May 15, 2013 — Although the publication date is still a few months away, we are already working diligently to make the second annual Yankees Magazine en Español even better than the first one.
On April 30, I conducted an interview with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which will appear in both Yankees Magazine en Español and in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine (both of which will come out on September 2).
The interview with Sotomayor, who was born and raised in the Bronx, took place in the Justice’s chambers. For me, it was an honor to conduct a one-on-one interview with Sotomayor, and it was an even great thrill to spend a half hour with her in the highest court in the land.
From the minute the interview began with the lifelong Yankees fan, I was taken aback by Sotomayor’s sincerity and intelligence.
A few questions into the interview, I asked Sotomayor how serving as an assistant district attorney in New York City during the early 1980s affected her views on the world.
“It made me realize that people do horribly bad things,” Sotomayor said. “You can’t be a police officer, law enforcement agent or judge without being exposed to the worst things people are capable of doing. People commit horrific crimes not just against strangers, but also against their relatives, and that can make you lose faith in people. This kind of work can make you suspicious about the goodness in people, and knowledge of that possibility is important. But if you look at the defendant who has committed the horrible crime as the model of a human being, you’re forgetting the police officer who is spending his or her life protecting you. I’d much rather focus on the police officer and those good human traits than on the bad.”
A few minutes later, Sotomayor spoke to me about the moment in which President Obama informed her that she was his nominee for the Supreme Court.
“At about 8:10 at night, my cellphone rang,” Sotomayor said. “I picked it up, and the voice on the other side said, ‘This is the White House switchboard operator. Please hold for the president.’ My heart began to beat very loudly. I still didn’t want to believe he would pick me because if he were calling me to offer me condolences, I was going to be very disappointed. I was holding my breath with my heart pounding. Thankfully, he got on the phone with me quickly, and said, ‘Judge, I am calling because I’ve decided to make you my nominee to the United States Supreme Court.’ I immediately began to cry. I had to put my hand over my heart to keep it from beating out of my chest. I said to him, ‘Mr. President, I’m crying.’ It was the most overwhelming moment of my life.”
Near the end of this interview, which I consider to be one of the very best I’ve conducted in my life, I asked the Justice a few questions about her favorite baseball team.
I was especially moved by Sotomayor’s answer to a question about the ceremonial first pitch she threw at Yankee Stadium in 2009 (see photo below).
“I took my brother with me that day, and at the end of the game, he said, ‘If you ever owed me anything, today you’ve paid me off,’” Sotomayor said. “The Yankees have a history in which people take enormous pride, and I felt as if I was sort of a spec in that history when I was on the mound. That was deeply moving, and I felt as if I had lived yet another fantasy.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
May 8, 2013 – Next season’s New York Yankees Official Yearbook will include a lengthy section on the legendary career of Mariano Rivera. Within the 30-page (or more) portion of the publication, there will be a piece on the closer’s farewell tour.
Opposing teams in each town that Rivera and the Yankees play in this season are planning to honor him in pre-game ceremonies.
One of those ceremonies took place in Denver on May 8, as the Colorado Rockies paid tribute to Rivera and presented him with a check for his foundation.
Additionally, as Rivera makes his final stop in major league cities this season, he is planning to spend time with small groups of people who he believes deserve to be recognized for their contributions to the game.
Before the on-field festivities in Colorado, Rivera hosted a meet-and-greet with about 10 people, most of whom work for the Rockies. At Rivera’s request, Rockies PR personnel identified the individuals who made up the small gathering, and they included long-time members of the grounds crew as well as other members front office employees.
When Rivera walked into the small press conference room at Coors Field, he immediately demonstrated how gracious he is.
“I want to make sure that I took the time to thank each and every one of you for what you’ve done for your organization and for the game of baseball,” Rivera said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of the Yankees or a fan of me. I don’t want to take for granted the things you do behind the scenes, because the players wouldn’t be able to be on the field every day.”
After Rivera answered questions about how he remains calm in pressure-packed situations and how he learned to throw his famous cutter, he was hit with a question that caused him to pause.
“You define about a 25-year time period in baseball,” said Jim Saccomano, who is the longtime VP of public relations for the Denver Broncos and possibly the most dedicated Yankees I’ve ever come across. “Fans measure the game by you. Is it possible for a guy like you to understand just how important you are?
“Well, that’s a hard question to answer, because I never thought about myself in that way,” Rivera said. “I’m just a simple man who goes out and tries to do the job for my organization. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to play for the Yankees. Where I came from in Panama, we couldn’t even afford baseballs or baseball bats. I have never forgotten where I came from. I guess that makes me a humble person.”
A big part of my story on the Coors Field meet-and-greet will be about Saccomano, who I interviewed a few hours before the game at his Denver home.
I spoke to Saccomano again after the meet-and-greet, and he shared his excitement about the event with me.
“Nothing is exactly as you expect,” said Saccomano, who has attended about 200 Yankees games in 16 cities since the middle of the 2003 season. “This was better than I expected it to be. For me, it was a career moment, and I was deeply honored to be included.”
After visiting with Saccomano, I caught up with Rivera, and I asked him if any questions stood out to him during the meet-and-greet.
“The question about what I thought about myself was interesting,” Rivera said. “It’s something I never dreamed I would be asked. I enjoyed the question because it made me think about the good things I’ve bee a part of with the Yankees.”
My fellow editors and I will be on several more road trips this summer, chronicling all the stops along Rivera’s final tour. In my opinion, those stories, along with my feature on Rivera’s special day in Denver, will help to make the tribute to Rivera in the 2014 New York Yankees Yearbook a special keepsake.
–Alfred Santasiere III
May 7, 2013 – While in Denver to cover the May 8 pre-game ceremony in which the Colorado Rockies will be honoring Mariano Rivera, I interviewed legendary quarterback Peyton Manning.
I spoke to Manning this morning at the Denver Broncos training facility for a “5 Minutes with…” Q&A feature, which will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine. Our discussion about Manning’s famous family was interesting, and the quarterback’s comments about his approach to the game were riveting.
At the beginning of the interview, I asked Manning if he would share the best advise he ever got from his father, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning.
“If you want to be successful at something, you have to have a good work ethic,” Manning said. “My dad was a hard worker, and he was ahead of his time in terms of weight lifting and offseason conditioning. He instilled that in me, and it has definitely helped. That’s why I’m still playing the game at whatever age I am these days.”
I also asked Manning a question that has intrigued me for years. When he and his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, discuss football, what are the specific topics of conversation? In other words, what do they really talk about regarding football?
“When we play common opponents, we share the ways we have attacked those teams,” the four-time NFL MVP said. “It always helps to talk about to someone who actually played against them as opposed to what you see on film. It’s nice to be able to have those conversations with my brother. We usually talk on Sunday nights about the games we just played, and then we talk again on Thursday about the next week’s game. We certainly enjoy talking about football.”
After a lengthy discussion about Manning’s career, I asked Manning what advise he would offer Derek Jeter, as the Yankees shortstop attempts to come back from the most serious injury of his career. Manning, who missed the entire 2011 football season because of a neck injury and returned to his All-Pro form last season, offered an emphatic answer.
“Derek doesn’t need any advise from me, but I’m pulling for him,” said Manning, who led the Indianapolis Colts to a championship during the 2006 season, while also taking home the Super Bowl MVP Award. “We’ve been friends for a while, and he was supportive of me when I was injured. I know he will be out there and playing at a high level as soon as he’s healthy. I’m looking forward to seeing that, because it’s not the same when No. 2 isn’t on the field.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
May 3, 2013 – Last September, I spent a day with former Yankees manager Joe Torre in his hometown of Brooklyn for a very special feature, which will be published in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.
On the morning of Sept. 25 — which is the anniversary of Torre’s major league debut — he picked Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I up at Yankee Stadium, and we drove to the house the skipper grew up in.
After we arrived at the red-brick house on Avenue T in Brooklyn, we spent about an hour with Torre’s two sisters — one of whom still lives there. The three siblings spoke candidly about their abusive father and about the violence they witnessed in the very room we were in.
“My dad caused a lot of fear in our home,” Torre said. “A lot of times, I didn’t know what was going on because I was so young, but I was still affected by it. Fear is a terrible emotion, and it caused me to be a nervous kid even when I wasn’t at home.”
Torre also reminisced about his mother, who passed away several years ago.
“My mom was always there for us,” Torre said. “She was always home, and she was our security blanket. Because of my mom, there was a lot of love in our home.”
After our mid-morning conversation, Torre, Petrozzello and I walked to Marine Park, which is located one block from the house. Torre learned to play baseball on the fields there, and his return brought back great memories.
