July 2010

Good-Bye, Major

July 25, 2010 — Former Yankees manager Ralph Houk passed away on Friday at the age of 90.

While Houk’s contributions to the Yankees and to the game of baseball are impressive and will leave a lasting legacy, his impact on America is far greater.
Houk replaced Casey Stengel following the Yankees’ loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series. In his first three seasons in the dugout, Houk led the Yankees to three American League championships and two World Series championships.

Houk later served as the Yankees’ general manager before returning to dugout for eight seasons in the Bronx, five with the Detroit Tigers and four with the Boston Red Sox.

Before Houk came to the Bronx, he served in the United States Army. He enlisted during World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy Invasion, and was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

Ralph Houk, the Major, was an American hero, and the New York Yankees and the entire baseball community are no doubt proud to have called him one of their own.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Swish’s Time

July 22, 2010 — When I deliver copies of each issue of Yankees Magazine to Nick Swisher, he usually asks the same question.

“When am I going to be on the cover of this thing?”
Well, Swish, your time has come. 
Nick Swisher will be on the cover of the September issue of Yankees Magazine. And today, Swisher posed for a series of photos that were taken by Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello. 
The first group of photos were taken in Yankee Stadium’s auxiliary clubhouse, where Petrozzello took several portrait shots of Swisher — who smeared quite a bit of eye-black on both cheeks in an attempt to achieve a look that is as gritty as his play.
Petrozzello took the second group of photos in the Stadium’s bleacher section.
Swisher, who salutes the bleacher creatures at the start of every game, had never visited those seats until today. Once he got there, he didn’t want to leave.
“What a view,” the right fielder said. “If I was a fan, this is the only place I would want to sit.” 
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Old-Timers Day, with special meaning

July 18, 2010 — Yesterday’s Old-Timers’ Day festivities had special meaning, as many of the Yankees alumni came to Yankee Stadium with heavy hearts.

“It’s great to see the guys, but today is very bittersweet,” former second baseman Pat Kelly said.
Following the game, Reggie Jackson talked to me about his last conversation with George M. Steinbrenner III.
“I talked to George on his birthday [July 4],” Jackson said. “He was feeling great. I was beaming when I got off the phone with him, because his spirits were high.”
Jackson also discussed Steinbrenner’s legacy.
“George always focused on winning, as opposed to fiscal reward,” Jackson said. “His goal was to build the brand into something he would be proud of. Nobody did that better than George. In the last 40 years, Mariano Rivera and George Steinbrenner have been the most important members of the New York Yankees. Without the great Mariano, the Yankees wouldn’t have won five championships since 1996. Without George, they wouldn’t have won any of them. Since 1973, the face of the New York Yankees has been George Steinbrenner.”
The day featured a moving tribute to Bob Sheppard, along with the customary player introductions and Old-Timers’ game.
Below are some of my favorite photographs from the memorable day — all of which you’ll see in the August issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Editor’s Note

July 18, 2010 — In a post below, I wrote that the my feature on Jesus Montero would be published in the August issue of Yankees Magazine. In light of the passing of George M. Steinbrenner III and Bob Sheppard, we have shifted some content, and the feature on Montero is now scheduled to run in the September issue.

In the meantime, enjoy the photo below, which team photographer snapped for the feature story.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Honoring Mr. Sheppard and the Boss

July 17, 2010 — As I was driving to Yankee Stadium yesterday, I thought about an old friend — Bobby Murcer. Specifically, I thought about all the stories I heard about his performance in the first game after Thurman Munson’s unexpected death.

In that game, Murcer went 4-for-4, and had a game-winning hit. He would later give the bat he used in that contest to Munson’s widow, Diana.
While there were plenty of great games in Murcer’s career, that one stood out.
Well, for Nick Swisher, last night’s game will stand out. It was the Yankees first game since the deaths of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. And Swisher came up as big as ever, hitting a game-tying home run in the eighth inning and driving in the winning run with a single in the 10th inning.
Long before Swisher’s heroics, the Yankees honored Steinbrenner and Sheppard in a moving ceremony.
The ceremony began with a video tribute to the Boss, which was followed by a three-minute ovation. Mariano Rivera placed two red roses on home plate and Derek Jeter asked the crowd to honor the fallen heroes with a moment of silence.
That moment was truly silent, and it was followed by a bugler who performed a rendition of “Taps.”
The ceremony concluded with public address announcer Paul Olden informing the crowd that for the first time in modern history, the game would be played without any further announcements from the public address booth — in honor of Sheppard.
The ceremony mirrored the class of Sheppard and Steinbrenner, and like both men, it was unforgettable. The Yankees will to win was an even greater tribute to the fallen icons.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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The Great Ones — George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard

July 16, 2010 — There’s never been a week in Yankees history
quite like the one we just experienced.

In a span of two days, the Yankees lost two legends in George
Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.

Steinbrenner was the foundation of every shred of success the
Yankees have known over the last four decades, and his impact on the game of
baseball was unmatched among owners, players and managers during his 37-year
tenure.

The numbers speak for themselves. During Steinbrenner’s tenure,
the Yankees won seven championships and 11 American League pennants.That’s
right, seven championships and 11
pennants.

Subsequently, the Boss turned a franchise that was faltering
when he came on board — having not won a title in more than a decade — into
the most famous sports brand in the world.

It is not an exaggeration to say that because of George
Steinbrenner, the Yankees are known, followed and revered in the far reaches of
the globe, as well as in every city in North America.

Steinbrenner brought everyone from Reggie Jackson and Catfish
Hunter to Paul O’Neill to Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx before giving New Yorkers
the most magnificent stadium in sports. With that said, the Boss’ impact on the
Yankees is on a par with any of the all-time greats – including Babe Ruth, Joe
DiMaggio and Derek Jeter.

While I didn’t get to know the Boss very well during my eight
years with the Yankees, I will always be proud to have had the opportunity to
work for him. I interviewed the Boss on a few occasions, and those experiences
were challenging. But ultimately, they made me a better interviewer.

The Boss’ attention to detail — every detail — made everyone
who ever worked for him better at their job and infinitely more professional.
The Boss set a gold standard for everything he put his name on — including Yankees
Magazine
.

A few days after I was promoted to the director of publications position
and named editor-in-chief of Yankees Magazine, I received a note from
Mr. Steinbrenner. It read: “The new crew doesn’t miss a beat. Keep up the
good work. GMS”

That note provides constant motivation, and it is a keepsake
that I will always treasure.

Bob Sheppard’s voice was unique and beautiful. Reggie Jackson
dubbed him “the voice of God.” That moniker was appropriate since
Sheppard introduced players for more than five decades at baseball’s cathedral
— the old Yankee Stadium. Sheppard did his job with perfection, pronouncing
players’ names in an understated and consistent tone.

Sheppard was the New York Yankees public address announcer for
58 years, and he spent over 50 years in the New York Giants public address
booth. And through all of those games, Sheppard never announced a single
player’s name before personally asking the player how to properly pronounce it.
When Sheppard saw a name that he hadn’t read before, he would approach the
player in the clubhouse before that day’s game.

Bob Sheppard the man was kind, smart and interesting.

“Bob came to work everyday and treated everyone he met with
respect and kindness,” Brian Cashman said Sheppard’s funeral.

Regardless of your status with the team, Sheppard treated everyone
with respect. In today’s world, that is rare.

I met Mr. Sheppard for the first time during my first month with
the Yankees (2003). From that day forward, he always greeted me, asked how my
family was, and it was clear, he genuinely cared about my well being.

In 2007, I asked Mr. Sheppard if I could sit with him in the
public address booth for a few innings of a game, and discuss the experience in
my first book, Yankee Stadium: The
Official Retrospective
.

Those few innings lasted two entire games. Two games, in which
“the voice of God” told stories about his favorite games, his longest games and
several others in between. Two games in which he taught me several life
lessons, which I won’t ever forget.

In recent years, I sent Mr. Sheppard several packages of Yankees
publications. And without exception, I received a hand-written thank you note
after each of those packages arrived. In those notes, Mr. Sheppard told me how
much the books meant to him. If only he knew how much those notes — and his
friendship — meant to me.

I will miss Bob Sheppard, the voice of Yankee Stadium. But more
than that, I will miss Bob Sheppard the man.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Silver and Black

July 4, 2010 — I spent a few hours with Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable and his family before today’s game. I brought the group on a tour of the Stadium, which included monument park and the Yankee Stadium Museum.

The coach, who is from a small town in Washington, is a loyal Yankees fan.
“When I moved to Seattle, I was two years old,” Cable explained. “And they didn’t have a major league team there yet. In the second grade, my teacher sent our class to the library, and I took home a book called the Bronx Bombers. Since that day, I have always been a Yankees fan. I’ve studied them, and I have always loved what they stood for.”
In a “Five Minutes with…” segment that will be published in the September issue of Yankees Magazine, you will find out who Cable’s favorite Yankees players are, as well as what other baseball landmarks he and his family visited during their trip to New York.
For now, I will leave you with Cable’s brief description of another iconic owner in the sports world — Al Davis. Like George M. Steinbrenner III, Davis celebrated a birthday today, turning 81.

“The first thing you have to understand about Al is that
everything he does is about winning,” Cable said. “Al’s passion for winning is apparent in
everything he does. The best way to describe what it is like to be the Raiders
head coach for Al Davis, is that your life is wrapped around winning, and that
is only thing you think about.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Happy Birthday, Boss

July 4, 2010 — Today is George M. Steinbrenner III’s 80th birthday.

There are few people whose contributions to the game of baseball match those of Mr. Steinbrenner. Closer to home, Mr. Steinbrenner has brought seven World Series championships to the New York Yankees since purchasing the team in 1973.
To celebrate the Boss’ birthday, the Yankees made all seven of the World Series trophies that were won during Mr. Steinbrenner’s ownership, available for public viewing at Yankee Stadium during today’s game.
While the Boss’ list of accomplishments is far too long for this blog, the photograph below provides a snapshot of what should be a Hall of Fame career.
Happy birthday, Boss.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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