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Pregame ceremony honors victims
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09/11/2002 7:49 pm ET 
Pregame ceremony honors victims
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com

An Army reservist helps unfurl an American flag at Veterans Stadium before Wednesday's game. (Chris Gardner/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Standing on a commemorative crest amid a backdrop of National Guardsmen and an American flag the size of the Veterans Stadium outfield, Philadelphia firefighter John Perez offered a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

His passion could be felt with each note as his voice was the only sound resonating from the stadium microphones. For a half hour there were no baseball fans, just patriotic human beings looking to again move past the national tragedy from a year ago.


A sea of white T-shirts bearing the phrase, "We Shall Not Forget," filled the stadium. They were given to all fans, along with a miniature American flag. The Stars and Stripes MLB logo was also painted behind home plate, on each infield base, and on the outfield wall.

"I don't know if you can get it off your mind," said catcher Mike Lieberthal. "Obviously to play a game with the tragedy that took place on this date, it's extra special to have the fans come out and remember but at the same time forget and try to move on. A baseball stadium is probably a nice place to watch a game and kind of take it all in and at the same time remember what happened."

In the game, the charged-up Phillies won 9-2 behind rookie Brett Myers, who allowed one run on six hits and four walks in six innings. The offense was provided by three-run homers from Placido Polanco and Travis Lee.

"It meant a lot to go out and pitch on day like today," said Myers, who was scheduled to pitch last September 11 for Double-A Reading. "I'm glad nothing else happened."

The pregame ceremonies began with a video presentation, while the song "God Bless the USA" played. PA announcer Dan Baker then read a letter from President Bush. The Philadelphia Boys Choir then sang "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America," as the 56th Brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard unfurled an American flag.

The crowd let out a cheer when Paul Bryant, a member of the Philadelphia K-9 corps who was at ground zero on September 11, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, accompanied by his German shepherd, Azeem.

When play began, both teams wore special hats and uniforms bearing the American flag, similar to uniforms they wore after returning last season.

"What's more patriotic than a flag?" said Joe Roa, who got a tattoo of one shortly after the attacks. "I remember all the way up until middle school, we said the Pledge of Allegience every morning and to me that was so important -- especially now. It's just another reminder of how important our country is and how living in the US is a blessing. Sometimes I think we forget that.

"You've got to pay respects to the United States. This day is close to everybody's heart and nobody's gonna forget it, whether you live in Detroit or whereever. It's devastated everybody."

The game was halted at 9:11 p.m. ET for a moment of silence and a video presentation from Major League Baseball to honor those lost during last year's attacks. That prompted the crowd of 12,274 to chant, "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A."

The game was also broadcast without commercials and featured rememberances from members of the Phillies between innings. They included Roa, Bowa, Marlon Anderson, Mike Timlin and Phillies broadcasters Harry Kalas, Larry Andersen and Scott Graham.

Bowa felt the game's importance was to provide people with a temporary diversion and was happy to see some fans come out.

"I think when you sit at home and you watch, you really get depressed," he said. "To watch it all over again is gut wrenching. I'm sure people that lost family members, moms or dads, it's a tough day in their lives."

Ken Mandel covers the Phillies for MLB.com and can be reached at philliesfans2002@yahoo.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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