August 2011

A Day on the Ocean with Lou Piniella

August 26, 2011 – In the October issue of Yankees Magazine, there will be a two-part story on Lou Piniella.

The first part of the story will detail Piniella’s time with the Yankees, which included tenures as a player, coach, manager and executive, along with his overall baseball career. Hall of Fame baseball scribe and New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden, who covered Piniella for two decades Yankees will write that feature.

Madden is the best in the business, and he was in the ballpark for virtually every significant moment in Piniella’s Yankees career. Additionally, the mutual trust and admiration that Piniella and Madden have for each other will certainly go a long way in making this an inimitable story.

I wrote the second section of the story, and it details the most recent time Piniella’s life. Since managing the final game of his career last August with the Cubs, Sweet Lou returned to Tampa, where he was born and raised.

These days, Piniella is more relaxed than baseball fans would ever imagine. The fiery former skipper’s main priority is family. He and his wife Anita, who have been married for nearly 45 years, live within a few miles of their three children and three grandchildren, and they are enjoying all of the free time they now have.

“My family needed me to be home, and I needed to be home,” Piniella said. “People always told me that I would know when it was time to leave the game, and I defiantly knew it was time.”

Piniella, who works as a scout for the San Francisco Giants — but rarely travels out of the Tampa area, has also found time to pursue his life-long passion for fishing.

Since last fall, Piniella has spent at least one day a week on his 35-foot fishing boat. He has a full-time captain at his service, and, he has fished in the Gulf of Mexico and in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean near Tampa and off the coasts of Key West,  Miami, Panama and other locations.

About a month ago, Piniella invited me to spend a day with him on his boat, which is named Extra Innings.

That day took place on Aug. 23, and it was as thrilling as it was hot.

At 8 in the morning, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I met Piniella at the St. Petersburg marina where “Extra Innings” is docked.

We traveled 24 miles from shore, and amid the nearly 100-degree heat, Piniella and I caught a dozen fish. We released the assortment of red grouper and gag grouper, which were about 20 inches long, and which were living near the bottom of the 100-foot depth in that area of the ocean.

Reeling in the hard-diving grouper for 100 feet in 100 degree weather was challenging and exhilarating. Each fish took about 3 minutes to get into the boat, and when I woke up the next morning, I felt like I had been in weight-lifting competition.

That challenge is what Piniella enjoys most about being on the water.

“This is a rush,” he said a second after hooking his first fish of the day. “It doesn’t compare to baseball, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”

Each fish that Piniella and I caught provided us with a new highlight of the day. But for this writer and fisherman, the most captivating moments were those in which Piniella spoke about his current place in time.

One of those moments came in the middle of the afternoon when I remarked about the fact that regardless of what direction we looked in, all we could see was the clear blue ocean, the light blue sky and the horizon.

“This truly is serenity,” Piniella said. “When I’m out here, I am completely relaxed, because the only thing I’m thinking about is fishing”

–Alfred Santasiere III

5 Minutes with Army Football Coach Rich Ellerson … at West Point

August 26, 2011 – In addition to my Five Minutes with Rudy Giuliani interview, there will be two question and answer pieces with college football coaches in the upcoming September issue of Yankees Magazine.

Those coaches are Greg Schiano of Rutgers and Rich Ellerson of Army, and the two field generals have something in common.

They will be leading their respective teams into Yankee Stadium on Nov. 12.

Yankees Magazine associate editor Nathan Maciborski interviewed Schiano during the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl Charity Golf Tournament in May, and that feature is a must-read.

On Aug. 18, I traveled to picturesque West Point, where I interviewed Ellerson in his office, which sits on the campus of the United States Military Academy.

Ellerson, who was unable to lead his team to victory in the first football at Yankee Stadium, shared his thoughts on how this year’s game in the Bronx will be different from Army’s 27-3 defeat to Notre Dame in 2010.

“Nothing we did before that game prepared us for that stage,” Ellerson said. “I was relatively familiar with the infrastructure and the grounds of Yankee Stadium, but we didn’t handle that big stage very well. We will use that experience as a learning opportunity. We’re not going to be overawed when we play there this season. That setting is spectacular, but we plan to use it as a source of energy as opposed to a distraction.”

