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George W. Bush, 9/11, and First Pitch at 2001 World Series

George W. Bush said nothing to the crowd the night he took the mound at Yankee Stadium, only a few miles from where he had shouted through a bullhorn to people digging through the wreckage of the World Trade Center less than two months earlier.

Wearing a bulletproof vest, the president flashed a thumbs-up to the crowd, then threw a perfect strike before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a signal to the country that the healing could begin.

“It was so moving, so powerful, that it lifted our nation,” sportscaster Jim Gray said Sunday night at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “What President Bush told us without uttering a single word, was that we could once again attempt to carry on our lives. … What an amazing symbol it was.”

Watch the four-minute video from Game 3 of the World Series on October 30, 2001. The crowd roared and waved American flags and patriotic signs. It will make your heart swell with pride for America.

Fifteen years ago as a nation reeled from the attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush defied terrorists and strolled onto the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium to throw that first pitch and rally the hopes of Americans. Comforting the nation was something he had done since the day of the attacks — reassuring, calming, protective during a time of uncertainty when so many had lost their lives.

Watch ESPN’s 30 on 30 Shorts’ [1] “First Pitch.” They called that night “a moment that transcended sports and became etched in our nation’s history.”

Before it was released, a special pre-screening was shown [2] at the Bush Presidential Center:

“As a fan of the great 30 for 30 series, I’m so pleased that ESPN Films and Jim Gray found Angus Wall to direct this,” said President George W. Bush. “They did a brilliant job telling this story about how baseball helped our nation start to heal after 9/11.”

Perhaps no moment epitomizes [the strength of a nation] more than the ceremonial first pitch thrown out by the President that day at Yankee Stadium, reflecting the strength of a city and a nation. The story behind that pitch, as told by the President himself and the others so closely involved, gives a glimpse into the variety of emotions that the country was feeling at the time.

The documentary [1], aired on the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, showed how 9/11 made a war president of George W. Bush, and deepened the resolve of a nation of optimists.


Photo: President George W. Bush puts on a protective vest Tuesday Oct. 30, 2001, prior to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in Game Three of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library