Ex-Giant Ortiz recalls nerves pitching first game after 9/11

Russ Ortiz

The entire sports world came to a screeching halt 20 years ago, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

When the Giants returned to action, their first game back was in front of their home fans at what was then called Pacific Bell Park against the Houston Astros. Manager Dusty Baker handed the ball to starting pitcher Russ Ortiz, who never will forget what he felt that night in San Francisco. 

"Leading up to that, I was really nervous," Ortiz said in a roundtable conversation that also included former Giants Shawn Estes, Rich Aurilia, J.T. Snow and Robb Nen. "I was anxious and all that stuff every start, but for that one, aside from a playoff game, it was probably the most nervous I've been. It was really important, like you guys mentioned, for us to play and get things off everybody's minds -- for us to entertain and all that.

"You guys know I didn't throw a ton of strikes all the time, so the biggest thing I wanted to make sure is I wanted to make sure I threw strike one to get the good vibes going and set that game off right. And I did, so that was cool."

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Ortiz got leadoff batter and future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio to line out to left fielder Barry Bonds, calming his nerves to the delight of nearly 41,000 fans. 

The right-hander wound up tossing a gem, pitching 7 1/3 innings while only giving up three hits and one earned run. But Nen allowed two runs in the ninth inning and the Giants lost to the Astros, 3-2. 


"It was just probably one of the most nerve-wracking games I've pitched, because what it really meant to a lot of people to see baseball again," Ortiz said.

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