Ballparks filled with flags, tributes and tears as baseball resumes after attacks

Tuesday, September 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Baseball was awash in red, white and blue Monday night as games resumed and flag-waving fans returned, ready to pick up where they left off when cheering came easier.

From Montreal to St. Louis, the crack of the bat was a welcome sound in a setting that offered decidedly different snapshots than it did before the terrorist attacks on America:

_ Mets players wearing caps with inscriptions now familiar to millions all over the world: NYPD and FDNY.

_ Hundreds of St. Louis' finest marching out to honor fallen officers in New York.

_ ``USA! USA!'' chants, a video tribute and free-flowing tears at Veterans Stadium.

Amid heightened security, six games were scheduled, all in the National League. Players wore the stars and stripes on their uniforms and caps, while ``God Bless America'' was swapped for ``Take Me Out to the Ball Game'' during the seventh-inning stretch. Flags were emblazoned on bases.

``The country is looking over our shoulder,'' Philadelphia outfielder Doug Glanville said. ``You have to go on with your life. Baseball is a fabric of this country. It can be a process of turning things around.''

Baseball postponed games just hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Tuesday. In all, 91 games were called off, the most since World War I.

It took only three batters for Phillies fans to get back in form: They booed after Atlanta's Chipper Jones hit a home run.

At many ballparks, teams handed out small U.S. flags. At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the Pirates gave away thousands of ``I Love New York'' buttons. Fans gave too, contributing about $100,000 for the New York police and fire rescue fund.

``We thought it was only fitting to come to the ballgame, we thought it was a fitting way to pay our respects to the people back in New York,'' said Fred Berrios of Gibsonia, Pa.

The Mets' game at Pittsburgh, originally to be played at New York, was shifted because Shea Stadium is still being used as a staging area for the rescue effort.

``It's hard, but we have a job to do,'' Mets pitcher John Franco said. ``I don't know if it feels right, but we've got to get on with our lives. We're playing a game while people are being dug out and it's sad, but it's our job and we have to make the best of it.''

A crowd of up to 40,000 turned out in Philadelphia for the National League East showdown against the Braves. Crowd sizes in St. Louis, Los Angeles, Colorado and Pittsburgh did not appear diminished.

The crowd at Olympic Stadium in Montreal observed a moment of silence and watched images of the rescue effort in New York. Fans cheered as the color guard walked off the field to John Lennon's ``Give Peace a Chance.''

Isabelle Lepage, 18, of Montreal brought an American flag.

``I bought it in New York in 1997 in a shop near the World Trade Center,'' she said. ``I wanted to show our solidarity with the United States.''