Facebook Twitter

Baseball returns to Big Apple

Mets game brings out Giuliani, stars

SHARE Baseball returns to Big Apple

NEW YORK — Al Leiter stared at the miniature New York City skyline atop the right-field scoreboard and closed his eyes.

The World Trade Center's twin towers were still standing, covered by a red, white and blue ribbon.

"I hadn't noticed it," the New York Mets pitcher said, pausing to take a long, deep breath. "I'm glad they left them up. Those people will not be forgotten."

Amid tight security at Shea Stadium, baseball returned to the city Friday night for the first time since last week's terrorist attacks. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and singers Diana Ross and Marc Anthony took part in a pregame tribute that was both solemn and uplifting.

The 30-minute festivities included the city's police, fire and emergency medical personnel throwing out the first balls and finished with Mets and Atlanta Braves players hugging in the middle of the diamond. In a scene seen throughout the majors this week, fans chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Later, a crowd of about 35,000 that came to watch a key matchup in the NL East race was in for another treat. Liza Minnelli was to stand on the Braves' third-base dugout and sing "New York, New York" during the seventh-inning stretch.

The miniature New York skyline atop the scoreboard is formed by light blue neon lights. Only the twin towers were dark, covered by the ribbon.

Giuliani drew the biggest ovation, by far — in a ballpark where the noted Yankees' rooter is routinely booed during interleague games.

Wearing an "FDNY" pullover shirt and a cap with the police department shield, he was cheered by Mets and Braves alike. Giuliani stepped down into the Atlanta dugout and got a vigorous pat on the back by manager Bobby Cox.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine raised his arms and led cheers of "Rudy! Rudy!"

"This is the way life gets back to normalcy. You can't just concentrate on the tragedy. It's so wonderful that these people have such confidence to turn out in such large numbers," the mayor said.

"Things will be back to normal when I hear boos at Shea Stadium. I'm a Yankees fan," he said, laughing.

Signs and symbols of America's heartache were all over ballpark, which had been used as a staging area for the relief effort at the site of World Trade Center collapse.

The Mets had the date of the terrorist attacks — 9-11-01 — embroidered on the left sleeves of their uniforms, right between two U.S. flags. "God Bless America" was written on top of the Mets' dugout, and an enormous flag logo replaced the Budweiser sign on the scoreboard.

The Mets continued to wear caps honoring New York's rescue and relief personnel, and the umpires did the same.

The Mets donated their entire salaries for the day, about $450,000, to a charity set up by ex-Mets star Rusty Staub for families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.