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For one night, Mets, Phils and fans unite

Fans check their cell phones during a baseball

Fans check their cell phones during a baseball game between the Phillies and the Mets. News broke during the game that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (May 1, 2011) Credit: AP

PHILADELPHIA

It started a tad muzzled, which prompted Terry Collins to turn to the people around him in the Mets' dugout and ask, confused, "What the hell are they saying?"

In short time, you couldn't miss what they were saying at Citizens Bank Park:

"USA! USA!"

And the Mets, New York representatives on the road in "enemy territory" -- doesn't that term sound so trivial in the sports world at times like these? -- learned of the news that would unite everyone on site in a mix of jubilation, pride and renewed sadness.

Osama bin Laden, killed by American soldiers. Wow. Nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks on American soil.

That this Sunday night game lasted long enough to still be going when President Barack Obama spoke at about 11:30 seemed very fitting. That the Mets ultimately won the game, 2-1, in 14 innings? What the heck. Why not let New York's beleaguered ballclub take one?

"This was a good win for us," Collins said, "and obviously a huge win for America tonight."

"I don't like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit," David Wright said, smiling, "but they got this one right. It's a proud moment to stand out there, you've got 45-, 50,000 people chanting. That was pretty special."

An all-timer, for anyone privileged enough to be here for the only remaining ballgame of the day's schedule. We'll all remember where we were when the news broke. Just as we all remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mets rookie Pedro Beato flashed back to his freshman year at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn. "I just saw the smoke," he said. "I couldn't see the building, but I saw the smoke."

Veteran pitcher Chris Young, who started Sunday night's game for the Mets, was just beginning his senior year at Princeton. "We had just started classes," he said. "Everything was covered in ash."

And for the majority of the group that was nowhere near New York that day, they needed only to look back at the beginning of this road trip, when they visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"Coming from Walter Reed, the emotion that those guys must be going through, hearing that same news," Wright said. "As proud and as great a moment as it was for me, being on the baseball field, you multiply it by a million and that's probably what they're feeling."

A number of people in the Mets' clubhouse learned of the news because ESPN announced it during its broadcast, and those people served as emissaries to their teammates in the dugout and on the field.

Trainer Mike Herbst informed bench coach Ken Oberkfell, who told Collins, who was jarred from his trademark focus. "You almost want to stop the game," he said.

Wright stood on second base in the top of the ninth inning and -- as the Phillies intentionally walked Carlos Beltran -- discussed with Philadelphia second baseman Pete Orr why these fans would possibly be chanting in unison. It took Wright another inning or two to learn the news, he said.

Young found out while he was doing his post-start workout. He immediately thought of his current Upper East neighborhood, home to a firehouse that lost nine men on 9/11.

The Phillies should have heeded Collins' wisdom and stopped the game for a moment; surely the Mets or Yankees would have in New York. But that error in judgment didn't take away from an evening that will never be forgotten.

Except, perhaps, for the actual baseball game.

New York Sports