When Major League Baseball released the 2021 schedule, showing the second round of the Subway Series would take place at Citi Field during the weekend of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Mets knew they had to deliver a ceremony that struck the right tone.
While the team has struggled on the field to the consternation of their fans this past season, they came through with flying colors as far as 9/11 was concerned.
Yes, there were color guards, gigantic flags and a plethora of elected officials. But it was the little things which made the night so memorable. Before the game began, many members of the 2001 Mets stood interspersed with New York City first responders along the right and left field lines. During the playing of our national anthem, Mets and Yankees players, who both wore “New York” on their uniforms, also interspersed along the first and third base lines. Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and his Mets counterpart, Brandon Nimmo, played against each other in amateur ball as teens, and you could see they were happy to have a few unplanned moments to get reacquainted.
I spoke to some of the 2001 Mets who were there. Glendon Rusch said he enjoys the high praise he gets nowadays from broadcasters and sportswriters because games rarely went more than two hours when he pitched. Steve Trachsel was at the other end of the time spectrum as he worked so deliberately, he was referred to as the “human rain delay.” He would be considered Mr. Speedy today. “All games seem to go four hours these days. I can’t stand it!” he said. Infielder and pinch hitter deluxe Lenny Harris decried the lack of attention paid to moving base runners with productive outs these days. Outfielder Jay Payton complained about new stats which are meaningless. “The obsession with launch angles is hurting young batters learning how to hit the ball squarely. Does anyone really care about exit velocity of a foul ball?”
The Mets’ cable home, SNY, did a great job with its documentary, “9/11: The Mets Remember.” It mixes footage of that fateful day with the recollections of several players. Todd Zeile, who is now an SNY studio host on Mets pre- and postgame shows, recalled the smell from lower Manhattan as the Mets bus was going over the George Washington Bridge which is roughly ten miles away from Ground Zero. Mike Piazza graciously said, “If people just remember me for my home run against the Braves in the Sept. 21 game against the Braves, then that’s fine with me.” In a nice touch, the man who surrendered Piazza’s homer, College Point native Steve Karsay, is included.
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Germany’s Alexander Zverev fell short in his attempt to win his first-ever US Open as he lost to Novak Djokovic in the men’s semi-finals, but at least he got a personalized Mets jersey for his recent visit to Flushing.
Zverev watched the Mets take batting practice and received the VIP treatment a few days before the Open got underway. He made fast friends with Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor who was in attendance for his opening night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
For years, rain wreaked havoc with the US Open maintaining its schedule. It was the reason a retractable roof was added to Arthur Ashe Stadium. Having a roof, however, does not give the United States Tennis Association an excuse for tossing out common sense. Matches went on at Ashe on Wednesday night, Sept. 1, even though Queens was being pummeled by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. That meant that fans and workers had to struggle with how to get home when the subways were not running because the tracks were inundated. Even players faced problems getting back to their Manhattan hotels because of the flooding. Postponing matches for a night should have been a no-brainer.
The fact this wasn’t a bigger story on the sports pages and for sports talk radio is indicative of the relative lack of interest in this year’s Open. This wasn’t surprising as the USTA cut down on the number of credentialed media because of Covid-19 concerns. It also didn’t help that big name fan favorites such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams all missed this year’s Open.
It took just one Sunday afternoon to dash any hope the Jets and/or Giants would go undefeated in 2021.