The media look back on the excitement of the 2001 World Series


Covering the 2001 World Series was a challenge for many members of the media, who were to write about baseball, but with the events of September 11 as a backdrop. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – When the Arizona Diamondbacks flew to New York with a 2-0 lead in the 2001 World Series over the New York Yankees, a skyline and a world forever changed by the terrorist attacks of the September 11, 2001 awaited them.

Four days later, the Diamondbacks left New York City behind 3-2 in the series, but with a sobering appreciation for the devastation of the attack on the World Trade Center and the impact it had. over the city and the nation.

It was against this backdrop that reporters from New York, Arizona and across the country attempted to cover a sporting event that demonstrated both a country’s resilience and determination to return to normalcy.

But the atmosphere of Games 3 to 5 was anything but normal.

“It has been a difficult time for all of us in New York City,” said Peter Botte, former reporter for the New York Daily News. “Everyone who lived in New York City knew people who died that day. It was hard to separate that from your job and baseball – and sports in general – didn’t seem as important as it used to be.”

It also became personal for the Diamondbacks who, on their pre-Game 3 rest day at Yankee Stadium, visited the still smoking rubble where the iconic Twin Towers fell.

“They went to the site to give their support to the workers who were cleaning up the area, and they had long looks on their faces,” said Mark Gonzales, who was the Diamondbacks beat writer for The Arizona Republic that season. . “I was waiting for the team to come back and a lot of the guys weren’t in a good mood.”

The series was pushed back to November after two hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center towers, with one hitting the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and another heading for the United States Capitol before d ‘being forced by passengers in Pennsylvania.

And Games 3, 4, and 5 were played back-to-back nights, all decided by a point, two going into extra innings, and all won by the heavily favored Yankees.

“Those few nights at the stadium, in Games 3, 4, and 5, there’s nothing quite like those nights in my 30 years of New York sports coverage,” Botte said.

Those three nights included President George W. Bush delivering a perfect strike for the first pitch before Game 3, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hitting two homers in the 9th inning against the Diamondbacks’ closest Byung-Hyun Kim in back-to-back games. , Derek Jeter leaving Game 4-12, winning his Mr. November title, and rookie Alfonso Soriano delivering a hit in Game 5 for the New York Series 3-2 lead over Arizona.

“There was so much emotion going through everything we, the team and the city had to go through,” Botte said. “I’ve covered some fun stuff over the years, but these pairs games felt like an outside body experience. You felt like it was more important than just covering a sporting or baseball event. “

For the Diamondbacks, the trip to New York was heartbreaking. They led until the end of the ninth inning in Games 4 and 5 and had to win Games 6 and 7 at Bank One Ballpark to prevent the Yankees from winning a fourth consecutive world title that now seemed destined to happen.

“After missing Games 4 and 5… I think they knew they were really up against the wall,” Gonzales said of the Diamondbacks.

Gonzales was in his second season covering the Diamondbacks for the Republic in 2001 and had seen first-year manager Bob Brenly move from the broadcast booth to the bench to lead a roster of seasoned talent including two of the game’s top pitchers, Randy Johnson. and Curt Schilling.

The Diamondbacks finished the season with 92 wins and won their second NL West title in just the fourth season of the franchise’s existence. Gonzales attributes the success to the selflessness of this club.

“They looked after each other,” he said. “There were new guys who came on board later this season. And you go out to lunch and see some of these new guys having lunch with veterans to show them the ropes.

“As a beat maker you get to see sometimes on the road some veterans take these young guys and kind of break them down and teach them big league life at the same time.”

Now the D-Backs had to rely on this cohesion to overthrow the Yankee dynasty.

Schilling and Johnson had dominated the Yankees in the first two games played at Bank One Ballpark, limiting New York to a total of six hits in the first two games.

But the Yankees’ sweep over all three games played at Yankee Stadium had a familiar look on Botte, who had witnessed their ability to seize the opportunity just at the right time in the previous three league seasons.

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“This group of guys had a knack for delivering in big moments that you don’t see very often in sports,” Botte said. “It’s remarkable when you think about the fact that no other team since then has repeated their league title. I think that’s a testament to this group of guys. That kind of tenacity in a team doesn’t happen very often.

But the Diamondbacks, with a roster of tested veterans, had their own knack for seizing the moment, and they blew the Yankees 15-2 in Game 6, forcing a Game 7 that will be remembered as a classic by all. the temperature.

Schilling started for the Diamondbacks against Yankee ace Roger Clemens, and both produced formidable outings, each allowing just one run in seven innings.

With the score tied in the eighth inning, it was the Yankees who responded with a home run from Soriano, two games after hitting his singles in Game 5. The rookie gave New York the lead with the most. close Mariano Rivera ready in the enclosure.

A Yankees victory seemed almost inevitable.

“From 1998 to 2000, Rivera was pretty much flawless and unbeatable,” Botte said. “Most people in New York thought that once they took the lead, Mariano was going to shut it down.”

The same thoughts swirled through Gonzales’ head.

“I think to myself… it leans towards a loss and how to create a story summarizing what happened, how the season went and how it barely failed,” Gonzales said. “And I started to think that, ‘Well, I’m probably going to write that the Diamondbacks have nothing to be ashamed of because they gave their best shot. Schilling was working on a short rest. And they failed, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. ‘ “

Instead, Gonzales wrote:

“They did their best to beat the best in style.

“The Diamondbacks conquered baseball’s most legendary franchise and the most dominant in playoff history, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Luis Gonzalez hit a 130-foot single over an infield to lead in the winning race and beat the New York Yankees 3-2 in Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday night.

The Diamondbacks rallied around an all-time great pitcher as Gonzalez delivered what remains the most defining moment in the history of the sport in Arizona. And the series brought more than joy to the Valley, it was a spectacle that hijacked, if only for a short time, the pain of a nation.

“It’s been a fascinating year and the way these guys really helped heal a country, especially after 9/11, will always be special,” Gonzales said. “I am thinking not only of the Arizona community, but of everyone across the country.”

And while the Yankees couldn’t end the season with a win for New York, Botte believes the 2001 World Series is still one that fans and players alike will always cherish.

“If you talk to the players on this Yankees team, they’ll say it’s the most memorable World Series of any World Series that the group has played together,” Botte said. “Even though they ended up losing the World Series, the guys remember October and November so much just because of everything they and the city went through.”

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