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Joe Torre, other 2001 Yankees recall how country came together after 9/11, lament current divisiveness

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Joe Torre, manager of the New York Yankees at the time of 9/11, grew rueful this week as the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks approached.

Oh, he fondly recalled how the Yankees resumed play against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago a week after the September 11 attacks.

“The New York Yankees, you either love them or hate them,” Torre told USA TODAY Sports. “There’s no middle of the road with the Yankees. And we showed up in Chicago that day to play the White Sox and they had signs and banners, 'We Love New York.' "

It was the same story when the Yankees arrived in Baltimore, and then Tampa Bay, and, in a poignant reflection of national unity, felt like most of the country was rooting for the Yankees as New York’s beloved baseball team reached the postseason and ultimately the World Series.

Yankees manager Joe Torre, second from left, claps as Chicago firemen and police officers walk to the pitchers mound in Chicago in the first game following the 9/11 attacks.
Yankees manager Joe Torre, second from left, claps as Chicago firemen and police officers walk to the pitchers mound in Chicago in the first game following the 9/11 attacks.

Now Torre looks around America and sees discord.

The attack on the U.S. Capitol. Division over athletes who have protested during the national anthem. Democrats and Republicans regarding each other with more animosity than the Yankees and Boston Red Sox ever did.

“Unfortunately, as a country, we’re not wearing the same uniform, it seems,’’ Torre said.

He won four World Series titles as a manager, but none was as memorable as the year he lost one.

That was the 2001 season, when his Yankees won three electric games at Yankee Stadium only to lose the series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7. That team, Torre said, could serve as an important lesson today.

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“I know still that success really relies on everybody pulling together and caring for each other,’’ he said. “And I can just tell you, as a baseball manager, you don’t have to like each other on a baseball team, but you certainly need to respect each other. And as I say, I had a special group (of players) that maybe didn’t go out and socialize together, but when they got on the field, they knew what they needed to do."

In one of the most indelible sports moments in the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial pitch before Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Todd Greene, then a backup catcher for the Yankees, caught the pitch. But while recalling what he considers the highlight of his career, Greene lamented the state of the country.

“It’s just such a shame that we have to have a tragedy like that for our country to be united," he said. “And we’re just so divisive now with everything, and it’s refreshing to think back how united our country was after such a tragedy occurred.

“We’ve never been more united as a country than we were for those couple of months after that happened.’’

With a chuckle, former Yankee Paul O’Neill said it probably became acceptable to hate the Yankees after the 2001 season.

“But at that time, it seemed like everybody was kind of respectful and like rooting for us to get through what was going on in New York,’’ he said. “It was like we were playing for the country."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 9/11: Joe Torre, other 2001 Yankees recall how country came together