Remembering President George W. Bush's 2001 World Series Pitch

Remembering President George W. Bush's 2001 World Series Pitch

President Bush's ceremonial first pitch during game three of the 2001 World Series. Photograph by Rich Pilling, Getty Images.

Now that the Major League Baseball season has come to a close with the Boston Red Sox securing the 2018 World Series title, we revisit one of the most iconic moments in “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11” as the wait for spring training begins.

During the 2001 World Series, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch of game three, which was the first of the series to be played at Yankee Stadium. The moment culminated a very difficult month and a half for the New York City and the United States.   

Major League Baseball cancelled all its games immediately following the attacks of 9/11. As the country grappled with its next steps, MLB leadership decided to resume play the following Saturday realizing the game’s unifying power. Despite their fears of misjudging the most appropriate time to restart the season, those first games became some of the best medicine for a nation in pain.

In the weeks that followed, baseball saw some of its most iconic moments. At Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza hit a walk-off homerun in the Mets’ first home game. In Boston, Red Sox fans proudly sang “New York, New York” as if it was “Sweet Caroline.” For the first time in history, every fan seemed to cheer for the Yankees as they clinched the American League East, won the pennant and earned their place in the World Series.

At the same time, President Bush urged the nation to move forward with strength and resiliency, like New York’s first responders during the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

When the Yankees met the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series that year, many in the administration counseled the president to appear at game one in Arizona. Security officials believed this was a more secure location for the president and did not pose the same security concerns as New York. The president rejected that plan and decided to go to the heart of the Bronx.

After visiting first responders working at the World Trade Center site, the president traveled in Marine One to Yankee Stadium. While preparing to appear, the secret service asked President Bush to put on a bullet-proof vest for protection, not knowing what lay ahead in the stadium (police and security had worked for two days to secure the facility for the visit). Covering the vest with an FDNY sweater, President Bush took to the mound, electrifying the crowd. The president delivered a strike over home plate, knowing that nothing else would do.

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This moment preceded one of the most extraordinary and needed wins in the Yankees’ history. Although they would lose the series, winning each of the three contests at Yankee Stadium signaled to the city and to the world that life would go on.   

To learn more about moments like this, visit “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11.”

By Timothy McGuirk, Communications Manager, 9/11 Memorial & Museum