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Decade later, ex-Mets recall night Osama bin Laden was killed: ‘I still get chills’

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PHILADELPHIA — A decade later, the Mets coincidentally were back at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night for another ESPN showcase game.

Saturday had marked the 10-year anniversary of the teams unforgettably facing each other on national television while President Obama unexpectedly announced the death of Osama bin Laden, nearly a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Those Mets in uniform that night “will remember it for the rest of our lives, but not for baseball reasons” according to former manager Terry Collins.

“It’s definitely one I still get chills over when I think about it,” former Mets captain David Wright told The Post in a phone interview Sunday. “If you ask me what happened with the game that night, I wouldn’t even know, I’d have to take your word for it. The things that stick out that night obviously have nothing to do with baseball.

“It made baseball seem so small at the moment, but then you realize how cool it was to be a part of it. Everyone was finding out at the same time and the ‘USA’ chants were starting and you feel this great sense of pride. It definitely was one of the cooler moments I can ever remember being on a baseball field.”

Wright even joked the infamously tough Philly fans “got it right that night,” breaking into various pro-American chants as word of the news spread through the stands.

Mets
Fans check their phones as news of Osama bin Laden’s death breaks during a May 2011 game.
AP

“We could tell that something had gone on. We heard people in the stands yelling, ‘We got him, we got him!’ And then all of a sudden we started hearing the chants of, ‘USA, USA!’ ” Collins recalled. “We really didn’t know in the dugout what was going on, but we figured it was something really big.”

Bench coach Ken Oberkfell retreated to the clubhouse and saw the news on television and returned to the dugout to inform Collins and the team.

“It was, ‘They did it. They killed bin Laden,’ ” Collins said. “Guys were high-fiving and fist-pumping. But the chanting of ‘USA, USA’ was absolutely spine-tingling, I’ll tell you that.”

Wright added that while the chants “made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” the news made the Mets’ visit with wounded veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington earlier on that road trip “even more meaningful.”

“It’s well-documented how much pride I took playing for Team USA and to wear USA across my chest,” Wright said. “I love history, I’ve had family members serve in the military, I come from a military town [in Virginia], and I always took a great deal of pride in that.”

The 2011 season was Collins’ first as Mets manager, and they opened the season with an 11-16 mark. Chris Young, now the GM of the Rangers, hurled seven shutout innings that Sunday night and departed with a 1-0 lead.

Relievers Jason Isringhausen and Tim Byrdak coughed up the lead in the eighth, but the Mets went on to win in 14 innings. Brooklyn product Pedro Beato, who was 14 years old on 9/11, tossed three scoreless innings.

“After the ‘USA’ chants, I don’t even remember anything about that game,” Collins said. “What sticks with me is the chanting of the fans and the electricity in the stadium.

Mets
David Wright scores the winning run for the Mets in May 2011.
Reuters

“It obviously was a big night for America, much bigger than a baseball game.”

The Mets played a significant role in the city’s recovery after the attacks, and that pride of representing New York continues for the organization, according to the former manager.

“There’s nothing like it,” said Collins, now an analyst with SNY. “No disrespect to other teams across the country, because I was with Tampa Bay on 9/11, and we were the first team back to play the Yankees at the Stadium. It was an absolute honor to be a part of that.

“But to be a member of a New York team, even years later, was incredible. I know it meant a lot to everyone. Even if we didn’t know a lot of families personally affected by 9/11, we knew we were a New York team and were always representing New York. That night was a thrill to be a part of it.”

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