September 2011

ON SALE THIS FRIDAY – The October Issue of Yankees Magazine

September 25, 2011 – The October issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale at Yankee Stadium and on the newsstands this Friday, September 30.

This issue has two covers. The first cover below is labeled the Official 2011 American League Division Series Program, and it will be sold at the Stadium. The second cover below will go out to our subscribers, and it will be sold on the newsstands.

Both covers feature Mariano Rivera. Associate editor Nathan Maciborski’s story on the closer details not only the record-breaking 602nd save, but also the characteristics that propelled Rivera to that awe-inspiring number.

This issue also includes a story about the great home run chase of 1961, in which former Yankees beat writer Phil Pepe goes back in time. Pepe had a perfect view of history in 1961, and he chronicles the home runs of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle like few people in the world can.

As I wrote on this blog a few weeks ago, the October issue features two stories about Lou Piniella. Hall of Fame writer Bill Madden wrote about Piniella’s career in baseball, and I got an inside look at Piniella’s post-baseball life when I spent a day with the former Yankee on his fishing boat. I am grateful to Piniella for spending the day with me on the Gulf of Mexico, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to write what I believe is a one-of-a-kind story.

Finally, the poster in this issue is the 2011 New York Yankees team photo, which was taken by Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello (pictured below).

“Derek came onto the field a few minutes after the rest of the team,” Petrozzello said. “There was an open spot next to Jesus Montero, and that’s where Derek ended up. That was neat from the standpoint of who Derek is and who everyone hopes Jesus will become.”

“This is the first year I shot the team photo,” Petrozzello continued. “While I was trying to figure out all of the details, there was a moment where I thought, ‘This is the New York Yankees standing in front of you, and this is their official team photo.’ It’s amazing to look into a camera and have the greatest franchise in the history of team sports standing in front of you and staring back at you.”

Enjoy a few outtakes of from team photo day below, and please pick up your copy of the October issue of Yankees Magazine later this week.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Celebrating the 1961 Season

September 25, 2011 — A few days before the Yankees celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Roger Maris’ 61 home run season in 1961, I attended a dinner at Manhattan’s Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, in which the organization hosted the Maris family as well as the family of Mickey Mantle.

Mantle, who hit 54 home runs in 1961, formed a close friendship with Maris. As the dinner was winding down, I spoke to Maris’ son Randy about the bond between the two iconic players.

“When Mickey and my dad got together, it was like being around two brothers,” Randy said. “They joked around constantly. You could see the affection they had for each other. They knew that they were two of the greatest ballplayers, and they had a special respect for each other.”

Randy also discussed what the admiration his father has received from the Yankees organization and from its fans has meant to the Maris family.

“We’re very proud of what my father accomplished,” Randy said. “We wish he was remembered for more than the 61 home run season, because he was a great ballplayer, who won back-to-back MVP Awards. But sometimes you’re stuck with your greatest accomplishment, and that’s not all bad.

“When Mr. Steinbrenner retired my dad’s number in the ’80s, it was an incredible day,” Randy continued. “The ovation my dad received was amazing. I didn’t think he was going to get that strong of a response. In the ’60s, the media really put a wedge between my dad and Mickey, and Mickey was the fan favorite. But when my dad came back to the Stadium in the ’80s, the fans showered him with love. I am really thankful to the Steinbrenners for not only retiring my dad’s number but also for putting together this event tonight. They didn’t have to do this, but I really appreciate that they did.”

A few minutes later, I asked Pat Maris, who is Roger’s widow, about her thoughts on the magical 1961 season.

“I just look back and feel like it was meant to be,” she said. “It’s great that Roger was so close with Mickey. It was a wonderful year.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

Division Champs!

September 24, 2011 – Following the Yankees second victory on Wednesday September 21, the team celebrated the 2011 AL East crown — which they secured with the win — in the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.

Regardless of how many champagne celebrations I will ever be in clubhouse for, I remain certain that the experience will never get old. Witnessing professional athletes dousing each other is one of the great rewards of being a part of the New York Yankees organization.

