June 2011

Lunch with Another Gridiron Great

June 13, 2011 – Earlier this week, I joined one of the most iconic players in New York Giants history for lunch at Pastis, which is located in the heart of the Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Bavaro, who helped the Giants win two Super Bowl titles, was in town for the 25th anniversary celebration of the first of those championship teams, the 1986 Giants.

“We never thought we were going to lose a game that year,” Bavaro said.

In the interview, Bavaro also discussed the experience of winning Super Bowl XXV in January 1991, a time that is more closely associated with the Persian Gulf War.

“We were going out there trying to win football games,” Bavaro said. “But it was hard to focus on the task at hand when there were people younger than us who were on the other side of the world fighting for their lives and for our country. The efforts of the soldiers really put sports into perspective.”

More recently, Bavaro wrote a novel, titled Rough and Tumble. In some ways, the book parallels Bavaro’s career, depicting an NFL player who is faced with a career ending injury.

Bavaro wrote the book in a year, but struggled to get it published. It was finally published in 2008.

“It was a difficult process, but the best advise I can give to any author is to never give up and to always have confidence in your work,” Bavaro said. “Even when it doesn’t look like anyone is going to publish what you’ve written, you never know what tomorrow will bring.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

Fishing with the Goose

June 13, 2011 – On May 30, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I flew to Denver and drove from the airport to tiny Leadville, Colorado, where we would spend the better part of the week with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.

As I wrote about in this blog a few months ago, the story on Gossage is about the pastime he enjoys most these days — fly-fishing.

Although I had been fresh water fishing since I was a young child, I had never picked up a fly fishing rod until a few months ago when I took a few lessons. My goal was to avoid embarrassing myself in front of a baseball legend.

The plan on May 30 was for Petrozzello and I to settle in to Leadville and meet up with Goose the next morning. But as we drove through the Rockies in a snowstorm  — at the end of May — Goose invited us to his cabin for dinner.

That’s where the Yankees Magazine story will begin. A few hours into our trip, we found ourselves in Gossage’s cabin, where he was cooking us dinner — spaghetti with a gravy made with bison meat! The night proved to be as memorable as the food.

After having breakfast the next morning with Gossage, we went back to the cabin to get ready for the first day of fishing on one of the 28 lakes that are part of the Mt. Massive Lakes Fishing Club. The club is located on 1,000 acres of land in what Gossage appropriately calls “the greatest place on the planet” and it only includes 150 members. Each of the members own a log cabin on the club’s land.

Dressed in full body waiters, Gossage and I each fished from small (5 foot) one-man pontoon boats, in which we were sitting in the water and propelling ourselves by kicking. We were also wearing flippers on our feat.

Before I could land my first fish, Gossage already had three in his creel. Three beautifully colored rainbow trout. I caught my first rainbow trout of the trip less than an hour into the morning, and I was amazed by the strength of the fish.

“You have to be rugged to make it our here,” Gossage reminded me. “Even the fish are tough.”

By the time we broke for lunch, I had caught seven fish and Gossage had landed 13.

That night, the owners of Gossage’s favorite establishment deep-fried the trout for us and for the several locals who were sitting at the oak bar.

I enjoyed some of the best fishing of my life the next day. It started off slow, but it ended with a wild flurry. As the sun began to set on June 1, the fish began to bite. After going an hour without a bite, Gossage and I moved to another lake. Gossage caught three rainbow trout in his first three casts at second lake, and I caught 14 in the last hour we spent there. Each of these trout were between 15 and 20 inches — which for non-fishing experts is between 3 and 8 inches larger than an average sized trout.

This was one of the three most thrilling assignments of my career. The story I wrote about the day Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played a game in my hometown of South Orange, New Jersey in 1929 and my story on Alex Rodriguez from earlier this year are the other two.

I enjoyed every minute of the trip, and I will be forever grateful to Gossage for allowing Petrozzello and I into his life. Without Gossage’s tremendous kindness and outrageously funny sense of humor, the trip wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable — and the story wouldn’t be what it’s going to be.

Gossage is completely at peace with his life, and that was best illustrated in one of our last conversations in Leadville. With a few deep-fried trout on our table at Pastime Bar, Gossage said, “I didn’t retire. I just faded into the sunset. And this is the exactly where I want to be.”

In the same conversation, I asked Gossage to grade my fishing performance in Colorado. While I was completely ready for anything, I felt pretty good about things, considering that I caught 33 fish in three days. For this writer, who loves to fish (as much as he loves baseball), Gossage’s answer was absolutely poetic.

“Your grade was awesome,” Gossage said. “You caught more fish than any other guest I ever brought up here. You did great.”

For all the behind-the-scenes details of this snapshot of Gossage’s life, pick up the July issue of Yankees Magazine.

And one last note… this story is dedicated to one of the single greatest fisherman and human beings I have ever known. My lifelong friend, Al Celano, spent far too many days on the water with me to count. I can’t remember a minute of those days in which I didn’t feel truly blessed to be in his presence and to be his friend. While my days of fishing with Al have come to an end, the memories that were made during those heavenly times will bring me joy as long as I’m on this earth. Thank you, Al, for those days of grace.

–Alfred Santasiere III


Lunch with a Gridiron Great

June 13, 2011 – Less than 24 hours after I interviewed Condoleezza Rice, I sat down with former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks for lunch at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant  & Sports Bar in Manhattan. During our lunch, I interviewed Banks for one of two “Five Minutes with …” pieces that will appear in the July issue of Yankees Magazine. The second interview will feature another Giants icon, Mark Bavaro.

I asked Banks what the most fun he ever had in football was, and he spoke at length about a game in during the Giants 1986 Super Bowl championship season.

“When we played the St. Louis Cardinals in ’86, we knocked all of their quarterbacks out of the game,” Banks said. “By the time the game was winding down, their punter was playing quarterback.”

For me, that conversation was ironic because the Giants vs. Cardinals contest in 1986 was the first football game I ever attended. I can still remember being at Giants Stadium with my father and watching one of the all-time best teams dominate their opponent as the cold wind swirled through the upper deck.

Banks also discussed his memories of the two Super Bowls he helped the Giants win before telling me about his current life.

Today, Banks is runs G-III Sports by Carl Banks, a clothing line that features the most fashionable team apparel you will find anywhere.

“Our jacket that commemorates all of the Yankees’ championships is a great piece, and our active wear collection includes some of the best products in the marketplace,” Banks said. “We’ve done a great job with sweatshirts, fleeces and shorts in that collection. For female Yankees fans, we have the Touch by Alyssa Milano and the G-III for Her collections, which really give female Yankees fans real fashion with a sports twist. Those products are available at Yankee Stadium, and I’m very proud of that.”

You’ll have to pick up the July issue to find out how Banks got into fashion, but I will wrap this post up with what I thought was the most interesting answer that Banks had for any of my questions.

When I asked Banks what the most challenging part of transitioning from a professional athlete to a professional businessman was, he shed light on a note-worthy dynamic.

“When I went in to discuss my product with potential retailers, they only wanted to talk about football,” Banks said. “I learned to give them a 10-minute allowance to talk about football, and then I shifted the conversation to business. Once retailers realized that I really put the line together and I wasn’t someone who just lent my name to it, they began to take me seriously.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

Women’s Issue will include Condoleezza Rice Interview

June 13, 2011 – As I announced on this blog earlier this year, the first ever issue of Yankees Magazine dedicated to women will come out in August.

This very special issue, which is the first of its kind in professional sports in the United States, will feature an interview with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

I had the opportunity to interview Secretary Rice on May 24 at the Sojo Grand Hotel for this piece, and Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took several exclusive photos for the piece.

We chose the Sojo Grand because of it was the most convenient location for Secretary Rice to work with us at — because she was staying there. But it ended up being the perfect setting for Petrozzello’s photos.