I also spoke to Ellerson about the many service men and women he is surrounded by at the most prestigious military institution in the world. Ellerson discussed the sense of pride he believes those young men and women have in defending our country in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I’m with a unique group of young men and women at West Point, but I’ve spent the last 30-plus years going into high schools, and I sense that this generation is more focused on service and more focused on doing something extraordinary with their lives,” Ellerson said.I think this generation is different in a positive way, and I believe the tragic events of 9/11, and the conversations and self-awareness that stemmed from those events are a big part of that evolution.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

Ladies Night

August 22, 2011 — The Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine, which has now been on the shelves for three weeks, has received a considerable amount of publicity. The New York Daily News published a piece on the first official team publication in American professional sports dedicated to women in its Sunday “Score” column on Aug. 14. The Record of Bergen County, N.J. and also put out articles on this groundbreaking edition or our flagship publication. Additionally, the Yankees Magazine TV show — which is a weekly program on the YES Network — ran a segment on the Women’s Issue two weeks ago. The show’s host Nancy Newman interviewed Yankees assistant GM Jean Afterman, senior VP of Marketing Debbie Tymon and me during the piece.

On Saturday night, the Trenton Thunder brought the celebration to their ballpark. Aug. 20 was Ladies Night at Waterfront Park, and as part of the evening’s theme, the first 700 women in attendance received a complimentary copy of The Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The magazines, which were donated by the New York Yankees, were a big hit at the gates, especially because they came as a surprise to the ladies in attendance.

The Yankees Double-A affiliate had a sell-out crowd of more than 7,800 fans, and as a result, the magazines went quickly.

Following the first game of a double-header against the Bowie Baysox, the Thunder moved the festivities to the field, where my wife Tiana was acknowledged for coming up with the idea of The Women’s Issue. Along with my son Alfred and I, Tiana threw a ceremonial first pitch.

It was an honor to throw my third ceremonial first pitch in Trenton, but taking the field with Tiana and Alfred — which my parents looked on from the area in front of the first base dugout — was by far the most thrilling part of the experience. I will never ever forget the feeling of pride and joy I had as Tiana threw a strike to Trenton’s Ryan Baker, or as my brave little boy, tossed a perfect pitch to the catcher’s mitt, while nearly 8,000 fans cheered him on.

And for my own sake, I’m glad I threw a strike!

–Alfred Santasiere III

ON SALE NOW – The Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine

August 9, 2011 – Long before the first pitch of tonight’s game was thrown, history was made at Yankee Stadium.

Today, the August issue of Yankees Magazine went on sale. This is The Women’s Issue.

The Women’s Issue is truly the first of its kind. It’s the first issue of an official team publication in American professional sports dedicated to women.

Not only am I proud of that fact, but also I am also prideful about the collection of stories and photographs on the pages of this groundbreaking publication. I proud to share the story of how this issue came about, and I’m am overjoyed by the reaction to this issue.

While there are so many women who deserve to be featured in this pioneer publication, getting them all in would have been impossible. With that said, we tried to choose the most appropriate and significant group that we could.

The cover features a photo of Joan Steinbrenner, wife of the late George Steinbrenner, Yankees vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, Yankees vice chairperson Jessica Steinbrenner and Christina Steinbrenner, wife of Yankees co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner.

The Steinbrenner women could not have been more supportive, and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal not only gave her blessing to the project, she assisted in the editorial process and provided wonderful suggestions throughout the process.

The cover story, which was written by senior editor Kristina Dodge, is on the philanthropic work of the Steinbrenner family, and it brings to life the many ways our cover subjects have given back for so long. Kristina also wrote several sidebars on the charitable work of many of our players’ wives, and I wrote a two-page sidebar on one of the classiest people I’ve ever met — Rachel Robinson. As I wrote in the article, without Rachel Robinson’s strength and encouragement, it’s hard to imagine that Jackie Robinson would have been … Jackie Robinson.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview quite a few people in my time with the Yankees and, but my interview with former United States secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is the one I consider to the best of my career. Secretary Rice, who is pictured below with my wife Tiana and I, provided brilliant perspective on everything from 9/11 and it’s effect on America’s security to the significance of The Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Yankees assistant GM Jean Afterman and senior VP of marketing Debbie Tymon authored their own feature stories, and they absolutely must-reads.

