In the top of the ninth inning of the Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia Sunday, news began circulating around Citizens Bank Park that President Barack Obama had announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
For the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and Baseball Tonight teams, the challenge became how to balance telling the story of the baseball game with the breaking news that had ignited chants of “USA! USA! USA!” among the more than 45,000 fans assembled.
Mike McQuade, ESPN’s Vice-President of Production, explained how he approached the situation:
“We knew fans in the stands were going to start to see reports on their phones and that their reaction would become part of our story,” McQuade said.
For McQuade, the moment was one he wouldn’t soon forget: “You would now remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, McQuade was “launching the rebranding of ESPNEWS, then spent the day in the control room as SportsCenter was on the air.”
Interestingly enough, the 14-inning, 2-1 Mets’ victory over the Phillies was the second-longest game to air on Sunday Night Baseball. It lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes.
However, for the fans and ESPN’s entire crew, time stood still in the ninth inning.