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America gets pastime back

Baseball steps up to plate redder, whiter, bluer than before

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Baseball was awash in red, white and blue and patriotic songs Monday night when games resumed and flag-waving fans returned, ready to pick up where they left off six days ago -- when cheering came easier.

From coast and coast and across the border to Canada, the crack of the bat was a welcome sound in a setting that offered decidedly different snapshots than it did before the terrorist attacks on America:

Mets players wearing caps with inscriptions now familiar to millions all over the world: NYPD and FDNY.

Hundreds of St. Louis' finest marching out to the warning track to honor fallen officers in New York.

''USA! USA!'' chants, a video tribute and free-flowing tears at Veterans Stadium.

Amid heightened security, six games were played, all in the National League. The one scheduled American League game, between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, was postponed for logistical reasons.

Players wore the stars and stripes on their uniforms and caps, ''God Bless America'' was swapped for ''Take Me Out to the Ball Game'' during the seventh-inning stretch and flags were emblazoned on bases.

''The country is looking over our shoulder,'' Philadelphia outfielder Doug Glanville said. ''You have to go on with your life. Baseball is a fabric of this country. It can be a process of turning things around.''

It took only three batters for Phillies fans to get back in form: They booed after Atlanta's Chipper Jones hit a home run.

''You realized the healing had started when they booed Chipper,'' Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa said after a 5-2 victory.

At Dodger Stadium, longtime Los Angeles broadcaster Vin Scully addressed the crowd, saying: ''The president has said it is time to go back to work. Baseball gets up out of the dirt, brushes itself off and goes back to work.''

At many ballparks, teams handed out small U.S. flags. At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the Pirates gave away thousands of ''I Love New York'' buttons -- the fans gave, too, contributing about $100,000 for the New York police and fire rescue fund.

''We thought it was only fitting to come to the ballgame, we thought it was a fitting way to pay our respects to the people back in New York,'' said Fred Berrios of Gibsonia, Pa.

Baseball postponed games just hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Tuesday. In all, 91 games were called off, the most since World War I.

The Mets' game at Pittsburgh, originally to be played at New York, was shifted because Shea Stadium was still being used as a staging area for the rescue effort.

Managers Bobby Valentine of the Mets and Lloyd McClendon of the Pirates hugged each other as the teams lined up, and New York reliever John Franco shed a tear during pregame ceremonies.

The Brooklyn-born Franco, playing on his 41st birthday, wound up as the winning pitcher in a 4-1 victory. Wearing a New York fire department sweat shirt, he got several pats on the back after the final out.

''Being from New York and all that's gone on, it's just nice to get a win,'' he said. ''It's great to see how the country has come together and to see that baseball's back.''

Crowd sizes in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Colorado and Pittsburgh did not appear diminished by safety concerns.

''Nobody knows what's going to happen, if fans coming out tonight are going to be excited or subdued, or what,'' San Diego star Tony Gwynn said at Dodger Stadium. ''But two things I do know is that when they play the national anthem, it's going to mean something, and when they play 'God Bless America' during the seventh-inning stretch, it's going to mean something.''

The smallest crowd of the season at Olympic Stadium in Montreal -- it was announced at 3,013, although no more than 1,000 fans were actually on hand -- observed a moment of silence and watched images of the rescue effort in New York. Fans cheered as the color guard walked off the field to John Lennon's ''Give Peace a Chance.''

Isabelle Lepage, 18, of Montreal brought an American flag.

''I bought it in New York in 1997 in a shop near the World Trade Center,'' she said. ''I wanted to show our solidarity with the United States.''

At Coors Field in Denver, red, white and blue ribbons were painted in the grass in front of each dugout. Players from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies held a large American flag as part of a 10-minute pregame ceremony.

The Diamondbacks were among more than a dozen teams involved in pennant chases.

 

Baseball fans walk past a homemade sign hanging from the crosswalk between Busch Stadium and the parking garage in St. Louis with a message to Osama bin Laden following the Cardinals game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium Monday, Sept. 17, 2001. Osama bin Laden is suspected of being the mastermind in the terrorist attacks last week.

AP Photo/James A. Finley

''In the grand scheme of things, no, it's not very important. By the same token, this is what we do, and we get paid good money to do this,'' Arizona first baseman Mark Grace said.

Barry Bonds, who needs eight home runs in 18 games to break Mark McGwire's home-run record, and the San Francisco Giants were idle. They play Tuesday night at home against Houston.

All 30 teams were scheduled to play Tuesday.

Security was tightened at every ballpark, with fans stopped from bringing coolers, backpacks and large bags into stadiums and cars prohibited from parking within 100 feet of the ballpark. There were also more police and security officers, along with bomb-sniffing dogs.

''I think it's a good idea if it helps people feel safer,'' said Glenda Harrison of Kirkwood, Mo.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa noticed the changes. He had to check out of Busch Stadium when he went for a jog Monday afternoon, and had to check in when he returned.

''Security, I guarantee you, they're crossing every T,'' he said.



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