Beyond the Scoreboard: How Baseball Unites a City


A sold-out crowd at Citi Field united before the game on September 11. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Twenty years after the devastating attack on September 11, 2001, people all across America look back and remember lost loved ones and the heroes that helped people throughout New York. In the wake of tragedy, communities heal in one of the only ways they knew how: through sports.

The first professional New York sporting event after 9/11 featured a matchup of the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. It ended in a thrilling finish with a home run from Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. New York finally breathed with relief after so much pain and destruction. 

Now, the 20th anniversary of the tragic event featured another hometown matchup between crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees and the Mets. Before the game, Mets players continued the tradition of visiting local fire departments and reminding everyone of the sacrifice so many of these heroes made.

Mets and Yankees players such as Pete Alonso, Kevin Pillar and Aaron Judge debuted cleats depicting imagery of the Twin Towers, the New York skyline and the slogan “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.” Teams also wore both NYPD and FDNY hats during the game. In a moving opening ceremony, 2001 Mets alumni stood side-by-side with first responders while former Yankees manager Joe Torre and former Mets manager Bobby Valentine threw out the ceremonial first pitches. 

Valentine remembers that game on Sept. 21, 2001 vividly. “The world stood still for that brief second in time for me where I literally saw the page turn. Some people think that was the end of something. In essence, that was the beginning. That truly was the beginning of the healing process and of the elimination of fear, of the bad guys, because the good guys prevailed as we and the Braves played such a great, absorbing game,” he said in an interview with the New York Post.

For one night, fans put aside the bitter rivalry between the two teams, uniting in “U-S-A” chants and standing side-by-side with an American flag in their hands. It was a true reminder that no matter how petty sports rivalries divide us, baseball unites us. 

Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker gave up five runs to the Yankees in the second inning, coming in the form of multiple home runs from Kyle Higashioka, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge. However, Yankees pitching struggled early on as well, and the Mets quickly put up four runs shortly after to keep the game within striking distance. 

More runs came in the bottom of the sixth as catcher James McCann put the Mets ahead with a two-run blast. History came full circle with a Mets catcher propelling the lead,  but the Mets’ luck ran out soon after. Aaron Judge hit a monster home run to left-center, tying the game. All it took was one more at-bat in the top of the eighth and a forceout by Luke Voit, and the Yankees cemented their win, 8-7.

In the postgame conference, Brett Gardner discussed how meaningful and important the game was for fans. “It was definitely emotional,’’ Gardner said. “At the end of the day, we are all part of the same team, all part of the city.”

While both these teams needed whatever wins they could get to clinch a playoff spot, the winner of Saturday’s game did not seem to matter much. What clearly mattered most was the impact that baseball has had on New York and those who live there.