Six years ago today, terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs. President Obama announced the news from the White House at 11:35 pm ET. 130 miles northeast, there was a baseball game being played at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. May 1, 2011 was a Sunday, so that was the only game taking place at that time of night. The 11-16 Mets were playing the 18-8 Phillies on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
The video above does a great job detailing the exact timeline of the evening. You really should watch it. If for some reason you'd rather read my words, I'll highlight my favorite insights from the video. First, how did ESPN play-by-play man Dan Schulman find out? At 10:48—in the bottom of the 8th inning—color man Bobby Valentine received a text from a friend telling him there were reports that bin Laden had been killed.
"Bobby nudged me with his elbow and showed me his phone...This isn't in the play-by-play handbook. They don't tell you how to deal with this. Our producer right away said, 'We're trying to corroborate it, don't say anything yet. We're preparing a statement.'"
2011 was Schulman's first year as the lead broadcaster for Sunday Night Baseball after replacing Jon Miller. Can you imagine being in that spot? This occurred only a few weeks into the season, so the trio of Schulman, Valentine, and Orel Hershiser didn't have much experience together. Certainly a game he will never forget.
Around 11:00—with the game tied at 1 in the top of the 9th—word began to spread among fans inside the park. As chants broke out, the players on the field had absolutely no idea what was going on.
In the E:60 piece, Schulman says they realized, "There is no place in the world where there are more Americans gathered than in this ballpark." The attendance for that game was 45,713; the Phillies were in a span of five consecutive playoff appearances. With the two NBA playoff games for the day already done, he might be right. That crowd was roughly 35,000 more than John Cena's audience in Tampa.
The players were still unaware of what was causing the "USA!" chants until the middle of the 9th inning, after a Jason Bay flyout. Bay—a Canadian—describes his thought process while hitting during the chants: "I've been called a lot of things, especially in Philly. Are they trying to get under my skin?"
The game would eventually go 14 innings before the Mets won 2-1, a little before 1:00 am ET. 90 minutes before that, President Obama took the podium for what has to be the most satisfying 10-minute speech he has ever given.
Lastly, how have we not replaced these WBC jerseys since 2011? They are just terrible.