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PHILADELPHIA -- The "U-S-A, U-S-A" chants began at Citizens Bank Park in the ninth inning Sunday night, as the New York Mets' Daniel Murphy batted as a pinch-hitter against Philadelphia Phillies reliever Ryan Madson.
As proud and as great as the moment was being on a baseball field -- you multiply that by a million and that's probably what they're feeling at the fire houses, at the police stations.” -- Mets third baseman David Wright
And as the news filtered among the announced crowd of 45,713 -- the 137th consecutive sellout in the stadium's history -- about U.S. special forces killing accused Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the chants grew louder and more widespread, and people could be spotted all over the ballpark checking their phones.
"I don't like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit, but they got this one right," Mets third baseman David Wright said.
He added: "I guess it's a proud moment to stand out there and you've got 45-50,000 chanting. That was pretty special."
Afterward, in fact, Mets manager Terry Collins had only one regret -- that his team's 2-1 victory took 14 innings and 4 hours, 44 minutes, depriving the team the opportunity to watch the historic news unfold and President Barack Obama address the nation.
"Obviously this is a big night for the United States," Collins said. "I wish we could have finished the game two hours ago and celebrated a little bit of it. We'll take a nice ride home, take the day off and get ready for San Francisco. This is a good win for us, and obviously a huge win for America tonight."
That the lone major league game occurring at the time of the announcement involved a New York team seemed fitting. Bobby Valentine, an analyst for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast of the Mets-Phillies game, was manager of the Mets on Sept. 11, 2001.He became a leader as Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y., then the home of the Mets, was used as a staging site for supplies to rescue workers.
Valentine had been in the dugout 10 days later as well at Shea Stadium, when the Mets played the emotional first game back in New York after those attacks. That night, Mike Piazza launched a two-run homer in the eighth inning of a 3-2 victory against the Atlanta Braves.
Mets reliever Pedro Beato, who tossed three scoreless relief innings in Sunday's victory, had been a freshman at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred. He sneaked to the roof of the school and saw the Twin Towers smoldering.
"When I was in high school, we got called into the auditorium," said Beato, who had moved from the Dominican Republic to New York shortly before the attacks. "I thought it was like a routine thing. Five days into the school year my freshman year, I don't know what's going on. They called us in. They were talking about what happened, but I didn't understand too well. Me and a friend of mine just went up to the roof of the building once we knew what it was. We saw the building just smoking from the roof."
Beato did not stay on the roof to witness the towers collapse.
"I couldn't stay up there that long," Beato said. "We didn't want to get in trouble either."
Beato said he had to tune out the news upon entering late in the game.
Murphy heard a ruckus as he batted and the chants began, but he was too focused on his at-bat with Madson and did not try to discern what the crowd was chanting.
Chris Young, who had outpitched Phillies ace Cliff Lee for seven innings and departed with a 1-0 lead, had been in the clubhouse when the news broke. He was in the training room doing his post-pitching routine when he heard the ESPN crew announce bin Laden's death. One TV remained on the game at that point. The other carried President Obama's address to the nation, which Young watched.
"It's probably a night I'll never forget," said Young, a former politics major at Princeton University. "I came inside and heard the news. There are some things bigger than the game and our jobs. I was inside. You could hear the crowd chanting, 'U-S-A.' And I got chills hearing that. It was a pretty neat atmosphere and place to be to get that kind of news. ... It's certainly a historic night and a great victory for the United States and the war on terrorism."
Mets bench coach Ken Oberkfell shared the news with Collins, and it spread throughout the dugout.
"You know why they're chanting?" Oberkfell asked Collins.
|Phillies fans learned of Osama bin Laden's death via cell phones, and began chanting 'U-S-A! U-S-A!' well before many of the players had heard the news.|
"I said, 'No,' and he told me," Collins said. "It's a big night. One of the guys [third base coach Chip Hale] said at the end of the game, 'That's as big a night as we'll have in a long time. We got bin Laden and we won.'"
Wright reflected back to the Mets' trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Tuesday, on the opening day of their two-city road trip to Washington and Philadelphia.
"The emotions that those guys must be going through hearing that same news -- as proud and as great as the moment was being on a baseball field -- you multiply that by a million and that's probably what they're feeling at the fire houses, at the police stations," said Wright, whose father Rhon is assistant police chief in Norfolk, Va. "At the places like Walter Reed, it's just an incredible moment. And like I said, for more than a split second, you kind of come together. You got the New Yorkers and Philadelphia the city to kind of come together for a common cause.
"It put a smile on my face before I even knew what was going on. It made me feel a lot better after I found out."
Philadelphia players weren't sure what was happening until alerted of the news by center fielder Shane Victorino.
"I was sitting in the dugout and didn't understand what was going on for a minute," Lee said.
Asked his reaction to hearing of bin Laden's death, Lee said, "It took them long enough."Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo and The Associated Press was used in this report.