It was a late October night in a packed house Yankee Stadium in 2001 as President George W. Bush prepared to throw the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series just weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Not knowing how the country would react back then, the president’s ceremonial speech is still considered one of the brightest moments in one of the country’s darkest periods almost 20 years later.
Major League Baseball postponed all games until the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. After a week of silence, the games slowly resumed but the nation was still in shock, New Yorkers were still in shock.
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Bush had been encouraged to pitch the first pitch in Game 1 of the World Series in Arizona for safety reasons, but refused, instead waiting for Game 3 in the Bronx on October 30.
Dressed in an FDNY sweater covering a bulletproof vest, a dark bush stepped out of the Yankees dugout and waved to the crowd as he took the mound. The electric crowd cheered as the president launched a strike right over the plate.
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The cheers quickly turned to “USA! USA!” sung.
“I had never had such an adrenaline rush that when I finally got to the mound. I was saying to the crowd, ‘I’m with you, the country is with you’ … And I’m done and j pulled the pitch, “Bush said MLB.com.
“I have attended conventions, rallies and speeches: I have never felt anything so powerful and emotions so strong, and the collective will of the crowd so evident.”
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The Yankees would win that night to come back 2-1, but the Diamondbacks would end up winning the World Series in Game 7. Whatever the outcome, Bush’s iconic pitch is still one of the most unifying moments in sports history.