Politics does not belong in 9/11
For Bobby Valentine to politicize Sept.11, 2001 is amazingly in awful taste. The greatest single tragedy in the history of New York City should not be something that somehow got thrown into the Yankees-Mets rivalry.
Valentine’s comments on WFAN Radio Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, had absolutely no basis in fact. His suggestion that the Yankees were derelict in devoting time and funds to the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the destruction of the Twin Towers was astoundingly off-base.
I covered that story on a daily basis during that time when I was the national baseball columnist for the Hartford Courant and was well aware of what representatives of both clubs did to show their support of the recovery efforts. There is no question that Valentine, then the manager of the Mets, flung himself into those efforts.
The parking lot at Shea Stadium was set up as a supply station immediately after the attacks because the Mets were out of town. Valentine and many Mets players, including current Yankees broadcaster Al Leiter, spent hours of their own time loading and unloading supplies from and on to trucks. And it was Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez who came up with the idea of wearing hats bearing logos of the New York Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Services.
I was also at Shea the night baseball was first played after the attacks and watched one of the most moving ceremonies before the Mets and the Braves took the field after embracing each other in the center of the diamond. Mike Piazza’s game-winning home run off Atlanta reliever Steve Karsay became one of the game’s most significant moments.
That said, the Yankees certainly did their part as well. I remember Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada and other players visiting firehouses and hospitals all over the city. The Yankees also had an emotional ceremony prior to the first game at Yankee Stadium after the attacks.
Somehow Valentine missed all that. Here is what he said on the radio Wednesday:
“Let it be said that during the time from 9/11 to 9/21, the Yankees were AWOL. 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. 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.’ ”
How hypocritical. As the Yankees proceeded past the end of the regular season into postseason play all the way to the World Series, they brought attention to New York’s recovery while the Mets’ season was over. We all remember the lump we had in our throats when President Bush threw that strike of a ceremonial first pitch at the Stadium. But it was not about the Yankees any more than it was about the Mets. It was about people of all stripes working together to bind the city’s and the nation’s wounds.
“Bobby Valentine should know better than to point fingers on a day like today,” Yankees president Randy Levine said. “[Sept. 11] is a day of reflection and prayer. The Yankees, as has been well documented, visited Ground Zero, the Armory, the Javits Center, St. Vincent’s Hospital and many other places during that time. We continue to honor the 9/11 victims and responders. On this day, he would have been better to have kept his thoughts to himself rather than seeking credit, which is very sad to me.”