NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine joined WFAN radio on the 12th anniversary of 9/11 to talk about baseball’s role in the aftermath of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Valentine didn’t hold back, and admitted there were some raw feelings about how the Mets were perceived compared to the crosstown Yankees in the days and weeks that followed.
“Let it be said that during the time from 9/11 to 9/21, the Yankees were (not around),” Valentine told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Wednesday. “You couldn’t find a Yankee on the streets of New York City. You couldn’t find a Yankee down at Ground Zero, talking to the guys who were working 24/7.”
He added: “Many of them didn’t live here, and so it wasn’t their fault. And many of them did not partake in all that, so there was some of that jealousy going around. Like, ‘Why are we so tired? Why are we wasted? Why have we been to the funerals and the firehouses, and the Yankees are getting all the credit for bringing baseball back?’ And I said ‘This isn’t about credit, guys. This is about doing the right thing.'”
Members of the Yankees, including Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and manager Joe Torre, visited rescue staging areas at the Jacob Javits Center, the Armory and St. Vincent’s Hospital four days after the attacks.
Valentine said the Atlanta Braves were among the teams “that did the right thing.” The Braves traveled to Queens to play in the first baseball game in New York after 9/11, an emotional 3-2 win for the Mets.
“They had to take a vote whether … to come here or not, OK? Whether or not to come to New York and play us, and they stood tall and they said they would do it,” Valentine said.
For Valentine, it was “more than difficult” getting back to baseball following the terror attacks.
“There was a vote in the clubhouse on whether or not we would fly,” he said. “There was a vote whether or not we would play in Pittsburgh. There was another vote whether or not we would play at Shea Stadium, so close to LaGuardia (Airport). You know, people were dealing with something that they never experienced before. … People didn’t know that they wanted to leave their family at home. People didn’t know if they wanted to try to go out there and entertain, because it didn’t seem like the right thing to do.”
Everyone remembers the Mets-Braves game on Sept. 21 — which included a tear-jerking pregame tribute and Mike Piazza’s iconic home run — though the stage was set during the team’s three-game trip to Pittsburgh.
“It was really emotional, you know, and it was filled with symbolic gestures,” Valentine said. “It started in Pittsburgh, when Robin Ventura and (public relations chief) Jay Horwitz decided to wear an NYPD and an NYFD hat in practice, and then the guys wanted to do it in the game, and then the commissioner said we weren’t allowed because we had a contract with New Era. And then we said ‘B.S.’ to the commissioner and anybody else who’s going to try to keep us from wearing the hats.”
Then there was that Piazza home run heard ’round the world — a game-deciding blast that lifted the Mets, NYC and the nation.
“We put on a good face,” Valentine said. “We tried to smile, we tried to laugh, we tried to be normal. But nothing could have set the tone more properly than Mike’s line drive over the left-field fence that I think really began to allow people to return to normalcy.”
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