Baseball comes together again for 9/11
Special ceremonies, charitable donations to mark occasion
In the book, "Love, Greg & Lauren," there are at least 13 references to baseball. It is one way Greg Manning talked to his wife, Lauren, while she was in a coma and then during her immediate recovery after suffering burns over 80 percent of her body in somehow escaping the World Trade Center that morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Lauren does well on days when the Yankees win, and she does well on days when the Yankees lose; but it's nicer when she does well on days when the Yankees win," Greg wrote on Nov. 1, 2001, in one of those daily emails to friends and family that comprised a best-selling Random House book.
"This was one of those days, though I did not know it at about 7:15, when she told me to go home and watch the game. Spectacular baseball -- come from behind, when no one thinks they have a chance. In a very small way, that is an analogy of what Lauren has done; now, in hindsight, it seems inevitable."
It is worth recalling seven years later, because here we are on the occasion of another 9/11 anniversary, and yet again, one can see what baseball has meant through a healing process that may never end. Time goes on, construction prevails at Ground Zero, many lives have changed. But the sport that once offered such a respite from tragedy now pauses again to recognize 9/11 with the words "We Shall Not Forget" emblazoned at all home ballparks and ceremonies at each game.
Clubs will have custom lineup cards and bases decorated with the 9/11 commemorative logo seen in previous years. There will be pregame ceremonies involving veterans, current members of the armed forces, and local police, fire and rescue officials. All clubs playing today will wear stars and stripes caps -- as will other clubs that are playing on Wednesday or on the days following 9/11. These caps will be authenticated and collected by Major League Baseball, to be auctioned off on MLB.com with proceeds going to the Welcome Back Veterans initiative.
It is an extension of MLB's work with Welcome Back Veterans, which began on July 4, taking the occasion not only to remember 9/11 but also to thank those who put themselves in harm's way each day to defend the freedom of others.
This is what fans at each of the home ballparks will hear over the P.A. system today, followed in each case by a moment of silence:
"Seven years ago, our nation was shocked to see the scenes of disaster at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. However, our resolve as a nation enabled us to band together and unify ourselves in the cause to defend our way of life and to honor the victims of the terribly tragic events. At this time, we ask that you please join us as we say 'We Shall Not Forget' and honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks during a Moment of Remembrance."
The only day game on the schedule is Royals at Twins (2:10 p.m. ET), and the Metrodome will be the site of a unique commemoration. There will be a moment of silence during the pregame ceremony, followed by a singing of "God Bless America." There will be a video tribute remembering the events and heroics of 9/11. Following that, members of the Minnesota Army National Guard will unfurl a giant American flag, and a trumpet player will lead the "Star Spangled Banner."
In addition, the Minnesota club announced that the Minnesota Twins Wives' Organization has collected more than 500 pounds of new and used baseball equipment to donate to U.S. troops in Iraq. The equipment was shipped out Tuesday morning from Holman Airfield in St. Paul and should be arriving in Iraq today. American troops will open the equipment during a live video feed, which will be broadcast prior to a future home game.
Starting on Wednesday, the Orioles began to donate 50 percent of ticket sales for tonight's game against the Indians to the Welcome Back Veterans foundation. The Orioles also will welcome injured members of the armed forces from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the game and will honor one of them with a ceremonial first pitch.
"The Orioles and OriolesREACH are proud to partner with Welcome Back Veterans on this worthwhile endeavor," Orioles director of communications Greg Bader said. "We are fortunate to enjoy the support of many servicemen and women and their families, and this is an opportunity for us to give back to those who have dedicated their lives to serving our country."
Before the Giants-Padres game at PETCO Park, the Padres will hold a moment of silence and the National Anthem will be played by the Navy Band Southwest's Ceremonial Band. The Holiday Bowl's Big Flag will be presented during the Anthem. The flag will be unfurled by members of the Navy ship U.S.S. Boxer.
The Braves will carry on an annual 9/11 tradition at Turner Field for their 7 p.m. home game against the Rockies. A pregame flyover will consist of F-18 Superhornets out of Oceana, Va. There will be 50 firefighters and 50 police officers lining the baselines, representing all the Atlanta community's first responders -- and thus a chance for fans to thank them for that service. A color guard from Robbins Air Force Base will represent the military. The Braves also will honor police and fire rescue workers throughout the game.
Two postseason contenders meet at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 p.m., when Ben Sheets comes off a complete-game shutout to lead the Brewers against the Phillies. Before the game, members of the military will unfurl a 120-by-250-foot American flag. There will be a presentation of the 50 state flags by Philadelphia and volunteer firefighters; "God Bless America" will be sung by Staff Sgt. Jody Johnson from the Air Force; and the National Anthem will be sung by the Sounds of Liberty Barbershop Chorus and friends.
The Angels and Mariners will be wearing the flag logo cap (from July 4) all weekend for their four-game series that starts today in Anaheim. There will be a moment of silence, the infield flag unfurled, an American spirit video and fire department color guard introduction.
The Red Sox announced that they are teaming with the American Red Cross, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston community leaders to announce the Sixth Annual September 11th Day of Remembrance Blood Drive at Fenway Park.
"These blood drives are a wonderful way to honor the memory of those who were lost on that fateful day," said Christie Coombs, wife of 9/11 victim Jeffrey Coombs, who lost his life on Flight 11 six years ago. "I'm appreciative to all those who come out to donate blood."
It has been seven years since the unthinkable happened in America. For Christie Coombs, for Greg and his wife who survived that day -- and for so many others -- there is not a chance that Sept. 11, 2001, will be forgotten. Baseball continues to be there to help ensure that, and just to be there as a friend -- for win or lose, there is a game.
"Her smiling face peeked at me from beneath the brim of a white Cantor Fitzgerald baseball cap," Greg wrote in a Nov. 17, 2001 entry published in the book. "This is what she lived for, to see her son, and she was about to live the thing that had carried her across a field of flame to her rescue. If there are angels' wings in this story, they enfolded her at that moment, and at this one."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.