09/07/11 8:38 PM ET
Yanks commemorate 9/11 in pregame ceremony
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
The Yankees recognized Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry in a pregame ceremony at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld escorted wounded warriors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir in Virginia onto the field before the Orioles beat the Yankees, 5-4, in 11 innings.
Longtime Yankees employee Hank Grazioso, who lost both of his sons in the World Trade Center attacks, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. New York firefighter Regina Wilson sang the national anthem, and firefighter Frank Pizarro sang "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Grazioso, an 11-year employee of the Yankees in the ticket operations office, called the afternoon he was spending at the ballpark with a group of family and friends the highlight of his time with the organization.
"I'm at the ticket window. I love selling tickets. I love talking to people," Grazioso said. "And if you want to go all the way back, when my kids were small, we used to come to more ballgames than anybody."
Grazioso's sons, Tim and John, were on the 104th and 105th floors of the north tower working for the financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald when the planes hit.
"The first thing I thought was, 'I hope they found each other,'" Grazioso said. "Then, when the buildings fell, I just knew."
The Yankees provided the city -- and the country -- with a distraction of sorts when they finally resumed play on Sept. 18, 2001. Jorge Posada -- speaking alongside Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the last remaining members of the 2001 group, at a news conference Wednesday -- recalled fondly the way fans around the country embraced the club that season, all the way through their World Series run.
"After we came back from that road trip, we met a lot of the families that lost," Posada said. "We also met a lot of policemen and firemen. All they wanted was to shake our hands and tell us, 'Thank you for playing the game that we love watching.' That put everything in perspective. That World Series, just going down the hallway to the cage, there were thousands of EMS, firefighters and policemen just shaking our hands and saying thank you to us. That made it very true and very genuine moment with each individual."
Added Rivera: "I save ballgames. They save lives."
The Yankees, who leave this afternoon for a single game in Baltimore before a West Coast road trip, will not be at home for the anniversary of the attacks Sunday.
"Our first game back after Sept. 11 was on the road," said Jeter. "I know this is something that affected an entire country, not just New York City. Sept. 11 is a day to remember all over this country; we don't necessarily have to be here."
Grazioso considered himself among those who found solace in Yankees baseball shortly after the attacks.
"I used to come here in the morning and, as spooky as it sounds, I would just see them for a heartbeat, smiling," Grazioso said. "And I would just look forward to that. And their wives would say, 'So that's where they are. They're at Yankee Stadium.'"