a red, white and blue sweater. "I think we feel very safe," said Pierce, who attended the game with his wife. "We want to have a diversion. It was tragic what happened and this is part of the healing process. It usually is a Fourth of July sweater, but I dug it out for tonight. "Hearing the national anthem is going to be difficult for a lot of people to make it through without having a tear in their eye," he continued. "I don't sing very well, but I will give it a shot." Nikki King of Olympia, Wash., said she is very patriotic anyway. "I think it is really important to get back, not to some form of normalcy, but some continuance of our lives," King said. "This is a really a big part, not only for the people who are here, but the people who are in nursing homes, or are retired who look forward to watching the Mariners games on TV. It's all they are living for right now, to watch or hear baseball. "For the players, this is their job, their occupation and it is important for everyone to go back to their jobs," King said. "I brought a lot of Kleenex. I cry whenever they play the national anthem anyway. Everything tonight is going to be very hard." Baseball's oldest professional franchise, the Cincinnati Reds, had a low-key pregame approach as well. Players stood at attention along the baselines for nearly a minute of silence before a college chorus sang the national anthem. Most of the 21,304 fans then chanted "USA! USA!" as the police color guard left the field before the Reds played the Cubs. "We in this game have a tendency to take what happens on the field too seriously," said Reds second baseman Todd Walker. "If I go 0-for-4 tonight, it's not a big deal. If I had my choice, I'd be in New York City right now helping out in some way. I love the game, but baseball is pretty distant in terms of its importance right now." Cubs Manager Don Baylor said this is uncharted territory. "I thought about my lineup for the first time today," Baylor said. "Managers have never been in this situation before. Maybe during [World War II], but this is just as intense. There are different emotions in everybody's heads." The pregame ceremony in Toronto, where the Orioles and Blue Jays were matched up, included lots of native music and a touching version of "Amazing Grace." "It feels good that another country feels like that," said Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson. "We had a week's worth of emotion, which isn't going to end any time soon. It's different having the first game in another country. Sometimes, we as players don't consider Canada another country, (because) it feels like home. They made it like home today." Native Canadian Paul Quantrill said it was a pretty special night. "You get back to ball and you're trying to get focused and the whole introduction really brought you back to think about what has happened," Quantrill said. "It made you take a real hard look at what went on. The whole day has revolved around the events of last week. "We show up at the park and they stop all of us coming in and check our vehicles," he said. "It's almost a whole new world. It's unfortunate that we have people in this world that make things this way. You start thinking about things that I never thought I would think about in my life and it shouldn't be that way." Minnesota's Doug Mientkiewicz, whose team played host to Detroit, said it was tough to go back to playing. "I was crying a little bit," Mientkiewicz said. "I thought I'd be worse than I was. It was a tough thing. So many images go through your head. You think about all those people that have lost loved ones and what we're going through as a country right now. It was a tough moment." In Texas, where the Rangers and Athletics hooked up, there was a 72-minute rain delay. But the rain could not alter the spirit of the fans. They were greeted at the gates of The Ballpark at Arlington by players handing out U.S. flags. And they cheered loudly when President George W. Bush, a former owner of the Rangers and governor of Texas, was shown on the Jumbotron as part of the video tribute to America. "This has been a very tough week for all of us, for all Americans all over the world," said Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez. "Something as devastating as this will always be in the back of our minds. "This is not temporary," he said. "Our feelings, our hearts are hurt. At the end of the day we will still know that we will be scarred forever."
Paul C. Smith is a regional writer for MLB.com based in Tampa. Many team site reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.