Patriotic, to a fault

As September 11 winds down, and the calendar is getting ready to return to just another day, a 9/11 story occurred to me that I wanted to share here. It involves baseball, as many of my stories do. And it also involves the Cubs, which isn’t too surprising. What would I do if I couldn’t talk about the Cubs? I sometimes wonder about that, myself.

The story begins on September 27, 2001. And yes, this related to what happened on 9/11. The Cubs went on a long road trip when the games started up again after a short hiatus. The Cubs returned home for the first time since the attacks, to play a night game against the Houston Astros. And it turns out that I was there. Baseball was seen as part of the national healing process and I was there for the healing to begin.

The top of the sixth inning rolled around, and the Cubs were trailing 3-2. The Astros had two men on base when the public address announcer told everyone that the time was now 9:11 PM. Everyone was asked to stand and observe a moment of silence for those who were lost in New York. In those days and weeks and even months, no expression of patriotism was too much, so everybody stood and reflected. The announcer finally said “Thank you,” and it was game on once again.

The problem was that the Cubs’ pitcher, Kevin Tapani, also stood still and reflected, along with the rest of us. And the first pitch that he threw, after all that reflecting, was hit a long, long way. By the time the ball landed and the Astros’ batter had circled the bases, a 3-2 Cubs deficit had turned into a 6-2 Cubs deficit. They went on to lose the game 6-5, so that moment of reflection, patriotic as it was, also wound up costing the Cubs the game.

I don’t know whether a similar expression of patriotism was ever again made at Wrigley Field. But if it was, I hope that it was done with an opposing pitcher on the mound.

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