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09/13/08 5:30 PM ET

Events of 9/11 remain close to Yankees

New York City rallied around team after tragedy in 2001

NEW YORK -- As the regular season drew to a close, the Yankees had their eyes on the postseason, focusing on each game to earn a spot in the playoffs.

But while the month of September began just as it always had for the Bombers, the remainder of the season became something they had never experienced. During the height of the all-important late-season push in 2001, the Yankees found themselves in the middle of something bigger than baseball.

On the morning of Sept. 11, the Yankees felt much the same fear and uncertainty that permeated the rest of country. But being in New York at the time, the events of that morning hit even closer to home.

"We kind of felt like we went through it with the people here," Andy Pettitte said. "It was just scary no matter who you are. Us being here, it just made it a little bit different."

And the close connection has had lasting effects at Yankee Stadium. It remains the only ballpark to play "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch of each game as a constant tribute -- a tradition that Derek Jeter said he hopes will continue at the new Yankee Stadium. The shortstop remembers the days following Sept. 11, 2001, and the visits he made to Ground Zero.

"I think it really puts things in perspective for a lot of people. I think it puts in perspective the term 'hero,'" Jeter said. "People always talk about so-and-so being a hero or this athlete's a hero. And then we got a chance to really shed some light on who the true heroes are."

Major League Baseball paid tribute to those affected by the events of 9/11 by wearing stars and stripes caps with a commemorative logo. After an off-day on Thursday's anniversary and a rainout Friday, the Yankees joined the other big league clubs in the tribute on Saturday before the first game of a doubleheader.

Fans stood still for a moment of silence before the playing of the national anthem to remember the victims and the servicemen and women who were thrown in the middle of national disaster seven years ago.

While baseball took a backseat in the days immediately following 9/11, when the Yankees returned to the field, they became a focus for the city to rally around, and the players who were in New York can still remember that feeling.

"It was a rough time, but then when we came back, we understood what our role was," Jeter said. "I think people appreciated watching us during that time because it gave them something that they could cheer for at least maybe three hours a day."

"It was great. We felt like the city responded so great to us playing, playing well," Pettitte said. "Wish we could have won a World Series for them, and it would have been incredible. Everything on the outside was so bad, but it was like when they came to the ballpark, it was a good time for them. So we were thankful as a team that we were able to be here and do that for them."

Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.