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Thanks for the Flashback, Ken Burns

The flag that inspired the National Anthem. It resides in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

A good deal of part two of Ken Burns' "Tenth Inning" was devoted to Baseball's reaction to 9/11. Burns, who is always good at tugging the heartstrings, had me choked up with my memories of the time. I was writing the Pinstriped Bible directly for back then, and in addition to being concerned for New York City and the nation as a whole, I spent part of the day worrying about the friends I had made there. MLB Advanced Media isn't located anywhere near Ground Zero so such fears were largely pointless, but there was so much confusion that terrible morning that it was possible to imagine anything.

The Burns segment sent me into my archives to see what I had written that day. The PB was weekly back then, and as it turns out, I had written most of that week's column already. Confronted by the attack, I wrote the following introduction. I can still remember struggling to come up with the right words, and I still don't know if I did:


Friends, Readers:

Much of this week’s column was written before the terrible events of September 11. As always, it strikes a humorous tone, one that may be out of synch with the bleak new world born of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Certainly the author’s pleasant mood of September 10 is long gone, replaced by a sadness not easily shaken. These are days of mourning, not jocularity.

Someday we may feel like laughing again. Sooner than that, I hope, it will be time again to enjoy baseball. It goes without saying that Major League Baseball did the right and proper thing by suspending its full schedule in the wake of the tragedy. Now that the pennant races have finally resumed, I hope that we all can take some small solace in the continuance of this most American of activities. If we let criminals steal from us our joy in those things that make us who we are, we have handed them a great, undeserved victory. America’s secular religions of liberty, fair play, and sport must go on.

On January 14, 1942, just over a month after Pearl Harbor, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt asking him to clarify the status of baseball during wartime. The president replied the next day, saying, "I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before… If 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens — and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile."

Roosevelt’s decision helped provide Americans with a continuity of identity during a grave national crisis. Sixty years later, his ideas still make sense. Let us temper joy with solemnity, but let us go forward with the understanding that nothing can ever be the same but, paradoxically, everything must remain the same.

What I write here is a plea from the heart: in these dark days, let us keep something of the old, innocent times.

Below, we present this week’s Pinstriped Bible. More than ever, I hope that my inconsequential nattering can serve as a distraction to you. I’ll be back next week to try again.

God bless the families of the victims.

God bless America.

God bless the peacemakers.

Steven Goldman

Midnight, September 12, 2001