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Saturday, 27 October, 2001, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
The healing power of baseball
Banner on City Hall, NYC
New York is rooting for the Yankees
As baseball's World Series gets under way in Phoenix - where the Arizona Diamondbacks host the New York Yankees - BBC News Online's Joseph Winter looks at how the attacks on the World Trade Center have affected traditional baseball allegiances in the United States.

The New York Yankees are baseball's equivalent of Manchester United - you either love 'em or you hate 'em.


I'm pulling for the city - I guess I'm jumping on the Yankee bandwagon this year

Texan baseball fan
Even President George W Bush said during the recent play-offs: "I'm for anyone but the Yankees."

And like United, the Yankees are trying to win a fourth consecutive domestic title, even if in the US they call it the World Series.

But this year, things are different. Baseball fans from around the country will be rooting for those "Damn Yankees" as a way of supporting New York's reconstruction efforts.

New Yorkers are hoping that another triumph will put a smile back on the face of a city still in mourning.

Sell-out

Nobody here has dared to suggest that baseball may be irrelevant after 11 September, and 18,000 tickets for the Yankees' three home games in the seven-match series sold out in a matter of hours.

Yankees stadium
The Yankees are looking for a fourth consecutive title
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is one of the Yankees' biggest fans. He has draped a huge banner on the front of City Hall congratulating them on reaching the World Series.

Almost from the very day of the attacks, Mr Giuliani has been saying that New York must get back to normal.

"And what's normal for October? The Yankees in the World Series," he said in a public pep talk before the team flew off to Arizona.

Apart from boosting morale, he estimates that the World Series will provide a badly-needed boost to the economy, to the tune of $100m.

Mourners
The Yankees should give New Yorkers a lift after 11 September
Ken Cannon is from Texas and any other year, he would support the Yankees' opponents, whoever they were.

But as he made his way to pay his respects at the Ground Zero site, he told BBC News Online: "I'm pulling for the city. I guess I'm jumping on the Yankee bandwagon this year."

"It gives us something to focus on, other than all the stuff that's been going on here," said Andrew Nicci, an officer with New York's Department of Corrections who has been working non-stop for almost seven weeks in the recovery operation.

New meaning

He used to work one block away from what was the World Trade Center and as soon as the first plane hit, he was dispatched to evacuate people.


That's exactly what we need - something else to think about for a while - there's nothing more New York than the Yankees

Recovery worker
"I've been at the morgue, I've fought back the sight-seers, I've done it all," he said.

So hasn't baseball lost its meaning after all that?

"No way. That's exactly what we need - something else to think about for a while. There's nothing more New York than the Yankees."

The Boston Red Sox are the Yankees' greatest rivals but even in Boston some fans will be behind New York.

In the first baseball game after 11 September, Boston fans started singing "New York, New York".

"We hate the Yankees here but this time I'll support them. Maybe not next year but this year, yes," said a taxi-driver wearing a Red Sox cap.

Another Sox fan, Rebecca Bauer, will also break the habit of a life-time and support the Yankees.

She does not think the World Series should have been cancelled "but it seems weird, like it's not the right thing to do right now."

Last year's winners

But old habits die hard.

"I'm going for whoever is playing the Yankees," said a Boston barman as the play-off game against the Seattle Mariners was showing live on big-screen television.

Rudolph Giuliani
Mayor Giuliani: One of the Yankees' biggest fans
Last year, the Yankees beat local rivals, the Mets, to win the World Series.

Mets fan Ceasar Ariza, relaying some of the downtown Manhattan telephone wires destroyed by the suicide attacks, has mixed feelings about this year's series.

"They broke my heart last year so I won't be rooting for the Yankees, although it is good for the city. But I expect them to win and if they do, I'll celebrate," he said.

And Yankees' manager, Joe Torre, says the nationwide support will give his three-time champions a further boost as they take on the unfancied Diamondbacks.

"People, as much as some of them love to hate New York, have come to our aid and to our support and maybe it was an unfair advantage we had. We were so motivated because of that," he said.

Again like Manchester United, with whom they agreed a marketing deal in February, the Yankees never accept defeat.

In the first round of play-offs, they lost the first two home games of a five-match series but came through, winning the next three.

Calling them "America's hometown team" in an editorial, the Boston Herald said: "They just don't quit - rather like the people of the great city they play for."

See also:

24 Sep 01 | Americas
Baseball honours the dead
20 Sep 01 | Americas
Manhattan's new homeless
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Nation united in grief
13 Sep 01 | Education
City schools re-open with counselling
07 Feb 01 | Business
City view: Utd's Yankee tie-up
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