09/11/2002 6:24 pm ET
All-American day at Wrigley
Players, fans take time to honor victims of tragedy
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- It looked like Flag Day at Wrigley Field. People wore flags on their T-shirts, stuck them in their hats, waved them between innings. The ballplayers wore hats with American flags on the side.
It was a special day at Wrigley Wednesday to honor the memory of the victims and salute the heroes of last Sept. 11 as well as cheer for the Cubs and patriotism.
"I think all of us remembered where we were last year when it happened," Cubs infielder Mark Bellhorn said. "It brings you back down to earth. Life isn't just baseball."
Cubs catcher Joe Girardi got choked up driving to the ballpark.
"I listened on the radio driving in my car (to the park) and there's a lot of talk about a year go and the sadness and the memorials today in New York and Washington D.C. and you get all wrapped up in it again and its very sad," Girardi said.
On the field, the Cubs defeated the Montreal Expos, 6-3, powered by Sammy Sosa's 45th home run, a solo shot and No. 495 of his career. Alan Benes, who picked up the win, made a point of joining his teammates on the third base line during the pregame ceremonies.
"The pregame was 10 or 15 minutes," Benes said, "and at that time, I just kind of took myself away from preparing for the game and tried to just enjoy the moment and think about the things that have happened over the past year and reflect. I said a little prayer for the families and all the people who were directly involved and just kind of put myself in that situation rather than thinking about the game the whole time."
The Cubs players hoped the crowd of 20,503 were able to enjoy baseball and forget about the horrors of one year ago.
"Today was a special day," Sosa said. "When the ceremony was on, I was thinking about it. We're here today to show respect. It could've been one of us. It's something that goes through your mind and it's something I'll never forget."
Michael Roop, 23, a student at Indiana State, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with "USA" on the front and stars on one sleeve and stripes on the other. He bought a ticket specifically for Wednesday's game between the Cubs and Montreal Expos because, "I wanted to be in a Major League city and support our land."
"Because I'm an American," said Roop, who has two brothers who are cops. "I'm not going to give in to people who are going to violate our way of life."
All fans entering Wrigley Field received white T-shirts with the message, "We Shall Not Forget." During pregame ceremonies, the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band played "Amazing Grace" and students from the LeMoyne Elementary School recited the "Pledge of Allegiance."
"In the beginning, you got that choked up feeling because of the bagpipes -- there's something about them," Girardi said of the band. "But as the game got going on, you felt like we should be doing what we were doing."
It was a day filled with emotions. Cubs second baseman Bobby Hill recalled being in the San Francisco airport last Sept. 11, about to get on a plane for Chicago so he could have a physical. Instead, the airport became chaotic with rumors that a plane from there was going to be hijacked.
"It was scary," Hill said.
Girardi, the father of two, recognizes that fear. It's one of the many emotions he felt Wednesday one year after the terrorist attacks.
"Sorrow, fear, responsibility as a parent and a husband," Girardi said. "It was a terrible time for everybody. You think about what our country has been through and the job the rescue workers did, and President Bush and his staff, the CIA, the servicemen and women of the country, and you feel a lot of thankfulness that we live in such a wonderful country and that people care so much about you."
Bill Kurtis, an Emmy-award winning broadcaster who hosts a show on A&E, read a letter from Bush before the game which commended baseball for helping to bring Americans together.
Girardi, who played for the New York Yankees, did not know anyone killed in the destruction of the Twin Towers but he does know New York.
"You know the heartbeat of that city and to see the heartbeat taken away was kind of strange," he said.
Instead of singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch, there was a moment of silence followed by the singing of "God Bless America." However, many fans, maintaining tradition, did an a cappella version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
All of the players welcomed the decision to play Wednesday.
"I think sports is an outlet for people and obviously, during the week that we weren't playing, most of us were probably glued to CNN or MNBC or whatever news station and watching and feeling the effect of what had happened in our country," Girardi said. "I think we all needed an outlet at that time. Baseball was just one way."
Roop, of Campbellsburg, Ky., said he really missed baseball during the week the games were postponed last September.
"But I thought it was a good idea (to postpone the games) as long as they kept playing," he said.
The Cubs will play in New York next week against the Mets. Will Girardi visit Ground Zero?
"I haven't decided," he said. "It'll probably be a last-minute decision what my heart tells me to do because I wrestle back and forth if I should go and take my family or if I shouldn't. My kids are too young to understand but (wife) Kim and I aren't. We'll see."
Carrie Muskat covers the Cubs for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.