Baseball's playoff chase put on hold

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

NEW YORK -- Major league baseball postponed its entire schedule of 15 games Tuesday night following terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and other sports also called off their events.

Aside from work stoppages, it was the first time since D-Day in 1944 that baseball wiped out a whole day of regular-season play.

"In the interest of security and out of a sense of deep mourning for the national tragedy that has occurred today, all major league baseball games for today have been canceled," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

The NFL, criticized for playing after President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, said it wasn't sure what it would do with this weekend's schedule. College football commissioners were considering the postponement of the weekend's entire schedule of games, with a decision expected as early as Wednesday. Race tracks around the nation called off their cards.

The New York Yankees said tonight's game against the Chicago White Sox had been called off and they were not certain about the status of Thursday's series finale. The White Sox planned to take a bus to Cleveland today.

Sandy Alderson, baseball's executive vice president of operations, said a decision on today's game would be made early in the day.

The New York Mets, who were staying in a hotel across the street from the William S. Moorhead Federal Building in Pittsburgh, moved to the suburbs after their general manager consulted with baseball's security chief.

"I will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and make ongoing decisions accordingly," Selig said. "My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the families and victims of this horrendous series of events."

It was only the third time the major leagues postponed an entire day's schedule, aside from labor strife or weather, according to Scot Mondore of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The others were Aug. 2, 1923, when President Warren G. Harding died; June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded France in World War II. Exhibition games were called off on April 14, 1945, two days after the death of President Roosevelt.

In 1945, the All-Star game was canceled because of wartime travel restrictions. The 1918 season ended a month early on Sept. 2 by order of the U.S. War Department.

"I was stunned by the JFK assassination and it took me a long time to get over that. I didn't think that was possible," Selig said at a news conference. "The (San Francisco) earthquake in '89, the World Series, that was a tragedy. But this is incomprehensible. The greatest country in the history in the world being attacked. So all of this doesn't mean very much today."

Selig said he and his wife were in New York last week, and "we went to the World Trade Centers because I hadn't been there in a while. Now to believe that they don't exist anymore."

Yankee Stadium, perhaps the building that most symbolizes American sports, was evacuated within 90 minutes of the first attacks on the World Trade Center.

Security was tightened outside the 78-year-old ballpark, located in the South Bronx, more than 10 miles from the World Trade Center.

"The ballpark is ringed with police," Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone said after leaving his office.

The Chicago White Sox arrived in New York just hours before the attacks for the start of their series against the Yankees.

"I didn't have any immediate fear for the club because I knew they were staying in midtown and this was taking place downtown, lower Manhattan," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. "So I figured they were OK. Then I got ahold of (general manager) Kenny Williams right away and he said everyone was OK."

Teams didn't know when they would play again. Braves pitcher John Burkett was stuck at his suburban Dallas home because of canceled flights.

"Whenever it's deemed safe to hold large public gatherings again, we'll resume, but I'm sure we won't do it until then," Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten said.

"I don't care if they're all canceled," said Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo. "When it's deemed safe to proceed or it's in the interests of our country to go forward, that's when we should resume. Whenever that is.

"If it's 24 hours from now or if it's a week from now, I'm just not concerned about it."

In the past, baseball has been a healing force during national tragedies. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered games to continue during World War II. When an earthquake devastated San Francisco in 1989 and delayed the World Series between the Giants and the Oakland A's, the city asked baseball to keep playing.

Selig hopes baseball will help heal the nation again. But with emotions so raw, it's too soon to even think about it.

"It's got to be done right. It's got to be done with only healing in mind," he said. "We're going to do this when it's the right time and the right thing to do. Not for us. This is one time we're not going to think about us.

"We're going to think about what's best for the country."

The NFL was unsure what it would do.

"Regarding Sunday's games, we will make no decision today," league spokesman Joe Browne said. "We'll gather information and speak to several parties within the next 24 to 48 hours."

The PGA Tour canceled Thursday's starts of the World Golf Championship and two other tournaments.

Commissioner Tim Finchem said the American Express Championship in St. Louis, featuring Tiger Woods and top players from tours around the world, would begin Friday with 36 holes.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: