How 9/11 affected baseball, God Bless America and NYPD officer Daniel Rodriguez

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How a singing police officer comforted a grieving nation after 9/11 — and why the moment couldn’t last

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With his performance of “God Bless America” during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, NYPD officer Daniel Rodriguez comforted a nation still grieving in the wake of 9/11. It felt like a timeless moment. Instead, it proved fleeting.

Twenty years later, the reasons for that tell a story of the political divisions and embellished patriotism that now polarize American sports. The weight of it all can be felt through the struggles of Rodriguez, who’s still trying to bless people with his voice as America attempts to rediscover its own.

Join Washington Post sports columnist Jerry Brewer, sports features writer Kent Babb and audio producer Bishop Sand as they explore how a man and a nation have attempted to heal and find meaning after trauma and tragedy.

Listen to the podcast and read more below.

Part 1

A symbol dressed in blue

Jerry, Kent and Bishop revisit Daniel Rodriguez’s iconic performance and try to understand what made it so powerful. Then they go looking for the real Rodriguez and hear how an aspiring opera singer became a policeman who catapulted to fame after a national tragedy.

Baseball fans attend Game 3 of the World Series in New York’s Yankee Stadium on Oct. 30, 2001. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images) New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada hits a homerun off Arizona pitcher Brian Anderson. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images) President George W. Bush greets Arizona Diamondback manager Bob Brenley, center, and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. (Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images) A New York Yankees fan holds up a U.S. flag during the game. (Sporting News/Getty Images) Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani before the game. (Doug Pensinger/Allsport/Getty Images)

Part 2

A prayer for our country

Jerry, Kent and Bishop visit Daniel in Los Angeles to see what his life is like now and examine the origins of the song that made him famous. Then they look at what happened to him, the song and the country in the years after 9/11, as shifting political winds drove Americans further apart.

Daniel Rodriguez, 57, an operatic tenor and former NYPD officer, at his home in Sierra Madre, Calif., on Aug. 30. (Philip Cheung For The Washington Post)
About this story

“America’s Song” was reported by Jerry Brewer and Kent Babb. Additional reporting, audio production and sound design by Bishop Sand. Editing and audio direction by Robin Amer. Additional editing by Renita Jablonski, Maggie Penman, Allison Michaels, Joe Tone and Emily Codik. Art direction by Amanda Soto. Illustration by Justin Metz. Page development by Gabriel Florit. Photo editing by Karly Domb Sadof. Design editing by Virginia Singarayar and Matthew Callahan. Project editing by Julie Vitovskaya and Greg Manifold.

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