9/11: The Beginning and The End
By Larry Dierker
I was managing the Astros when the 9/11 attack occurred. The commissioner shut down baseball indefinitely. The next day, we worked out at Minute Maid Park. A TV reporter asked me when I thought we should resume play, I said, As soon as possible.
Really, he said, Your players all say that they can’t even imagine playing baseball after what happened in NY.
I didn’t know if they were saying that because they were devastated or because they thought it was the right thing to say.
Or perhaps my reaction was heartless, lacking any sense of empathy.
I still don’t know, but I do know that I was mad, not sad. I didn’t want the terrorists to get the satisfaction of knowing they had disrupted our lives.
President George W. Bush was equally defiant a month later when, going against the advice of his advisors, he threw out the first pitch of game three of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.
I was watching, still licking my wounds after losing to the Braves in the playoffs. I wanted to be in New York playing the Yankees instead of watching the games on television.
After the D’Backs defeated the Yankees that year, I got a call from General Manager Gerry Hunsicker. I went to see him, thinking I might be getting fired, but doubting that because we had won the National League Central four times in five years.
What have you done for me lately?
I got fired.
In a way, I understood. I had lost my temper in a couple of press conferences at the end of that season. When the last out of the Braves series sent us packing, I was spent. I kept thinking about how hard it was to win the division and how hard it would be to repeat.
After I got the ax, I thought about what Drayton McLane, the owner, Tal Smith, the president, and Gerry Hunsicker would have been thinking. My guess is that they were tired of getting to the postseason and losing in the first round.
What if we made the playoffs again? After four early exits with me at the helm, the monkey on our back would have been a gorilla.
That problem was avoided in 2002 by not even making the playoffs.
In 2004, the Astros finally hit well in Atlanta and overcame the Braves with Phil Garner calling the shots. Then they lost game seven in St. Louis. In 2005, Garner skippered them all the way to the World Series.
At that juncture, we were at war in the middle-east. Bush was still calling the shots in Washington D. C.., but not getting the satisfaction of redressing 9/11. And the Astros lost four straight to the White Sox in the Fall Classic.
They finally made it all the way last year after rebuilding the teams that were led by Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Both of them watched the final victory after being inducted into the Hall of Fame.