From the two-sided poster, which features photos of all of the New York and Tampa based female employees of the Yankees to bios on the eight female department heads in the organization, to a story about a few female employees who have each been with the Yankees for 30 or more years, the “Women of the New York Yankees” section runs the gamut.

The same can be said for the Trailblazers section, which details several people who have furthered the development of women’s sports. That section includes stories about Billie Jean King, Jennie Finch, Mia Hamm and coaches Pat Summitt, Mike Candrea (pictured below in his Tucson, Arizona home) and Geno Auriemma.

We got Bergen Record sports writer Tara Sullivan to write about her own journey. We authored stories about Title IX, women’s baseball during World War II, women’s baseball today and Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens.

In other words, this issue is as comprehensive as they come, and because of the hard work of the publications team of Ken Derry, Kristina Dodge, Nathan Maciborski, Ariele Goldman and Craig Tapper, and the photography of James Petrozzello and Lou Rocco, every page stands out.

All of this would not have come about if not for my wife Tiana, who in a casual conversation last fall about potential Yankees Magazine stories said, “What about a Women’s Issue?”

This is Tiana’s brainchild, and I am grateful to her for literally bringing such an innovative idea to the dinning room table.

Lastly, in the day and half since copies of this issue entered the Stadium, the response to it has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. To everyone whose kind words have made my day, I say thank you.

–Alfred Santasiere III

The Story of John Elway … the Outfielder

August 4, 2011— I am writing this post from Denver, Colorado, where I have been for the last days, and where I conducted one of the best interviews of my life.

The interview took place with a former Yankees minor leaguer, who played professional baseball for one season. Actually, to be more accurate, he played for six weeks in the Single-A New York-Penn League.

You’re probably wondering why I believe this interview was so special.

Well, the former minor leaguer’s name is John Elway. The same John Elway who played quarterback for the Denver Broncos for 16 seasons, throwing for more than 50,000 yards and for 300 touchdown passes. The same John Elway who took the Broncos to five Super Bowls, and who won the last two – in his final two seasons. The same John Elway who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

The same John Elway who is regarded as one of the single greatest football players in the history of the game.

While die-hard Yankees fans know may know that Elway played rightfield for the Oneonta Yankees in 1982, I believe that I am in the process of writing the most thorough story about Elway’s time in the Yankees organization.

This feature, which will appear in the September issue of Yankees Magazine, will include all of the background information on what went into Elway’s decision to sign a reported $140,000 contract to play for the Yankees. It will include a description of just how much Yankees late owner George Steinbrenner wanted Elway to wear the pinstripes, and it will include quotes from Elway’s Oneonta teammates and the scout who watched Elway play at Stanford University.

But what I believe will separate this story from any others which were written on this subject is Elway’s words. I spoke to Elway for a half hour in his office at the Denver Broncos facility. Elway, who is in his first season as the Broncos executive vice president of football operations, spoke candidly about how his success in Oneonta nearly swayed him toward baseball.

“Finishing the season the way I did gave me the confidence that I could play baseball at a high level,” said Elway, who after starting 1-for-22, completed the season with a  .318 batting average. “Baseball became a viable option for me that summer. I enjoyed playing baseball everyday. I left there thinking, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but this is something I would definitely be happy doing for a long time.”

Elway, who played signed with the Yankees in 1981 and played for Oneonta in between his junior and senior years of at Stanford University, was drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, a team he stated he would not play for. The Colts ultimately traded Elway to Broncos, and that compelled the quarterback to go in the direction of the gridiron

But for one summer, he was a Yankee, and he enjoyed every minute of it.

“I lived in a fraternity house with 11 other guys,” Elway said. “I think the rent was $10 each for us. I had not spent that much time on the east coast, so that was a lot of fun. I enjoyed traveling on the buses, and we went to a local pizza parlor for dinner and a few beers after every game, and that was always a great time. We didn’t have cars, so we walked to the park everyday, walked to the pizza parlor after the game and walked home after that.

“They had egg and water balloon tosses before a lot of the games, and that was part of being a minor league baseball player,” Elway continued. “It was a great experience for me.”

Near the end of the interview, I asked Elway if he ever asks himself what his life would have been like had he chosen baseball over football.

“I think about that all of the time,” Elway said. Even though my football career turned out the way it did, to be dead honest with you, if there is one thing I would have liked to have done, it would have been to be a Yankee. I look at the legacy that Mr. Steinbrenner has left there, which is one in which they do everything they can to win baseball games and championships, and I am in awe. I really don’t think about what it would have been like to play baseball. I think about what it would have been like to have played for the Yankees.

“But even thought I ended up playing professional football, I am still proud to have been part of the Yankees organization,” Elway concluded.

The collection of photographs in this story are spectacular, especially the open spread image (below), which Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took moments after my interview with Elway.

The background of the photo features memorabilia that represents the highlights of Elway’s career, including photos of his two Super Bowl wins and a photo of him with fellow 1983 rookie quarterbacks (who are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. But what I believe to be the most special part of the environment is the football that Elway has his hand on.

Petrozzello noticed the football sitting on a shelf, where it would not have been seen in the photo, and he asked Elway if he could place it in a mail container on the desk. Elway gladly approved, and as a result, the legendary quarterback is holding a football that bears the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s logo.

The symbolism I find in the football is that it is the piece of memorabilia that is most prominent in the photo, and it represents the greatest of Elway’s gridiron accomplishments.

Lastly, thank you to John Elway for so much time, candor and kindness. He is as great a person as he was a quarterback. And to Denver Broncos vice president of corporate communications Jim Saccomano and executive director of media relations Patrick Smyth, many thanks for the tremendous efforts on this project. They both went above and beyond to make this story happen, and they represent everything that is good about our business.

–Alfred Santasiere III

America’s Mayor

August 4, 2011 — In a few short weeks, the September issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale, and it will include several peoples’ recollections of the tragic events of 9/11, as well as a feature story about the Yankees’ uplifting run to 2001 World Series.

While the sadness that New Yorkers, Americans and especially those who lost loved ones, were forced to endure is indescribable, the spirit and resilience that New York City has shown in the decade since 9/11 is awe-inspiring.

In an interview with former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine, which comes out on August 8, I asked Secretary Rice share her thoughts on the way New Yorkers have fought back from the nation’s greatest tragedy. Trust me when I tell you, Secretary Rice’s answer will resonate with you.

I asked that same question to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in an interview at the Yogi Berra Museum Celebrity Golf Classic in June. Guiliani’s answer provided great perspective on New York’s City’s comeback, and, in my opinion, reaffirmed why New York is the greatest city in the world.

“It’s remarkable,” Guiliani said. “On the night of Sept. 11, I asked New Yorkers to be stronger, and they haven’t disappointed me — not that I thought they would. New York is stronger now than it was before Sept. 11, spiritually, mentally and in every other way. They’ve shown great resilience, and that is a weapon against terrorism, because it proves that terrorists can’t break our will.”

Those words along with the rest of the “5 Minutes with Rudy Giuliani” piece will be published in the September issue of Yankees Magazine.

While I believe that every answer Guiliani gave in that interview was as interesting as it was inspiring, I wasn’t surprised. After all, it was Giuliani who provided the city with leadership and guidance strong enough to earn him TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2001 as well as honorary knighthood from England’s Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.

You’ll have to wait until the September issue comes out to read the entire interview, but I will share an additional anecdote that Guiliani provided. When I asked the life-long Yankees fan to describe the role the Yankees played in lifting the spirits of New Yorkers, Giuliani gave a heartfelt response.

“The Yankees were very important, and baseball made a big difference,” he said. “By going to a large number of funerals after 9/11, I realized that so many of the people who were killed, as well as their family members, were baseball fans. The thrilling games that the Yankees won during the 2001 postseason helped get the spirits of those families up. People who lost loved ones told me that the two miracle comebacks that the Yankees made in Game 4 and in Game 5 of the World Series made them feel as if their loved ones were watching the Yankees with them. The Yankees reminded people of what you need to be reminded of when you are very sad, and that is that life does go on and that while it is difficult, you can deal with such great loss.”

–Alfred Santasiere III