On The Sidelines With no games to play, New York's pro athletes had plenty of time to reflect

September 23, 2001

Convening for the first time in five days, the Yankees emerged
from their clubhouse at 3:10 p.m. last Saturday. The players
knelt on the grass around the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium,
removed their caps and bowed their heads during 90 seconds of
silence. Some held hands. Others draped comforting arms around
teammates' shoulders. Three family members of club employees are
among the missing. For two somber hours they fielded balls and
took batting practice. Lapses in concentration were not only
tolerated but also expected. Afterward most of the players piled
into vans and headed to Manhattan to visit hospitalized victims.
"This is an enormous, heavy time," said manager Joe Torre.

The same perfunctoriness and fatigue permeated practices of the
other pro sports teams who call New York home. The Mets held a
short Saturday workout at Shea Stadium. Over the crack of the bat
one could hear the chirping of cell phones and the static of
two-way radios--the stadium's parking lot and lower interior
sections had been converted into a staging area for rescue
personnel as well as a drop-off point for supplies and equipment.
After practice about half the players stuck around to receive
donations and load them onto vehicles for delivery. Others
visited hospitals. Among the presumed dead is John Bergin, a
firefighter who was the Little League coach of reliever John
Franco's son.

In East Rutherford, N.J., the Giants held a light workout on
Friday at their indoor facility. Midway through practice a fire
alarm buzzed, and with 10 minutes left in the session it sounded
again. "Take it to the house!" linebacker Mike Barrow said.
"We're outta here." An electrical short in a duct was to blame.
The next day most of the Giants took police boats from Jersey
City to Manhattan. Given special dispensation to enter ground
zero, the players autographed hard hats and endured ribbing from
rescue workers about dropped passes and missed defensive
assignments in their opener against the Broncos on the eve of the
disaster--seemingly a lifetime ago.

In Hempstead, N.Y., meanwhile, the Jets had a walk-through on
Saturday, then held a "reflection session" for players and their
families.

Perhaps no team felt the effect of the attack more profoundly
than the Rangers, who in May had booked rooms at the Marriott
World Trade Center, adjacent to the Twin Towers, in expectation
of setting up training camp at Chelsea Piers. Management decided
on a different plan and canceled the reservations. Had the
Rangers stuck with the original plan, some players likely would
have been in the hotel on the morning of Sept. 11.

When the Rangers opened camp last Thursday in the suburb of Rye,
players were still shaken. By then they had learned that Tom
Palazzo, a brother-in-law of assistant general manager Don
Maloney, had been working in the World Trade Center when the
buildings went down and that John Murray, a close friend of
defenseman Brian Leetch, was in one of the towers at the time it
collapsed. As of Monday both were still missing.

The tragedy also struck close to forward Michal Grosek. His
15-month-old son, Logan, has a thing for fire engines, so Michal
often took him to the firehouse where Rescue 1 was based, near
the Groseks' apartment on West 43rd Street. "Now," says Grosek,
"all the guys we saw in that firehouse every day are dead."

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Circle of silenceAt practice on Friday, the Rangers remembered victims of the attack.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)