ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Short First Pitch” airs in its entirety on ESPN 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 11


President George W. Bush walked to the mound at Yankee Stadium wearing a bulletproof vest before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. He stood atop the mound to deafening applause with a baseball in his hand. He raised his other hand and gave a thumbs up. Bush delivered the ceremonial first pitch with a strike to the catcher. But it was much more than a ceremonial first pitch. It was a signal to the country that healing could begin after the 9/11 attacks.

Weeks before Bush took the mound, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 pushed America’s pastime to the backseat. Suddenly the game of baseball was just that, a game. And New York, a city rich with fans devoted to their beloved Yankees, was the epicenter of a country in distress. Sports across the nation were put on hold.

“Just imagine Manhattan with no cars. Just people walking the streets. It was like it was a movie set,” former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said.
In the days after 9/11, elected officials urged people to get back to everyday life. And the Yankees filled that obligation, playing baseball the only way the Bronx Bombers knew how -- with passion, drive and purpose.

And they played, and played ... playing well into October and beyond. The Yankees played until the team reached the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.


ESPN Films’ "30 for 30," takes you inside the Yankees’ historic run and how important Bush’s ceremonial first pitch was to a hurting nation. The short film, “First Pitch,” features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from President Bush, Jeter, Condoleezza Rice, Joe Torre, Rudy Giuliani, Billy Crystal and others that led up to the historic moment.

"I think it came out of a very honest conversation about what this time was like for [Bush] and how he felt in this particular moment. A lot of things coalesced into this simple act, and I think that's what comes through in the film," the film's director and two-time Oscar winner Angus Wall told ABC News.

With America focused on baseball yet again and letting the thrill of the game replace the pit of despair left from the vicious attacks, President Bush knew what he had to do, and more importantly, where it would mean the most.

It was Oct. 30, 2001, and Yankee Stadium was packed for Game 3 of the World Series, just 49 days after the terror attacks and a few miles from Ground Zero. The high anxiety at Yankee Stadium was only matched by the security at the ballpark in the Bronx.

“I have to go through two metal detectors and be frisked to go to a baseball game now. Alright, if that’s what it takes I’m going to my game,” Crystal said.
“There was some suggestion that maybe the best place to go would be Arizona since that’s where Game 1 was being played. I rejected that out of hand. If you’re going to throw out a pitch during a World Series with the Yankees at this point in history there’s only one place to go – Yankee Stadium," Bush said adamantly.

Bush was tasked with throwing out the first pitch. Something normally so small, couldn't have been bigger and more symbolic.

"The agent said you’d be wearing a bullet proof vest. And I didn’t say to him what I felt like saying which is, ‘I got to throw the first pitch. You know?’" Bush continued.


In a chance meeting, Jeter ran into the president just before the first pitch. The Yankees shortstop had some wise words for the commander in chief.

“'Don’t bounce it. They’ll boo ya,’” Jeter told the president.

“The gravity of the moment never really hit me until the first step coming out of that dugout,” Bush said. “I remembering the noise and it was deafening. I remember looking around the stadium, this giant crowd. Standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium was by far the most nervous moment of my presidency."
Billy Crystal, a lifelong Yankees fan, was in attendance and floored by the emotional resonance of the first pitch.

“This is a moment. Your politics go away. Here’s the president of the United States, handed this awful baton to run with and he stood up and basically said f--- you.” Crystal said.

Bush’s perfect strike only added to the historic moment.

“That pitch wasn’t going to bounce. I don’t think it was capable of bouncing. Maybe it was Yankee magic. All the ball players always talk about it. I hope it was. I hope my childhood heroes played a part,” said Nick Trotta, a former U.S. Secret Service agent who was with Bush that night.


What happened after Bush’s ceremonial first pitch was nothing short of surreal. The next three games between the Yankees and Diamondbacks would become instant classics. The Yanks won a nail-bitter in Game 3 behind pitcher Roger Clemens.

Game 4 saw high drama in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-1 with two outs. The Diamondbacks had their closer, Byung-Hyun Kim, on the mound when the Yankees’ cleanup hitter, Tino Martinez, stepped up to the plate with a runner on second. Martinez drilled the first pitch he saw from Kim into the right-center field bleachers.

In the 10th inning, as the clock ticked past midnight, Major League Baseball entered new territory – the first time a game was played in November. The message on the stadium scoreboard read "Welcome to November Baseball.” With Kim still on the mound, Jeter hit an opposite field walk-off home run. Mr. November was born and Yankee Stadium was rocking.

Game 5, the final game of the 2001 World Series to be played at Yankee Stadium saw more heroics. With the Yankees losing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning a familiar story once again played out. With Kim back on the mound for Arizona, the Yankees tied the game on Scott Brosius’ two-run home run. The game went into extra innings with the Yankees breaking through in the 12th inning to head back to Arizona with a 3-2 lead in the World Series.

The Yankees would go on to lose the series in an epic Game 7 that is widely considered one of the best postseason games of all time. But for three nights in the Bronx, anxiety and gloom momentarily gave way for classic baseball and national pride, a unifying moment in a time of crisis.


Creative Design Director: LORI NEUHARDT