#Shortstops: Heroes, Hall of Famers and Sept. 11

Written by: Craig Muder

They are two ordinary baseballs, each featuring the iconic logo of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and both filled with autographs.

At a glance, they would seem like a perfect venue for the signatures of Hall of Famers. But upon closer inspection, the autographs are those of virtually anonymous heroes – those first responders who called New York City home in the fall of 2001.

On Nov. 7, 2001, Hall of Famers George Brett, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, Larry Doby, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt traveled to New York City for an event at the American Museum of Natural History – announcing the debut of the Museum’s Baseball As America traveling exhibit. The next day, the Hall of Famers visited Station 26 in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen district, a firehouse featuring Engine 34 and Ladder 21.

After playing a little baseball outside the station with the first responders, the Hall of Famers visited Ground Zero – which was still being excavated more than eight weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The Hall of Famers asked the first responders to sign the baseballs.

“We sat in their station kitchen and exchanged stories, laughed and cried – as just being in the presence of these men brought chills,” said Schmidt, remembering the emotion of that day. “These are true heroes, people who live for others – no matter the risk – and are willing to lay their life on the line daily.”

The baseballs are now part of the Museum’s Baseball After 9/11 exhibit case, which also features the NYPD hat worn by Mets manager Bobby Valentine in the Sept. 21 game that was the first baseball game in New York City following 9/11; the FDNY hat worn by Mets pitcher John Franco on Sept. 21; and a ticket to the scheduled Sept. 11 game between the White Sox and the Yankees.

This baseball was signed by members of Station 26 in New York City's Hell's Kitchen district, who received a visit from Hall of Famers shortly after 9/11. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

In recognition of the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Museum will display the Baseball After 9/11 exhibit case through the end of 2016.

“This being the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, it brings back memories of how courageous the New York Fire, Police, first responders and all who bravely risk their lives were to help their fellow humans survive,” Schmidt said. “Stop and think on this 15th anniversary about Americans all over the world, like them, and take a moment of silence to offer thanks and pray for their safety.”

Craig Muder is the Director of Communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum