Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 13, 2005)
An odd thing happened in the fall of 2001. Normally, most baseball fans who donít live in New York maintain a definite disdain for the Yankees. However, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, the Yanks sort of became ďAmericaís TeamĒ as they pushed through the playoffs.
Call me cold-hearted if youíd like, but I just couldnít do it. I couldnít overcome a lifelong disdain for the Yankees in a couple short weeks, so I was happy to see the Arizona Diamondbacks narrowly defeat them in the World Series. Only one thing makes me root for the Yanks: competition against the Boston Red Sox, the sole other baseball team I hate more than the Bronx Bombers.
But thatís a subject for another review. This one looks at a documentary called Nine Innings from Ground Zero, an exploration of the aftermath of 9/11 and the way the Yankees aided New Yorkís emotional recovery.
As usual, much of the information comes via interviews. We hear from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, players Scott Brosius, Paul OíNeill, Mark Grace, Derek Jeter, and Curt Schilling, New York City Fire Department Chief Tom Giordano, local fans Elizabeth Feld, Stacey Gotsulias, Lonny Shockley, Scott Gutterson, and Rudy Palmer, singer Liza Minnelli, author David Fisher, CNN political commentator/Boston Red Sox fan Mark Shields, writers Buster Olney, Shaun Powell, and Tom Verducci, Guardian Angels founder/president Curtis Sliwa, mayorís chief of staff Anthony Carbonetti, mayorís communications director Sunny Mindel, umpire Jim Joyce, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush, NYC FD Captain Jeffrey Simms, and firefighter Wayne Wright. In addition, we get remarks from the following relatives of attack victims: Caren Barbara, Greg Manning, Kathleen Coppo, Brielle Saracini, Ellen Saracini, and Kieran Lynch. Note that sportswriter Powellís brother also perished in the attack, so he does double-duty here.
Innings starts with a quick recap of 9/11 events and gets into relief efforts and the involvement of the local teams. It discusses the role of baseball in the areaís emotional recovery as we see the comeback of baseball on September 21 and the way this helped change of attitude from mourning. As the Yanks move through the playoffs, we watch the nationwide support for the team as well sentiment against the D-backs.
In addition to the sports elements, we find out about the status of NYC during the Series and the fear of additional attacks as well as the atmosphere at the games. These go all the way through the end of the World Series, and we also see shots of the games intercut with the recovery efforts at Ground Zero as the participants discuss how the games helped keep them going.
Innings comes across as half 9/11 documentary and half recap of the 2001 World Series. Occasionally this makes it somewhat disjointed, but it usually acts as an interesting look at the ways the subjects intertwine. I like that it doesnít attempt to encapsulate 9/11 in its entirety, as itís fascinating to dig into that subject via one narrow area of the related experience.
Most of the best moments come from various anecdotes. I really like the parts about Bush throwing out the first pitch at a game. We hear about how the Secret Service put an agent on the field in umpireís garb, and the president also talks about the pressures put on him to throw a good pitch.
As one might expect, quite a few emotional moments come through as well. Writer Powell discusses the effect ďGod Bless AmericaĒ had on him due to his brotherís death at the Pentagon, and the tale of young Yankee obsessive Brielle Saracini and her meeting with idol Jeter works well too. Plenty of similar moments pop up in the show.
Innings starts slowly and needs some time to coalesce. However, it becomes much more involving as we get into the Series and it better balances the two sides. It feels awkward at first, but those problems soon dissipate.
The only real problem with the piece couldnít be helped. The way Innings progresses seems to lead us inexorably toward a Yankees triumph and a total shot in the arm for the city. Alas, history didnít work out that way, as the Bombers narrowly went down to defeat in Game Seven. The way the show builds up, this will come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with real events; it sure feels like thatís how itíll end.
Despite that odd sense of pacing, Nine Innings from Ground Zero proves satisfying. No one will find a flawless examination of both 9/11 and that yearís baseball playoffs, but it manages to balance both subjects well, and it combines them for an informative piece.