There normally exists a strong, mutual dislike, and even hatred, between fans of the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, especially when their teams are playing each other.
But, on Sunday night, during the Mets’ 2-1, 14-inning victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, fans of each of those clubs were briefly united behind the same team, as Americans first.
That’s when chants of “U! S! A!” broke out as the Mets batted in the top of the ninth inning, shortly before United States’ president and commander-in-chief Barack Obama later addressed the nation on television with news of the successful capture and death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
“I got chills hearing that,” said Mets’ starting pitcher, Chris Young.
In the age of smart phones and instant information, fans at the ballpark didn’t need to wait for the announcement after the game. As soon as the news broke everywhere else, it likewise permeated the stands, linking Met and Phillie fans in something much bigger than baseball.
Perhaps due to its timeless nature, as a game played without a clock, with more of a focus on individual heroes as much as on teams, baseball, seemingly more than any other sport, has often been connected to and remembered in that way with historical events occurring outside of the sport.
Such was the case on Sunday night.
Appropriately, while President Obama broke the news from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, the only major league game of what used to be (or perhaps still is) America’s past time, was being played within the state of Pennsylvania.
And, in some sense, it was even more fitting to have a team from New York play a team from Pennsylvania while the President spoke from the nation’s capitol about the death of bin Laden, who claimed ultimate responsibility for the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil, on September 11, 2001.
On that horrific and fateful day almost a decade ago, two hijacked planes took down the famed Twin Towers in the city from which the Mets hail, while another plane struck the Pentagon not far from the site of president Obama’s White House speech on Sunday night, and a fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylanvia.
Thus, as before, baseball on Sunday night was again tied at least in some small way to an historic moment in U.S. history.
As for something of far less significance, the last-place Mets (12-16) avoided a three-game sweep in Philadelphia against the first-place Phillies (18-9), to end a three-game losing streak while snapping Philadelphia’s three-game winning streak.
Young (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7K) and Phillies’ starter Cliff Lee (7 IP, 8H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 5K) were locked in a pitcher’s duel and each team’s bullpen, for the most part, continued to shut down their opposing teams’ lineups.
New York right-fielder Carlos Beltran gave the Mets a 1-0 lead on an RBI double to right-center field as third baseman David Wright singled before racing home from first on Beltran’s hit.
After Young exited, reliever Jason Isringhausen allowed a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter John Mayberry to start the bottom of the eighth inning.
Mayberry was sacrificed to second base but Isringhausen induced a pop out from third baseman Placido Polanco for the second out.
Pitcher Tim Byrdak then relieved Isringhausen and allowed a shallow single to left field by first baseman Ryan Howard. Mayberry beat a throw home on the hit to even the score, 1-1.
The game stayed that way until Wright led off the top of the 14th inning with a single to shallow left field before moving to third base with two outs, after a one-out single by leftfielder Jason Bay and a sacrifice fly by first baseman Ike Davis.
Catcher Ronny Paulino, who had a career-high five hits in seven at-bats while making his first start as a Met, sent Wright home with a game-winning, RBI double to left field off of pitcher Kyle Kendrick (who fell to 1-2).
Reliever Taylor Bucholz (1-0) pitched a perfect bottom of the 14th inning to post his first win as a Met in the third game to last as many as fourteen innings in the majors this year.
That bit of history along with Paulino recording the most hits of any player while making an initial start for the franchise made it a momentous night for the Mets.
However, for the Mets’ city, that of their opponent, and for the rest of the world, it was a night in which Bucholz, Paulino, and the Mets didn’t mind being overshadowed.