9/11 Yankees
(Laken Litman/USA Today)

The mainstream media have done a phenomenal job, year in and year out, of flat out, not allowing people to forget about the events of 9/11. Whatever your interests are, wherever you may be today or tonight, you will be reminded of what happened on that fatal day in 2001 in one way or another. Which is the way it ought to be.

For me, my main interest this time of year is the New York Yankees and their September push toward the Postseason. Every year, the Yankees are usually what remind me most of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Every organization around the country throws up an Instagram post or story acknowledging their remembrance of the days’ events 18 years prior, and the Yankees are no different. Still, what sets them apart all these years later is the fact that the 2001 Yankees played a significant role in the healing process in the weeks and months following the collapse of the Twin Towers. Not just New Yorkers, but Americans in general, found solace in an organization that, in a matter of days, went from America’s most hated team to America’s team. Period.

The Yankees picked up regular season play again just a week after the attacks in midtown. Several members of not just the Yankees but the entire league publicly showed their uncertainty about returning to play so soon. It seemed selfish to some that they’d get the privilege to go out and play a children’s game while the rest of the country, and especially the city of New York, was still trying to spot a glimmer of light through the endlessly smoking rubble of what was now Ground Zero. The Yankees, along with the rest of MLB, would quickly come to the realization that the return of America’s past time could be just what the country needed.

The Bombers opened their schedule back up in Chicago, at Comiskey Park against the White Sox. The outpouring of support they received there would be something the Yankees would have to get used to as they closed out the regular season. Even in a usually hostile environment like Fenway Park, the Yanks were met with standing ovations and signs that read, among other things, “we are all Yankees.” Beneath all of the hate the Yankees had taken from the rest of the baseball world for decades, there was unconditional love. For the final 2 months of the 2001 season, New York’s baseball team watched their reputation as MLB’s evil genius fade away. In its place came pure admiration for what the Yankees franchise meant to baseball in a time when the fans needed the distraction the game provided more than ever. The Yankees were cruising to another A.L. East title, and they had an entire country in healing behind them.

The playoffs were different that year for obvious reasons. The Yankees were playing for so much more than just another World Series title. It began to feel like the more they won, the more America’s past time was beginning to drape over the ugly mask terror and war had provided the face of our nation. Throughout their playoff run, the Yankees were giving New Yorkers a reason to smile for the first time in a long time. The team rode every single one of those grins to their fourth straight World Series appearance. Riding the near earthquake Yankee Stadium triggered after President Bush’s ceremonial first pitch before Game 3, the Yankees would win all three games in the Bronx, taking a 3-2 series lead over the Diamondbacks before heading back to Arizona for the last leg of the series.

I still get the chills 18 years later when those U-S-A chants spill onto the field.

Obviously, the Yankees wouldn’t go on to win the series, as the Diamondbacks would take games six and seven to claim the 2001 World Championship. Nevertheless, I think if you asked any Yankee fan or any baseball fan for that matter, runner-ups is not how they’d view the 2001 Bombers. The Yankees might not have won the children’s game in the end, but in defeat, they seemed to clinch a much greater victory. Nearly 3,000 angels watched on with a grieving city as together they found 25 pinstriped heroes to help them mend the wounds left by the 9/11 attacks. Not only Yankees fans, but all fans of our great game were suddenly blind to the Evil Empire stigma the Yankees had traditionally adopted. Instead, people outside of New York chose to see how close these fans and this team really were to each other. They saw the positive impact this team was having on the broken heart’s of its fans, and in turn, appreciated the organization as a source of hope for the country as a whole.

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