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Baseball season is on hold

All games are suspended with no indication of when play will resume.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001


MILWAUKEE -- Unprecedented terrorist attacks on the nation Tuesday led baseball commissioner Bud Selig to order an extraordinary disruption in the national pastime.

For the first time since D-Day in 1944, aside from the interruptions stemming from baseball's own labor problems, the Major League Baseball season has been suspended.

All 15 games scheduled for Tuesday, including the Boston-Tampa Bay game at Tropicana Field, were canceled, and there is a possibility play won't resume until the end of the week.

Selig said the decision to cancel the games was an obvious and instinctive one, and he expects the decision on when to resume play to be so, as well.

"Each day will be difficult and I'm going to be extremely sensitive," Selig said. "I feel so badly right now. A lot of people here are saying, "What do you think we'll do?' I'm not even thinking about that today.

"We'll do this when it's the right time and the right thing to do. Not for us; this is one time we're not going to not think about us. We're going to think about what's best for the country."

The suspension in play comes at a critical juncture in the season, with Barry Bonds making a run at Mark McGwire's single-season home run record and several tight pennant paces in the National League.

Selig said he didn't know if the games would be rescheduled. Several owners suggested the games could made up at the end of the season, with the playoffs and World Series pushed back. Another possibility would be to make up the games, or at least the ones that matter, as doubleheaders and on off days.

But Tuesday afternoon, as baseball owners and officials milled about the Pfister Hotel where they had been scheduled to hold their quarterly meetings, there wasn't much concern about when the next pitch would be thrown.

"I don't care if they're all canceled," Diamondbacks chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "When it's deemed safe to proceed or it's in the best interests of our country to go forward and play major-league baseball, that's when we should resume. Whether that's 24 hours from now, a week from now or whatever, I'm just not concerned about it. ... "It's a matter of putting things in the proper perspective. We can't worry about our game."

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf spoke repeatedly with officials of his team, which arrived in New York early Tuesday morning. All team personnel were safe and accounted for and were told to stay in their midtown Manhattan hotel rooms, Reinsdorf said. "I don't think they have any interest in walking around."

Sox general manager Kenny Williams arranged for buses to move the team out of the city, but they couldn't because the bridges and roads had been closed.

Representatives of eight teams made it to the meeting site, some arriving just before the Milwaukee airport was closed following news of the attacks. Officials of several teams, including Seattle, made plans to drive home.

Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli flew from Tampa to Cincinnati on Tuesday morning, but he was grounded there when all flights were suspended. He rented a car and was driving to Milwaukee.

"As we were disembarking the plane, the pilot said he had some very troubling news," Naimoli said. "And as we got off the plane, they made us show our boarding passes and ticket, which was very unusual."

Rays chief operating officer John McHale Jr. was in Michigan with his family and did not board his flight to Milwaukee.

When the games do resume, bringing tens of thousands of people to central locations, security will be a major issue.

"I'm not sure you could ever get to the point where anything is 100 percent foolproof, as evidenced by what took place today," Colangelo said. "I think Major League Baseball and the respective teams will do everything in their power to minimize the risk as best they can. Exactly what those procedures will be, I'm sure they will be tightened up in the next 24 hours."

Selig said he will speak to "everybody involved" in deciding when games should resume and what the procedures will be. "We're here to do not only what is right, but what is sensitive, and to do it when all parties believe it is appropriate," he said.

The baseball season has continued through two world wars, and Selig said there was fascinating correspondence at the time between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis about the "cathartic effect" the games had on the country.

"I believe we are a social institution, and we have a lot of responsibility to act in a manner that's befitting what I think is a marvelous social institution," Selig said.

"We need to be sensitive. I hope, I really pray, we can be part of a national healing process. But it's got to be done right and it's got to be done with only healing in mind, nothing else."

Selig reflected on the traumatic effect the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy had on him. He recalled how he said then "we'd lived through the worst thing we'll ever live through," how a day later he was so overcome he pulled off the side of the road to cry, about how he went to the Packers game that weekend and left early because he was so uncomfortable.

He talked about the San Francisco earthquake that disrupted the 1989 World Series.

And then Selig, who visited the World Trade Center last week and was admittedly having trouble realizing that it was no longer standing, said Tuesday's horrific acts were much, much worse.

"This is beyond human comprehension," he said. "This is beyond any rational thinking. You read about these things and hear about them all over the world, especially in Israel, and you agonize and you worry. And all of a sudden, it's in the greatest country in the history of the world."

Selig also said he found himself thinking a lot about President George W. Bush, a former co-owner of the Rangers.

"We always kid each other about who has the most difficult job," Selig said, "and I guess we now know. I've got to worry about games. He's got to worry about life and death."

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