NEW YORK – Adam Wainwright is weeks away from calling it a career. Years before he debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals, he had a bizarre experience and perhaps a life-saving twist of fate around the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The story was first told by Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold in a September 2011 report for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
By early September 2001, Wainwright had finished his first full season as a prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization. He planned a guys’ trip to New York City with his brother, Trey, from Sept. 10-11.
The two initially planned to see Roger Clemens pitch at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 10. That game was postponed due to rain.
Instead, the brothers decided to visit the Empire State Building on Sept. 10. Somewhere in Adam’s personal collection, according to the Post-Dispatch report, he has a photo dated Sept. 10, 2001, on top of the Empire State Building with the World Trade Center in the background, one day before its two towers came down.
With the game canceled, Adam and Trey decided to get a head start on the next leg of their trip. They planned to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Sept. 11, 2001. The two drove away from the big city and spent the night in Schenectady, New York, more than two-thirds of the way to Cooperstown.
The next morning, they woke up to urgent phone calls from worried family and friends. They answered and offered some comfort in the wake of a national tragedy. Loved ones were worried Adam and Trey might have been at the World Trade Center during the attacks.
They weren’t because of plans that never fully materialized.
Adam and Trey were initially scheduled to meet Adam’s financial adviser at Lehman Brothers on Sept. 10. He became unavailable, so they ended up touring the financial district, which included a stop on a trade center floor.
Knowing he didn’t plan to stay in New York City long, Adam’s financial adviser wanted to reschedule a breakfast meeting for some time during the morning of Sept. 11. There were discussions about possibly meeting at a restaurant atop the World Trade Center’s north tower.
Those plans were never finalized, so the brothers decided it was fine to trade plans and make up some ground on a four-hour trip toward Cooperstown.
The next morning, Sept. 11, 2001, ended up being one of the deadliest days on U.S. soil. Nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives during the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania.
Not too far from it all, Adam and Trey weren’t sure what they should do next. They ended up heading to Cooperstown, stayed around the area for a few days, and then returned home in a rental car after arranging plans to return home to family.
“I do remember that drive,” Wainwright told Goold. “It was days later. Days. And you could still see the smoke. A hundred miles outside the city and it was there in the sky. The whole way. I’ll remember that.”
Wainwright plans to retire from Major League Baseball after the 2023 season. He has spent nearly two decades in the St. Louis Cardinals organization and his 198 wins are the third-most in franchise history.