Royals manager Ned Yost didn’t appreciate the moment the way a lot of onlookers around the country did at the time, but he’s grown to realize things unfolded the way they needed to on an eventful and emotional night in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
In the aftermath of the attacks, a Mike Piazza home run became a part of the nation’s healing process and a starting point for a return to normalcy.
Yost, then the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves, was part of that moment and the unforgettable scene in New York. While in town for the series, he went to Ground Zero along with Braves catcher Javier Lopez and outfielder Brian Jordan accompanied by police officers from the Port Authority.
“They were still searching for bodies,” Yost said. “We were at Ground Zero and the damage, everything was still smoking, was still burning.”
Yost turned his iPad to reveal images from the visit with smoke visible as well as hollowed out shells of buildings and piles of rubble and ashes.
The smell of jet fuel still in the air left a lasting impression on Yost as did the imagery of skyscrapers reduced to folded steel and most everything else “vaporized” into powder.
“We had the opportunity to go, it was a national event at that time,” Yost said. “Yeah, I wanted to go support the police officers down there, but I wanted to see what it looked like.”
Major League Baseball didn’t play games the week of the attacks, and the season resumed on Sept. 17. The New York Yankees didn’t play a home game until Sept. 25, but the Mets hosted a series against the Atlanta Braves starting Friday, Sept. 21, at Shea Stadium.
Piazza, the Mets catcher, famously hit a home run in the eighth inning to provide the margin of victory in a 3-2 Mets win on an emotional night in Queens. The American flag was prominently on display as first responders were as big of figures in the ballpark that night as the baseball players.
“As much as it (ticked) me off at the time, I’m probably glad that he went ahead and did it for the city,” Yost said. “I wanted to win. A baseball game is a baseball game. I wanted to win it. Now, when I sit back and look at it, the right thing happened.”
In recognition of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, Major League Baseball clubs held a moment of silence prior to the start of each game, and the “We Shall Not Forget” silhouetted batter ribbon was displayed in numerous places around the ballpark, including on special lineup cards. Players, umpires, coaches and managers wore hats/ball caps with a patch on the side featuring the ribbon.
MLB will donate royalties from the sales of those ball caps to the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Flight 93 National Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial Fund.