President Bush throws out ceremonial first pitch
Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2001 8:21 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Bush threw out the ceremonial opening pitch of World Series Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, aiming to project an air of normalcy even after the government warned of possible new terror attacks.
Bush received a thunderous cheer as he strode to the mound from the Yankees' dugout, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with "FDNY," a tribute to the New York City Fire Department.
He stood on the pitcher's mound and scanned the upper reaches of a sellout crowd of more than 57,000, then gave a thumbs-up sign. With flashbulbs popping and dozens of flags waving, Bush lingered on the mound for a moment, seeming to relish the moment.
Then, with a quick windup, he threw the ball just off the center of the plate -- a strike -- to Yankees backup catcher Todd Greene, and walked off the mound to chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A."
"He threw a strike, too," Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius said. "He had a good arm."
Bush posed for photos with managers Joe Torre of the Yankees and Bob Brenly of the Arizona Diamondbacks before disappearing back into the dugout. Bush, his wife, Laura; his mother, Barbara Bush; and several of his top aides watched the game from the box of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an ardent Yankees fan, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sat in a box next to the dugout. Bush's appearance "shows we're not afraid, we're undeterred and that life is moving on the way it should," Giuliani told a reporter.
"I'm sure he's pretty busy right now, and for him to show up here, it's great -- it adds a little more excitement here," said Diamondbacks reliever Troy Brohawn, standing on the edge of the third-base dugout.
Bush left the stadium during the third inning, with the Yankees leading 1-0, to return to Washington. New York won the game 2-1.
"I think the president being here put his money where his mouth is," Torre said. "He wanted us right from the get-go to do what we need to do, to live as normal a life as we can. And with everything ... that's been going on, he showed a lot of courage and a lot of class."
In his third visit to New York City since the attacks Sept. 11, Bush indulged his passion for baseball and was "helping to do what all Americans are doing now, which is keeping the country doing what it typically does at this time of year," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "It helps to keep the fabric of our country strong."
The game was crucial for the defending champion Yankees, who lost the first two games of the best-of-seven series.
After landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Bush flew by helicopter to Yankee Stadium, skirting the eastern edge of Manhattan and flying close to the Empire State Building, now the tallest building in the city and illuminated in red, white and blue. The helicopter landed on a baseball field adjacent to stadium.
As he left the White House with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other Series-bound aides, Bush sidestepped a question about his favorite, saying only: "I'd like to see the series go seven games."
Later, before boarding Air Force One for the trip, he playfully threw mock warmup pitches to reporters and photographers, bending over as if studying a catcher's signals.
Yankee Stadium opened more than three hours before game time to allow heightened security checks, and 1,200 police officers were assigned to the game. The government announced that only pilots who file flight plans with the Federal Aviation Administration could fly private planes within 34 miles of Kennedy Airport on the nights of Series games in the city.
Bush threw out first pitches at the Milwaukee Brewers' home opener in April, the College World Series in June and the Little League World Series in August.
The strike Tuesday night was a point of pride for Bush, whose opening pitch at the Brewers' opener hit the dirt in front of the plate.
Bush is a former managing partner of the Texas Rangers, who finished last in the American League West for a second consecutive year.
Laura Bush hedged when asked whether she and her husband would root for the American League champion Yankees.
"You can't imagine how many times the Yankees broke our hearts" by beating the Rangers, she said Tuesday on Live With Regis And Kelly.