“We were always in this park,” said Torre as he leaned against the medal backstop of one of the many diamonds that are still there. “Baseball was the only thing I ever thought about.”
After our walk in the park, we joined Torre’s sisters at a local deli for lunch. During the meal, Torre discussed one of the turning points in his life, which came shortly after the Yankees hired him in 1995.
“[Torre’s wife] Ali asked me if I would go to a four-day self-help seminar that was being held at the Holiday Inn in Cincinnati,” Torre said. “I just said yes because she was pregnant, and I wasn’t going to say no to her at that time. The point of the program was for people to discuss any issues they needed help with, and frankly, I didn’t even go in there knowing what I was going to talk about.
“I didn’t realize how invasive the conversations were going to be,” Torre continued. “But without even thinking, I wound up talking about the fears I had as a kid because of my dad. I had already been named the manager of the Yankees, and I was sitting there with a group of strangers, crying my eyes out. It was great for me because I finally realized that I wasn’t born with so many insecurities.”
Torre’s life off the field changed for the better after that. Of course, leading the Yankees to four championships made his work life pretty enjoyable, as well.
We ended Torre’s homecoming visit with a stop at the Brooklyn Bridge. As Torre posed for the opening spread photo, which was taken about half way across the New York landmark bridge, Torre peered out toward the borough he grew up in.
“Regardless of where life takes me, this will always be home,” Torre said. “I had some tough times here as a kid, but there’s no place in the world where I feel more comfortable.”
For more on Torre’s inspirational life, check out this story in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
May 3, 2013 – The July Issue of Yankees Magazine will feature a special “5 Minutes with…” Q&A interview.
On April 26, I conducted a lengthy interview with Joe Montana and Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht captured several unique portraits of the legendary quarterback for the piece. The interview and subsequent photo shoot took place at The New York Palace hotel during Montana’s recent New York getaway.
I asked Montana about being a part of the group of elite quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania, which includes Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
“It’s a great group to be a part of,” Montana said. “I didn’t think I was going to be playing football for a living because basketball was what I felt I had the best chance at. But it’s funny how things changed, and to end up being included with those guys is a great honor.”
A few minutes later, Montana, who was one of seven freshman quarterbacks on the University of Notre Dame’s 1974 roster, discussed his first season in South Bend.
“I was very persistent, and I knew that if I kept working hard, I would catch on,” Montana said. “I really had to stay after it because I didn’t do well at first. I was overwhelmed by the ridiculous size of the football team. Some of the other quarterbacks got moved to other positions, but the coaches knew I couldn’t play anywhere else because I was too skinny.”
When we began to discuss Montana’s professional career, the long-time San Francisco 49er spoke to me about the closing moments of Super Bowl XXIII, in which he orchestrated a game-winning drive.
“I had been screaming at the top of my lungs in the huddle, and I didn’t eat a lot that day,” said Montana, who won four Super Bowls and was named the MVP in three of those games. “I was probably a little famished by the end of the game. About half way through the drive, I dropped back, and everything looked fuzzy for me. I didn’t want to throw an interception, so I just threw the ball out of bounds. The next thing I knew, I was hyperventilating. I guess the excitement of the moment, along with all of those other factors, just got to me. When I look back on it now, it’s funny.”
Finally, I asked the Hall of Fame quarterback for his thoughts on two Yankees legends — Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
“The biggest thing in sports is being consistent,” Montana said. “When you start to get successful, you have to remain consistent for a long time to become one of the great players in history. When I think about Mariano and Derek, the first thing that comes to my mind is how consistent they’ve been. I’ve always been amazed by Derek because he goes out there game in and game out and plays at such a high level every day. What he’s been able to do is mind-boggling to me.”
After the interview, I gave Montana a baseball that I had previously asked Rivera to sign for him. On the baseball, the greatest closer of all-time included a classy note (see photo below), and Montana beamed with pride when he read it.
–Alfred Santasiere III
May 3, 2013 – The May Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale today at Yankee Stadium.
Of course, you can purchase a subscription to the print version of Yankees Magazine by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications or by calling (800) GO-YANKS. The digital version of the magazine is available through http://www.yankees.com/publications.
The cover of the May Issue features not one, but two guys who are among the greatest pitchers to wear the pinstripes.
