Iconic Director, Producer and Sports Executive Ross Greenburg puts his Tasteful and Inspirational Touch to the HBO Max Documentary "Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later"
Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later – a feature-length documentary that will tell the remarkable and poignant story of how baseball helped aid both New York and the nation’s recovery in the weeks and months following the horrific attacks in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 – will premiere on HBO Max, Saturday, September 11.
Iconic and multi-Emmy Award-winning Director and Producer Ross Greenburg, who for many years has run his own production company in Rye, New York was asked to put his magical touch on an emotional and powerful project from Turner Sports.
Greenburg, who was President of HBO Sports from 2000 to 2011, returned to SportsJam with Doug Doyle (a guest back in 2014) to talk about the documentary and why it was so personal to him.
"I call a got from Sandy Montag who is a dear friend and I've worked on quite a few projects with Sandy over the years and many of the broadcasters who he used to represent would come in and out of my office at HBO. Sandy called and he had sold basically a documentary like this to Craig Barry and Jeff Zucker at Turner and he was asking me if I would able to produce and direct it for delivery. Over the years, Sandy and I have collaborated on some memorable films, Perfect in '76 for Showtime and others and decided that this would be a project I would love to do. I had a personal connected to it because of my circumstance. The fact that I was a Yankees fan and on 9/9, two days before 9/11, my mom had passed away and I was in Texas and had to take a Greyhound bus back to New York in order to be reunited with my family. A month and a half later I found myself at Yankee Stadium for Game 3 so I was witness to George Bush taking the mound. I was very emotional about the story."
After that game, Greenburg walked into the office the next morning when h was running HBO Sports and commissioned Joe Lavine, one of his producers and his executive producer Rick Bernstein at the time to his office. The reason? Greenburg had lived a documentary the night before and thought this was not about baseball anymore but something much bigger than that.
"I decided then it was a documentary. We made a documentary at HBO called Nine Innings from Ground Zero. So I called Joe Lavine once Sandy Montag called me and said hey would you like to 20 years later, you know fill in all the blanks, relive the story and pick up the story from certain people we had in the film, but also find new ones. We did that."
About 20 different individuals with first-hand accounts of 9/11 are a part of Exta Innings fom 9/11 including former Yankees manager Joe Torre, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, former Yankee outfielder Bernie Williams, former Mets greats Mike Piazza and John Franco and former Central Regional High School star pitcher Al Leiter who pitched for both the Mets and Yankees and is currently a Yankees broadcaster. In addition, the film gets the personal reflections from family members of first responders and others who lost their lives on 9/11.
Greenburg, a master storyteller who has won more than 50 Sports Emmy Awards and 8 Peabody Awards, weaves all those stories in this documentary.
"One of the magical things about this documentary is that it's sad to think about 9/11, but yet we picked people that would show you that the human spirit is such that it can bounce back. That's what storytelling is all about. My motto was always make 'em laugh, make 'em cry and make 'em think and you know the staff that worked for me then at HBO an now probably get sick of me saying it but if you can get some emotion out of people then you've done your job. You just have to recognize the storytelling to bring that out."
At the heart and center of the documentary is the 9/11 Memorial, located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex and occupies approximate hal of the 16-acre site. The nearly 3,000 names of the men, women and children killed in the attacks on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the twim memorial pools.
"The tastefully word was a tough word to try to measure up to. You don't want to be exploitive. You want to give it a reality. You know one of the takeaways Joe (Lavine) and I felt strongly about giving to this documentary was a sense of hope, the sense that even those that lost loved ones and had this horrible event happen even early in their life were able to grab onto baseball and somehow get through it. Baseball was one of many things that they grabbed onto but our focus was it's incredible the events of (Mike) Piazza (go-ahead home run in first game back in New York), games 3, 4 and 5 of the World Series and obviously even the earlier games on the playoff run of the Yankees were such that they you could assemble at Yankees Stadium or Shea Stadium and feel a connection to something that was going to help you through it. Get through it and have hope that you can smile again, that you can cheer again, that you can live again. We kept wanting to get back to those individual stories in order to tell that."
You can also see the entire SportsJam interview with Ross Greenburg at https://fb.watch/7XouhQy9_D/.