Fantasy Football 2014:

Sept. 11 a reminder of firefighter's heroism

The SportsXchange

Across the United States, in sports and beyond, there are tributes on this September 11 to those thousands who gave their lives, either by horrible coincidence or as part of duty, during that tragic and cowardly act of violence when the Twin Towers in New York were felled by hijacked airplanes.

The promise once again will echo: We Shall Never Forget.

That phrase, that motto is evident this Wednesday, Sept. 11 at all Major League Baseball home games as part of the National Day of Service and remembrance, to honor those whose lives were lost and so dramatically impacted on that tragic day.

Most MLB teams have their own specific tributes, such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who joined with Bank of America to offer all active and retired military, as well as all emergency first responders, free tickets to this week's home games against Milwaukee Wednesday and Thursday.

"We want to recognize the selfless service of all of our military, police, fire and emergency response workers," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. "These men and women put their lives on the line to protect us. We want to thank them for their service, as well as the sacrifice each of their families make on our behalf."

Other sports-related entities try annually to show their support, some of which are embraced and some not. One golf course, name withheld here for many reasons, offered a $9.11 deal for nine holes of golf. After swift, negative reaction citing crass commercial exploitation was voiced on social media, the golf course retracted the offer early Wednesday.

Some tributes live on through a natural impetus initiated by the very spirit of the hero they represent. One such hero whose spirit endures is that of firefighter Kenneth J. Marino, who perished that day as a first responder with Rescue 1.

Marino's heroism lives on in a very important manner in the increased salaries for those whose job it is to protect and save lives in New York. His widow, Katrina, helped spearhead a move to raise the salaries of these important servants, a raise, she pointed out, was appreciated, but far overdue as she asked the poignant question "Why are these men worth so much more dead than alive?"

In a far less important, yet still heartfelt tribute to Marino, the iconic Strat-O-Matic tournaments which he loved too much -- and in which he was successful on a national level -- continue to honor his name in this, the 40th anniversary of that niche event.

Marino became well-known to MLB fans two weeks after the 9-11-01 tragedy when, following an email from Katrina Marino to the Cincinnati Reds requesting an "extra home run" by Ken's idol, Ken Griffey Jr., was answered with a home run by Griffey. He also gave the home run bat to the Marino family and stayed in touch. In the spirit of "We Shall Not Forget," Griffey visited with the Marino family often when the Reds played in New York. In 2007, the Marino's son Tyler, who was only one year old when his father died, threw out the first pitch at a Reds' game.

Marino is remembered in many ways, including a website, kennymarino.com, paying tribute to his 10 years as a New York City firefighter, 20 years as a first responder and his other passions -- the New York Mets, New York Rangers, softball and most of all, his children, whom he "will miss so much growing up, their spirit, hopes, dreams, accomplishments and so much more."

Whether Griffey's home run was indeed inspired by a widow's plea is irrelevant. For a grieving family and a nation it was a needed moment at the time and it will live on, retold by Americans and baseball fans forever, as indeed "We Shall Never Forget."

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