There are classic moments in sports that transcend the games being played. Moments that are remembered not just for their athletic significance but for their place in American history.
One such moment took place on Oct. 30, 2001 — seven weeks after terrorist attacks rocked New York City and the nation.
Prior to Game 3 of the World Series, President George W. Busch strode to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium. Wearing a FDNY jacket over a bulletproof vest, Bush was greeted to a standing ovation from the crowd of 55,802. After responding with a thumbs-up, he threw a strike to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
When Bush walked off the mound to chants of “USA, USA, USA,” it was a healing moment for a hurting nation.
“The place just went berserk,” actor Billy Crystal said in the ESPN documentary First Pitch. “This is a moment when the politics go away.”
“The gravity of that moment never really hit me until the first step coming out of that dugout,” Bush said in the documentary. “I remember that noise. It was deafening. I remember looking out at that stadium, at this giant crowd.”
The Yankees won that game 2-1 behind the pitching of Roger Clemens and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. New York also took the next two games to take a 3-2 series lead before the Arizona Diamondbacks came roaring back to win the series in a dramatic Game 7.
Shortly after the end of the season, the field at Yankee Stadium underwent a major renovation. The pitching rubber from the pitcher’s mound was given to Yankees head groundskeeper Dan Cunningham, who signed and dated it. Cunningham also got it signed by Clemens, Rivera and pitcher Andy Pettitte.
The pitching rubber, which was toed by Clemens, Rivera and President Bush during the historic 2001 World Series, is now up for bid in Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 18-20 Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction.
“There are thousands of items in this auction, each one significant for any number of reasons, each one an absolute thrill and honor to offer,” says Chris Ivy, president and founder of Heritage Sports. “That pitching rubber is in so many ways emblematic of much of the memorabilia being offered in this event — an item that tells an incredible and important story that resonates far longer than a fleeting headline.”
The pitching rubber is one of many historic items in a loaded 4,200-lot auction that features hundreds of iconic cards and such valuable memorabilia as player uniforms and equipment, championship rings, signed contracts, autographed balls and tickets to memorable events spanning more than a century of sports history.
Two other key pieces are also connected to Yankee legends, including a Mickey Mantle jersey from 1954.
The slightly soiled and sweat-stained gray jersey with “New York” on the front and Mantle’s famous No. 7 on the back is signed by Mantle near the collar — just inside the embroidered name “M. Mantle.”
Mantle wore the road jersey during 1954, the first season when he drove in more than 100 runs. He also batted .300 that year as he began to become the player known as “The Mick.”
The auction also includes Joe DiMaggio’s jersey worn during the 1946 home-opener. DiMaggio had missed the previous three seasons while serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces, but the Yankee Clipper quickly answered any questions about his three-year absence with three hits during the season opener, including a ninth-inning double that tied the game with the Washington Senators.
DiMaggio also signed the jersey beneath his name stitched into the collar. The jersey is photomatched to a photo of DiMaggio posing with Joe Jr. in the Yankees dugout before that game.
The Mantle and DiMaggio pieces are among several jerseys from sports legends, including: