On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City was changed forever.At 9:02 that morning, a truck packed with explosives was detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives, is the deadliest domestic terror attack in the history of the United States. At a news conference
On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City was changed forever.
At 9:02 that morning, a truck packed with explosives was detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives, is the deadliest domestic terror attack in the history of the United States.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, the Pacific Coast League's Oklahoma City Dodgers -- in conjunction with the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum -- announced a season-long initiative commemorating the 25th anniversary of the bombing. These plans are highlighted by the Dodgers' First Responders Weekend on April 18-19.
While it's not a traditional baseball number, the Dodgers are retiring 168 as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the bombing. It will be emblazoned on an outfield wall pad at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, alongside the team's previously retired numbers. Concurrently, the No. 19 is being retired within the Dodgers' Rookie League [a youth baseball program run jointly by the team and the city's parks and recreation department]. This number recognizes the 19 children who were killed, most of whom were in the day care center on the ground floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
"The more we thought about it, the more we realized that this was an opportunity to do something really meaningful," said Oklahoma City Dodgers president and general manager Michael Byrnes, speaking to MiLB.com prior to Tuesday's news conference. "It's an important responsibility, to tell this story and what it meant to the community in terms of resilience and coming together, to maintain the memories of those we lost and to move the message forward as we look to the next 25 years."
The Dodgers will wear a 25th Anniversary patch throughout the season, featuring the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum slogan: "We remember those who were killed, those who survived and those who were changed forever." The patch also features the Memorial's Survivor Tree, an elm that miraculously withstood the bombing.
"This is about teaching the story to the next generation, looking back and thinking forward," Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum executive director Kari Watkins said. "It's very important to keep the history alive and relatable. The Dodgers have been great at including us. We're honored that they're taking the time to remember. ... It's important to have these kind of outlets."
Byrnes said that a natural extension of honoring the victims was to pay tribute to the selfless first responders who rushed to the scene in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. The Dodgers' First Responders Weekend is a multi-faceted homage to these heroes, as well as the victims and survivors of the bombing. One of the honored guests at the ballpark that weekend is Steve Peters, who has the unique distinction of having been both an Oklahoma City player and first responder. Peters, an Oklahoma City native who pitched in the Major Leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987-88, played his final season in 1991 as a member of the Oklahoma City 89ers. He became an Oklahoma City firefighter and was a first responder on the morning of the bombing.
"That layer felt really important to us," Byrnes said of honoring first responders. "How do we tell these positive stories?"
Both Watkins and Byrnes spoke of the inspiring ways in which the city responded to the bombing, showing strength and resilience while putting aside petty differences. Visiting rescue workers and journalists referred to this as the Oklahoma Standard, encompassing the tenets of service, honor and kindness. In keeping with those principles, the Dodgers, via their charitable foundation, will complete 25 acts of kindness. These acts will be carried out daily from the team's home opener on April 14 through First Responders Weekend and then intermittently throughout the remainder of the season.
"We want to use our megaphone to celebrate organizations that are doing powerful things," Byrnes said. "How can we as an organization be a platform to celebrate the positive things happening in our community?"
Oklahoma City has hosted a Triple-A club every year since 1962. In 1995, when the bombing occurred, the city's team was the 89ers [the only professional sports franchise in the city]. The 89ers' home -- All Sports Stadium -- served as a gathering place in the wake of the bombing, hosting the spillover crowd from a massive memorial service in the adjacent fairgrounds. When Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark opened in 1998, it was seen as a milestone in the ongoing revitalization of the still-grieving city.
"When the park opened, it was one of the city's greatest moments. It highlighted moving forward, our strength and the standards the city had," Watkins said. "And now, 22 years later, to be able to do this, it's poweful."
"We have a responsibility to tell these stories and give them greater context, at the ballpark, in our game programs and on social media," Byrnes added. "It helps reinforce the role of the ballpark and the team in the fabric of our community."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.