9/11 & Popular Culture: The Impact of George Bush’s First Pitch During Game 3 of the 2001 World Series

Wearing a Kevlar vest, George W. Bush approached the pitchers mound at Yankee Stadium on October 30th, 2001, before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. As roaring applause filled the stadium, President Bush took his place on top of the mound with a baseball in hand, getting ready to deliver the first pitch of the game. Prior to the pitch, Bush lifted his right hand high and gestured to the crowd a thumbs up. The crowd erupted, and then Bush proceeded to throw it right down the pipe. This will go down as one of the most memorable and patriotic first pitches in history, but it was much more than that.

It is often stated that leaders make conscious use of symbols to implement a message, and this pitch was a unifying symbol to the American people that we would never forget the 9–11 attacks and that the healing process could now begin in America. It is also noteworthy that this message was communicated to the American people via baseball. Baseball is America’s past time, and it would have been different if he were dropping the puck at an NHL game, or flipping the coin at a football game. According to Bush, “Flipping the coin, you’re with people wearing huge pads and giant people and referees and cameras. On the baseball mound, you’re alone.” (Thomas, 2015) This was symbolic in that it showed trust. The president never wanted to seem vulnerable; he wanted to seem strong in eyes of the people. When the nation was at a time of crisis, he wanted to invoke a feeling of fearlessness, which is exactly what this iconic first pitch did. President Bush stated, “Baseball represented a sense of normalcy- the pace of play, the size of the players, the old and abiding appeal of tradition. Normalcy.” (Thomas, 2015) He made the case that, if the American people really wanted to send a message to the terrorists, then they needed to “get back to normal life and we’ll do the best we can to protect you, and so going to a baseball game was kind of symbolic of getting back to normal life.” (Thomas, 2015) However, while trying to implement fearlessness to the American people, the fact that President Bush was wearing a Kevlar vest covered by a New York Fire Department windbreaker exemplifies importance. It showed that though Bush wanted to seem like he was fearless while walking out to the mound “alone” the people of our nation, including himself, were on high alert after 9–11, and everyone needed to take extra precautions in regards to safety after 9–11. Even today, we are still on high alert after 9–11. For Americans, September 11th, 2001, is a day that we think about when we think about a true sense of fear. “Our open society is vulnerable to attack and, even while precautions are being taken, there is no way to provide one hundred percent assurance against terrorist violence.” (London, 2005). Our country is still feeling the repercussions of these acts of violence against our nation.

As we know, a little over a month prior to Bush taking the mound for this unforgettable first pitch, the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, unfolded on American soil. These terrorist attacks on America left us, the American people, scared and looking for answers. George W. Bush, the President of the United States at this time was the man who we looked to for those very answers. On that brisk October night, Bush jogged out to that mound with the mind set of the chief communicator of the nation, and he wanted to set the emotional tone for America. When the American people were trembling with fear, looking for answers, we needed Bush’s hand to be stable. We needed him to stay calm in the face of adversity. If our president could expose himself on one of the largest and most watched stages in America, the World Series, and not show an ounce of fear in his face, then we could as well in our every-day lives. This pitch was arguably one of the most patriotic moments in recent history.

Throwing a strike right down the middle was key. It showed strength, and showed where President Bush’s mind was for the future of our nation. He stated, “I can not remember thinking, if you don’t bounce it, that’ll lift their spirits, but I probably knew, instinctively, that a bounce would kind of reduce the defiance — the act of defiance toward the enemy.” (Thomas, 2015) This statement proves that president Bush was determined to prove a point with this pitch. This pitch was not just a pitch to remember all the lives lost on 9/11, it was a statement to those who implemented these acts of terror on the United States. Bush was set to prove that justice would prevail, and America would not let these acts of terror go without consequence. The concept of “justice” has changed because of 9–11, and has sparked many questions in the minds in of Americans. Such as, to what extent is revenge an appropriate response. Questions like this spark many heated debates, but there is no debating the significance this first pitch had in unifying our country on October 30th, 2001.

References

London, H. (2005). Fighting a War for Survival. Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review, 14(385).

Thomas, L. (2015). The pitch. Retrieved September 18th, 2016, from http://grantland.com/features/the-pitch/