- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Yankee Stadium isn't just a ballpark," Trotta says. "It's a national landmark. It's like the Statue of Liberty. If the terrorists had wanted to do the Twin Towers to have the maximum amount of people dead, they would have struck during rush hour. But they wanted the towers because it was a symbol. One of our symbols, whether you like him or her or whoever it happens to be, our national treasure, is the President of the United States. Now our national treasure is on the mound at Yankee Stadium, which is a national landmark, a symbol."
Trotta, the Yankees fan who had grown up in New Rochelle, had arrived two days earlier to help with the advance security work. The team found out he was a Yankees fan, a Munson fan especially, and invited him to the clubhouse to see Munson's locker, which—by decree of Steinbrenner—has remained empty since he died in a plane crash 29 years ago, only the number 15 hanging from it. "I'll start to cry if you show it to me," Trotta said.
They led him through the winding, narrow blue hallways of the basement. "I was rubbing the walls," he says, "thinking, Did Lou Gehrig lean against these same walls? Munson? Pepitone? Horace Clarke? Dooley Womack?" They brought him to the clubhouse and showed him Munson's locker. The agent in charge of protecting the President of the United States broke down and cried.
The night of Game 3 went off without a hitch, unless you happened to be stuck in one of the enormously long lines to pass through the magnetometers as part of the heavy security. When Bush arrived, he made his way through the basement hallways to the Columbus Room to warm up his arm. Jeter and Williams were there. The President threw hard to Nick Testa, a 73-year-old bullpen catcher whose major league career consisted of one game with the 1958 Giants (but no at bats; he was in the hole when a teammate hit a walk-off homer).
"Better not bounce it," Jeter told the President. "They'll boo you."
Bush rested in the Columbus Room after heating his arm up pretty good, then slipped on a protective vest and a New York Fire Department pullover and walked down the narrow basement hallway to the field. "Sir," Trotta told the President, "I am always confident in my job. And tonight I am so confident that there is not one person in this place that would ever allow anything to happen."
Trotta came out of the dugout first, taking his position near the World Series logo. Snipers perched on my rooftop. Special agents were everywhere, including one in an umpire's uniform gathered with the other umpires at home plate. Then the President came out of the dugout and bounded toward the pitching mound.
"With the roar of the crowd I got goose bumps," Trotta says. "I had to fight everything not to break down. I'm standing there watching the crowd—that's my job—and I'm watching the faces. The people were crying. These were New Yorkers. They were in tears. And I saw in the President the emotion on his face. I saw how determined he was."
The leader of the free world, when American soil suddenly felt strangely unsafe, stood alone on my mound. He thrust his right arm into the air and gave a thumbs-up sign. Then he reached back with the baseball, stepped forward, brought his arm around with a natural looseness and let go the most perfect strike you could ever imagine to Yankees backup catcher Todd Greene. The crowd erupted into a chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" It wasn't just the ceremonial first pitch of Game 3. It was the ceremonial first pitch to America's recovery. As Bush left the field and reentered the basement hallway, Trotta said to him, "Powerful, sir. That was so right on."
"The message was clear," Trotta says. "'Hey, you didn't beat us. You attacked us, but you didn't beat us.'"