It was a steamy Sunday in the City, a drastic difference to the lovely late summer Tuesday that changed the world 15 years ago. Downtown, memorial services remembered the victims of that fateful day. And every year, the City paused to take a breath, echoes of the anniversary evident in every corner, people clinging to memories and wanting to share their stories of that day so that we never forget.
A few miles uptown in the Bronx, the Yankees prepared to continue America’s game, hoping for the 4-game sweep against the visiting Rays. Luis Cessa got the start today and had a bit of trouble against the Rays who were chomping at the bit for something, anything really. Cessa threw 78 pitches just shy of 6 innings, gave up 5 hits, no walks, and 4 runs, striking out 5 Rays batters.
In the 2nd, with 2 outs and a runner on base with a single, the Rays got on the board first with a 2-run home run into the right field seats. (The fan didn’t hesitate to throw the ball back in. Really? It’s not like it’s a Red Sox ball… Whatever.) Then Cessa bookended the 6th inning with solo home runs — one to lead-off, then 2 outs, and then another homer before he was done for the afternoon.
The “other Luis”, Luis Severino, came on to finish the job and then sail through the next 2 innings, adding 3 great strikeouts of his own. Tommy Layne came on for the 9th inning, but instead gave up a couple of singles before he was replaced by Blake Parker who shut things down with 3 consecutive outs.
The Yankees seemed to have a hard time hitting off the Rays’ pitchers much through most of the game. Chase Headley broke through that stalemate with a lead-off solo home run in the 5th. The Rays went to a new pitcher in the 6th as the Yankees faced an old teammate, a reliever who last pitched in the MLB against the Rays in May 2015 before needing Tommy John surgery. (I didn’t recognize him because, like many of them do once they leave the Yankees, he now has a beard.)
The former Yankee had a bit of trouble of his own in the 7th, though it was really a defensive issue. With 2 outs and Headley on base with a walk, pinch-hitting Castro reached base on a fielding error (the defensive issue). Then when Brett Gardner singled, Headley scored to double the Yankees’ run total. But that would be it for the Yankees today. The final two relievers shut down the Yankee batters without much effort.
Final score: 4-2 Rays, but the Yankees win series 3-1.
Now, before this afternoon’s game, the Yankees honored the anniversary in many ways — laying a memorial wreath on the placard in Monument Park, and making the pre-game ceremonies special by honoring first responders and military veterans. Ten veterans from Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir Wounded Warriors were honored for their service and sacrifice.
The NYPD Emerald Society Pipes & Drums marched in from centerfield and filled in the baseline between 1st and 3rd. They played a haunting rendition of “America the Beautiful”. Out in the outfield, a giant flag was unfurled by members and veterans of the FDNY. It was the same flag that was once unfurled during the famous Game 3 of the 2001 World Series (the one where President Bush threw out the first pitch). (Rays broadcasters remember.)
Following a moment of silence, FDNY firefighter (and one of my favorite anthem singers) Frank Pizzaro sang the national anthem. He would later join the veterans on the field during the 7th inning stretch where he graced the stadium with his rendition of “God Bless America“.
Baseball, like many other entertainment outlets, was vital to the recovery of the City and this nation 15 year ago. Part-escapism, part-normalcy, part-Americana, baseball was a way for the city, the country really, to band together and unite when it felt like the world was so altered. It was part of the expression of our country that we will continue and come back stronger. Military stationed all over the world even today gather to watch their favorite teams unite and compete in “America’s game”. It’s a sense of nostalgia and life and legacy, something much needed by everyone from the recovery efforts team at Ground Zero to the people all over the world.
What evil meant to tear down and divide, New York, and all Americans, rose up to unite. And that’s the legacy we should carry forward 15 years later — that we have more in common than we have different. You may be a Red Sox fan or a Rays fan or a Yankees fan, but we all love baseball. It’s our differences that make us unique individuals, but it’s our commonalities that make us “one nation, under God, indivisible”.
Final note: Our continued condolences go out to all those who lost someone on 9/11. We will never forget.