Brewers broadcaster, Cards skipper fishing on Lake Michigan 12 years ago
ST. LOUIS -- Mike Matheny and Bob Uecker were fishing on Lake Michigan when the World Trade Center towers came down on Sept. 11, 2001.
Although they remember it differently -- Matheny recalls hearing the news on marine radio, then tuning in to the news as the second plane struck, and Uecker remembers a police officer friend who joined them being the first to get the call, and then they watched it unfold on the TV in Uecker's boat -- it's a memory that's still fresh in their minds on its 12th anniversary.
"It was unbelievable to be out there having leisure time, having a good time, and then -- boom -- that," said Uecker, the Brewers' Hall of Fame radio broadcaster. "It changed everything."
"We got up early, went out. It was a beautiful day," Matheny said. "Things turned drastically."
Then a catcher for the Cardinals, Matheny was in Milwaukee for a three-game series against his former club.
"Everybody was trying to get their heads around what was going on," Matheny said. "I thought the league did a terrific job of giving a little time first and then using baseball as a way to rally. You saw patriotism, you saw people very proud of the fact that they are Americans and wanting to figure out how to help out the hurting people in New York. I think the game was helpful in kind of getting America back on its feet."
"How many times have we looked at all of the things that happen overseas, the attacks and everything, and said to our kids, 'You'll never see that happen here, not in my lifetime,'" Uecker said. "I think about that a lot, because what happened [on 9/11] is as big as anything. It changed everything, showed how vulnerable we are. And here we were, out there fishing and having a good time. Then, boom."
Major League Baseball and its clubs honored those whose lives were lost and affected by the tragedy 12 years ago Wednesday, marking the anniversary with pregame ceremonies and a "We Shall Not Forget" silhouetted batter ribbon that was on display throughout big league ballparks on Wednesday.
Special lineup cards and base jewels were also used in addition to all on-field personnel, including players, coaches and umpires, wearing an American flag patch embroidered on the side of their caps.
The Cardinals distributed over 15,000 complimentary tickets to emergency first responders and military personnel for both Wednesday and Thursday. Busch Stadium observed a moment of silence before Wednesday's game against the Brewers.
"You think this is just a game sometimes," Matheny said. "It's so much more than that to a lot of people in this country. It was special to be a part of the healing process of something so terrible that you just didn't know exactly what the next step was going to be. It was interesting to see that baseball was part of the plan."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com.