With Nine Innings From Ground Zero, Home Box Office is one of many networks to reflect on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The documentary examines how baseball helped distract New Yorkers, if only momentarily, from the destruction of the Twin Towers.
Narrated by Liev Schreiber, Nine Innings shows how members of Major League Baseball's New York Mets and New York Yankees did what they could, on and off the field, to ease the city's pain. The Mets volunteered their time, and Shea Stadium served as a staging ground for the relief effort. (Shea also was the site of the first post-9/11 game played in New York, won by Mets catcher Mike Piazza in spectacular fashion with a two-run home run over the Atlanta Braves.)
The Yankees also did their part off the field, visiting families of the victims. But it is the Bronx-based team's on-field performance and their push to a dramatic seven-game World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks that is the focus of the film.
Nine Innings displays the power of sporting events and baseball to bring Americans together. In the words of Brielle Saracini, whose father Victor was the pilot of the hijacked flight 175, which struck the South Tower: “Baseball just made 9/11 a little better for us.”
In those first weeks after the attacks, baseball provided a reason to cheer during arguably the darkest moment in U.S. history. Just like that autumn, Nine Innings tempers the on-field excitement with reminders of the tragedy, weaving stories from the families of victims and relief workers into the Yankees' triumphs. While documenting diamond heroics, Nine Innings never undercuts the sacrifice of the 343 firefighters lost when the towers collapsed or the real-life heroes who emerged on Sept. 11.
The film approaches the three thrilling World Series games played at Yankee Stadium from many different viewpoints, including those of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, President Bush, Saracini, Caren Barbara (daughter of New York Fire Department chief Gerald Barbara, who was killed in the attacks), Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa, Yankees manager Joe Torre, players, relief workers and more. Each one recounts how baseball helped ease the city's pain, offered a brief respite from the grief and fostered a sense of community.
By now, viewers most likely have been inundated with programming about Sept. 11, but HBO's Nine Innings is well worth checking out, especially for Yankees fans.
Nine Innings From Ground Zero debuts Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 10 p.m. ET.