The photo that will be used on the first page of the interview, features Rice standing in front of a window with a partial view of the New York skyline behind her. As Petrozzello was setting up for the photo shoot, we noticed a few men on the roof of the building that our window faced. As if they were setting the scene for this patriotic feature, they began to raise an American flag. That flag is apparent in the photo, as you can see below.

As for the interview with Secretary Rice, it’s hard to imagine being more impressed with anyone I’ve ever interviewed. She is as elegant as she is brilliant, and I especially enjoyed her answers to two questions.

I asked Secretary Rice where she thought President George W. Bush’s ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series ranks among the most inspirational moments in sports and American history.

“He really practiced hard for that pitch,” Secretary Rice said. “That was an emotional night, and I remember thinking, ‘Mr. President, the American people need you to throw a strike today more than at any other time, especially because we are in New York.’ When he did throw a strike, the Stadium went wild. It was like an explanation point or an underlying statement saying we’re going to be ok. Our National Pastime is back. You’re in good hands with this President. Get back to your lives, and don’t let the terrorists take that away from us. I think there was a lot said with that pitch.

“It ranks very high among all sports moments from a National perspective,” Secretary Rice continued. “Jackie Robinson’s first game marked the end of two separate Americas. The day the NFL cancelled their games following the assassination of John F. Kennedy and President Bush’s strike two weeks after 9/11 are the moments in which sports and history really came together.”

Near the end of the interview, I asked Secretary Rice for her thoughts on the upcoming Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine, and I was honored by her response.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I congratulate the magazine for putting it all together,” Rice said. “It recognizes, not just the contributions of women to sports, but also that a lot of women are sports fans. You have great fans among women, and I hope the professional leagues will realize what an important fan base women are. This issue will help to make that happen.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

Silver Screen and Baseball Diamonds

June 13, 2011 – The June issue of Yankees Magazine hit the shelves last week, and it’s packed with must-have content.

If you’re not sure of the impact that catcher Russell Martin is going to have on the 2011 Yankees, you should read managing editor Ken Derry’s feature. The story will fill you in on the life of one very fascinating Yankee.

This issue also features a photo essay on the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl Charity Golf Tournament. This spread includes colorful photos of all of the colorful personalities who took part in the day — including Rex Ryan, Brian Kelly and Carl Banks from the gridiron and Brian Cashman, David Cone and John Flaherty from the diamond.

In one of the most interesting stories Yankees Magazine readers have seen, contributing writer Rick Cerrone ranks the old Yankee Stadium’s top 10 most memorable movie appearances.

In that feature, you will not find the movie *61 — because it took place in Tiger Stadium — but you will find It Could Happen to You, starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda, which Cerrone points out was the big screen debut of Bob Sheppard.

One of my all-time favorite movies, For Love of the Game, is also on the list at No. 5. The Kevin Costner flick, which, according to Cerrone, provides the most extensive footage of Yankee Stadium ever included in a film, even shows viewers the rarely seen tunnels of the original Yankee Stadium.

If you’re a fan of the Yankees or of the Silver Screen, you will be riveted by this feature, which lists The Camera Man (1928) as Yankee Stadium’s greatest movie role. You’ll have to pick up the issue to find out why!

My contribution to this issue is a Five Minutes with… interview with John Walsh, the host and creator of America’s Most Wanted. Through my interview with Walsh, I gained an even greater level of respect for him. Walsh’s unwavering efforts in the wake of his son’s abduction saved an infinite number of children from the same fate, because criminals were identified on the show and subsequently taken off the streets.

I also learned something about A.J. Burnett from Walsh. When Burnett played for the Florida Marlins, he observed the Marlins efforts in recovering abducted children and was inspired to make major contributions to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since that time, Burnett and Walsh have become friends.

Pick up this issue and enjoy the stories I previewed — along with many others.

–Alfred Santasiere III