Unless you were a fan of the Yankees or Braves in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, you may have never heard of Frank Tepedino.
He wasn’t the star on the teams he was a part of but he did have the chance to play. In his eight seasons in Major League Baseball, Tepedino hit .241 with 6 home runs and 58 RBIs.
For some reason, Tepedino was on my mind today. Maybe, it’s because in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, one’s mind drifts to other big events in your life timeline. Today, I was thinking about September 11, 2001. That’s what led me to Tepedino.
I was creating and writing for another baseball site at the time and I saw that an MLB “old timers” game was planned in Tampa in 2002. I wrote MLB and asked for a press pass and, by some miracle, I received one. That’s where I met Frank Tepedino. He was there among baseball Hall of Famers and others who had played at a high level in the game. That field include Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Bob Feller and many, many others.
Tepedino was different from the others, however. He knew the reason that he was there that day and it was to represent more than baseball. After playing in MLB, Tepedino became a police officer with a fire patrol unit in New York City.
He told me the story of how he had been at home that morning of September 11 when his son called him about what was going on. Tepedino and three others jumped in the car and went to help at the Twin Towers. By the time they got there, however, the second tower had fallen.
As he described it, Tepedino lost 343 “friends” that day.
Just a month after the devastating event, Tepedino was back on the field at Yankee Stadium. On that night of Oct. 11, 2001, Tepedino threw out the first pitch in second game of the American League playoffs. It was a chance to honor those who had fallen and to join together with others to remember.
“You have no idea how excited I am about this. It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s about what all of America has done to help us after we’ve been slapped in the face.”Frank Tepedino, New York Times, Oct. 12, 2001
In a New York Times article published the day after the game, Tepedino is quoted as saying, “”You have no idea how excited I am about this. It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s about what all of America has done to help us after we’ve been slapped in the face.”
In that article, Tepedino said that one of his friends, Keith Roma, had died at the scene on 911. He was just 26 years old and kept a Yankees hat in his firetruck. The only item of Roma’s that was recovered was that Yankees hat.
Maybe, it’s a good time to remember that our first responders are always putting themselves in danger to protect others. And, it’s certainly something that we can be thankful for during COVID-19. Many doctors, nurses and first responders are stepping up and heading into the danger just as Frank Tepedino did on September 11, 2001.