On WFAN: Bobby Valentine Reflects On Days Following 9/11 Attacks

Boomer and Gio
September 11, 2018 - 9:32 am

By WFAN.com

During those dark September days 17 years ago, Bobby Valentine's leadership skills were tested. He had to be a comforting voice to his players and navigate an unprecedented situation in determining what was the next step for the Mets, all while also playing an instrumental role in providing inspiration to a heartbroken city. 

"We were dealing with fear, like everyone else in the country," the former Mets manager recalled in an interview with WFAN's "Boomer & Gio" on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. "Everything was uncertain.

"It was very difficult. We were having sessions with professional help on how to deal with our family situation, how to deal with the fear that was in our heart. We knew about fear of failure. We knew about people booing. But we didn't know this fear, and we didn't know how to comfort not only those who were directly affected by losing people in this event, but also by our families and our friends, who were struggling about being alone (and) should we leave?"

Valentine said he also had to try to convince the Atlanta Braves to make the trip to New York to play the Mets. 

MORE: Museum Exhibit Highlights Impact Of Sports After 9/11

"To come to the place that Ground Zero was and the place where planes always flew over and landed, and the Braves knew that," Valentine said. "They didn't want to have any part of coming to New York."

Through it all, Valentine had to present a strong facade, but he said on the inside he, too, was hurting.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine and catcher Mike Piazza applaud in honor of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani before the Mets' game against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 21, 2001, at Shea Stadium.
Getty Images

"I can't say it was easy," he said. "I wanted to be at home. I wanted to be with my wife. I wanted to be with my in-laws, with my kids, with my dogs. It was comforting. ... And I wasn't there at all."

In talking to his Mets about the situation, Valentine was asked a difficult question by pitcher Al Leiter: How do you deal with the fear? 

"I was kind of speechless, and I said: 'You go to the comfort zone, and I want this to be the comfort zone. I want this clubhouse to have us all bond together so that we could do the right thing at the right time, and this is the right thing that we're playing the game of baseball,'" Valentine said.

Valentine said he was grateful MLB officials stepped up and made the difficult decisions about returning to play.

The Mets' first games after the attacks came when they swept the Pirates on the road. 

"That was the first time the (FDNY and NYPD) hats were worn in the game in Pittsburgh and the first time that 'God Bless America' was sang in a baseball game at the seventh-inning stretch instead of 'Take Me out to the Ballgame,'" Valentine remembered.

And, of course, there was the Mets' Sept. 21 return to Shea Stadium, the game best remembered for Mike Piazza's now-iconic game-winning homer against Atlanta.

Valentine said he didn't expect many fans to be in the stands that night. Of course, he was wrong.

"I was totally amazed," he said. "It was the beginning of the understanding of the importance of what we were doing. I remember a couple of the guys standing there -- Johnny Franco in the dugout and not in the bullpen at the beginning -- and looking around, and you know the snipers were up in the light stands and the armed guards were ever present, and it had a different feel."

To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.