Last month, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took the exclusive photo below in the Yankees bullpen at the Stadium of Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia.
For this special portrait, Pettitte and Sabathia stood in the middle of the bullpen, while Petrozzello shot the photo from a six-foot ladder. While the two Yankees greats make the photo, I believe that the bright green grass in the background certainly adds to its beauty.
Pettitte is third on the Yankees’ all-time regular-season wins list and is at the top of Major League Baseball’s all-time postseason wins chart. Sabathia earned a .718 winning percentage in his first four years in pinstripes, and he currently has the highest winning percentage among all Yankees pitchers in history. In addition to winning four games during the Yankees 2009 postseason run, Sabathia has already won 74 games with New York.
Managing editor Nathan Maciborski wrote the cover story on the two lefties. In the feature, Maciborski detailed their greatness on the field as well as their close friendship off the field.
The May Issue also includes my story on the Yankees first trip to West Point since 1976 (see blog entry below for more details) and my feature on Curtis Granderson, who is expected to return to the field soon.
For the story on Granderson, Petrozzello and I spent several days in Bermuda with the Yankees centerfielder over the winter (see blog entries below for more details). The story and the gorgeous photos, are as exclusive as anything you’ll see in a team publication.
–Alfred Santasiere III
April 14, 2013 – The pinstriped Yankees jersey that NFL great Dan Marino wore when he threw a ceremonial first pitch in spring training was recently put on display in a Long Island restaurant.
In mid-April, Marino was in Commack, New York for the opening of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, a growing chain of Italian restaurants that he a partner in. While he was there, the former Miami Dolphins legend autographed the jersey, which was later framed and displayed in the eatery.
After spending a day with Marino when he was in Tampa for spring training (see blog entry below for more details on that) I met up with him at the restaurant’s grand opening celebration a month later.
During the party, Marino spoke to me about donning a Yankees jersey.
“If I had played professional baseball, I would have wanted to pitch for the New York Yankees,” said Marino, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the 1979 draft. “It was a thrill to put the pinstripes on for one pitch, and I’m proud that the jersey will be in New York for fans to see.”
Marino also reflected on the some of the other experiences he had at the Yankees spring training ballpark.
“I miss being in the locker room and being around the guys as they prepare for a game,” said the Hall of Famer, who retired from football in 2000. “It was a lot of fun to be in that atmosphere again. Also, getting to meet some of the great Yankees of all-time like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera was great.”
Finally, Marino, who threw a strike to Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage on March 9, joked about a possible strategy for his next first pitch.
“Next time, I will throw the pitch left handed,” Marino said.
A feature story about Marino’s first pitch was published in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine, and an article about the jersey being displayed in New York will appear in the May Issue.
–Alfred Santasiere III
April 14, 2013 – On April 4, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders played the first game in their home ballpark since September 2011. The Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate played their entire 2012 slate on the road while PNC Field underwent major renovations.
I was at the RailRiders first game in their newly renovated ballpark, which, in my opinion, is now as comfortable as any minor league facility. It has more amenities than I could have imagined, and it’s truly a family-friendly place.
For more on PNC Field, check out the May Issue of Yankees Magazine, which will include a feature on the park by Scott Walsh of the Times-Tribune of Scranton.
Prior to the game, I caught up with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who was there to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Enjoy the interview below, which is exclusive to this blog.
–Alfred Santasiere III
Alfred Santasiere III: What are your thoughts on the renovated ballpark in Scranton?
Reggie Jackson: They did a great job with it. It’s exciting for the fans and for the players. It’s always nice playing in a new ballpark, and this really is state-of-the-art now. It will be an unbelievable setting in the summer, when the trees are in full bloom. There are nice places for the fans to gather and to have good time, and the players will benefit from the improved facilities that are in place. I never played in a minor league park like this, but I’m really excited for everyone involved.
AS: What does being asked to throw the ceremonial first pitch mean to you?
RJ: The Steinbrenners asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I was happy to do it. I have had a close relationship with the Steinbrenner family, and, of course, George Steinbrenner, since I was in my late-20s. They’ve always been respectful, and anything that I can ever do for them I am happy to do. I consider it an honor to be in a position to represent the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family. I wouldn’t get to do things like this if the Steinbrenners didn’t respect me, and the fact that they asked me means a lot.
AS: You’re from Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, which is about 100 miles from here. Does this first pitch have added significance because it’s in your home state?
RJ: Yes. I like being back in Pennsylvania. Scranton reminds me a lot of Cheltenham, and it always feels good to be back in this part of the country. I’m proud to be from the Keystone state.
AS: Any predictions for the pitch? Are you going to throw a strike?
RJ: I’m not that young anymore, but if I can get my arm loose, I will get it over the plate.
April 14, 2013 – Last year, I wrote a feature about the Yankees history at West Point, and that story was published in the June 2012 Issue of Yankees Magazine. It detailed the 21 exhibition games that the Yankees played against the Army Black Knights at the United States Military Academy between 1927 and 1976.
Besides chronicling the game action, I also wrote about everything from the tours of the campus that various Yankees teams went on to the reactions of the cadets who got to take the field against some of baseball’s all-time great clubs.
As I conducted research for that story, I quickly realized that quite a few special moments took place on the days the Yankees were in West Point between 1927 and 1976.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played against the cadets. Mickey Mantle laced up his spikes at West Point. Yogi Berra took the field on the grounds of the most prestigious military institution in the world and Whitey Ford pitched there.
When I completed that feature, I didn’t think I would ever be writing another story about the Yankees playing a game in West Point because the organization hadn’t played there since 1976 and there was no word of them returning any time soon.
But that all changed earlier this year when Army officials approached the Yankees about renewing the tradition.
Those discussions led to the Yankees’ return to West Point. On March 30, the team traveled by bus from Yankee Stadium to West Point — which is about 50 miles north of New York City — for the 22nd all-time match-up against the cadets.
I can’t speak to what it was like to tour the campus with Ruth, Gehrig or Mantle and I wasn’t around to see them play at West Point’s tiny ballpark. But, a few weeks ago, I visited the United States Military Academy with a group of future Hall of Famers and Yankees icons that included Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte (pictured below with Kevin Youkilis).
Upon our arrival at West Point, we were given a tour that brought us onto the football field at Michie Stadium, and to Cadet Chapel and Trophy Point. After the tour, the team ate lunch with hundreds of cadets in the Mess Hall. Following that special meal, the Yankees were driven to tiny Johnson Stadium at Doubleday Field, where they prepared for the game.
In front of a few thousand fans — many of whom were sitting in bleachers that were put in place just for the day — Rivera tossed a ceremonial first pitch. After the pre-game ceremony, the Yankees defeated Army, improving their record against the cadets to 22-0.
My latest feature story on the Yankees tradition of playing at West Point is all about the 2013 visit. It will appear in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
April 14, 2013 – On the evening of the Yankees game at West Point (see blog entry above for more details on that), I attended an Army baseball alumni dinner. Former Yankees first baseman Joe Pepitone, who played in several exhibition games at West Point in the 1960s, accompanied me to the event, which was held at the Thayer Hotel — on the United States Military Academy campus.
Pepitone was mentioned prominently in the first story I wrote about the Yankees tradition of playing at West Point (published in the June 2012 Issue of Yankees Magazine), and the opening spread photo featured Pepitone and two cadets in 1969.
In early March, I was informed that the two Army ballplayers in the photo with Pepitone were scheduled to be at the dinner.
Although Pepitone admittedly didn’t remember meeting the cadets when the photo was taken in 1969, he welcomed the opportunity to see them again. And so, at a quiet gathering, Pepitone, 73, was reunited with Pete McCall, 64, and Bill Lord, 63.
The three men, who were originally photographed together almost 44 years ago because they were all born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, immediately began reminiscing about the 1969 game.
“Joe hit one of the longest home runs in West Point history that day,” said Lord, now 63, who was a partner in a recruiting firm before his retirement. “We didn’t have a home run fence up here at that time, so Joe had to slide into home.”
“I wasn’t that fast, but I don’t remember being that slow,” Pepitone responded. “But I’ll take Billy’s word for it. We played hard against the cadets. They were a good team, and they always got after it when they played us.”
Before the end of the night, the former ballplayers re-enacted the original photo. This time, they posed for current-day Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello in a suite that was dedicated to Army’s baseball program that evening.
“When we found out that Joe was going to be at our dinner, we really wanted to re-enact the photo,” Lord said. “Seeing Joe tonight was as much fun as it was meeting him the first time.”
The then and now photos, which are posted below, will be published in a sidebar to my feature story on the March 30 game in the May issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III