The champagne baths get wetter and go on longer with each accomplishment of a given season. For example, the 2009 World Series celebration was the wildest clubhouse party I’ve ever been a part of, and most division clinching celebrations are somewhat subdued in comparison.

However, each celebration is different and each has left me with lasting memories. My favorite memories from Wednesday will be watching Jorge Posada celebrate with his teammates. Posada, whose playing time has been reduced over the second half of the season, collected the go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning that all but secured the Yankees division title. I also enjoyed the site of Alex Rodriguez pouring an entire bottle of champagne on an unsuspecting Reggie Jackson.

“Jorge has been a big part of this team,” said Curtis Granderson. “He’s been doing everything he can for us. He’s been our DH. He’s played first base. He’s played second base. He’s caught for us. Every time he’s been moved around, he has come through like he did tonight. He is experienced, and he knows what it takes to win.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

The Great Mariano Rivera Breaks All-Time Saves Record

September 23, 2011 — Over the last decade, we’ve seen some magical accomplishments and several historical moments at the old Yankee Stadium and in the new Yankee Stadium.

Mariano Rivera has been at the heart of many of those feats, including the Yankees 2009 World Series championship.

On Monday, September 19,  Mariano Rivera broke the all-time saves record, when he recorded his 602nd save.

In my brief career, I have seen some of the greatest baseball players in history take the field on a daily basis, but I have never seen an athlete — in baseball or in any other sport for that matter — dominate his opponents as consistently as Rivera has.

It’s easy to take Rivera for granted because he rarely ever leaves the mound in defeat. In Rivera, we are watching one of the single most accomplished pitchers ever to take the mound, and it’s difficult to imagine that there will ever be another one as dominant as Rivera.

In 17 seasons, Rivera’s regular season ERA is 2.22. Trevor Hoffman, who finished his career with 601 saves, along with Hall of Famers Goose Gossage, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford all had career ERA’s that were higher than Rivera’s. Truthfully, the aforementioned pitchers are the only guys I looked up for this piece, meaning that the list of all-time greats whose ERA’s are higher than Rivera goes much deeper.

While Rivera has been as good as any pitcher in the regular season, he’s been even better when the pressure is at its highest level. In 31 postseason series, Rivera has amassed a record 42 saves, and his ERA stands at 0.30.

While the likes of Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Rivera’s current teammates, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, will always stand out as some of the greatest and most recognizable athletes in history, Rivera is just as great — even though he has never garnered the attention of those legendary figures.

As I watched Rivera discuss his career and his day with members of the media a few minutes after the game, the characteristic that stood out to me the most was the pitcher’s humility.

Rivera, who was with his three sons at the postgame press conference, was animated when he discussed the curtain call he took from the Yankee Stadium mound.

“For the first time in my career, I was on the mound by myself,” Rivera said. “Nobody was behind me. Nobody was in front of me. I can’t describe the feeling because it was priceless. I didn’t know what the moment would be like that. All I have to say is I was thanking God in that moment. It was an indescribable feeling.”

Rivera was gracious about the attention he received in the days leading up to his record-breaking save, but he also was candid about his desire for the focus to go back to his team.

“I was getting more uncomfortable,” Rivera said. “I’m a team player and when things like this come up, I kind of feel like it’s not right to have so much attention on me. I like to be under the radar and to do my job. Now it’s over, and we have places to go. We’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

A few minutes after the press conference, I rushed off to an event that Alex Rodriguez was at in a Yankee Stadium suite, and I spoke to the third baseman about Rivera.

A-Rod’s comments epitomized what Rivera is all about. Mo’s is as great a teammate as he is a baseball player — and there haven’t been too many baseball players as good as Rivera.

“I sit at third base, and I marvel at this guy,” Rodriguez said. “He is truly amazing, and I’m such a big fan of him. Everyone talks about 602, but what’s really amazing is that what he does in our clubhouse. He is one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever known. From the minute I came here in 2004, he made it easy for me to be one of the guys, and has meant more to me than I can put into words.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

5 Minutes with Urban Meyer

September 23, 2011 — Many of the interviews I conduct each season are planned out days in advance, weeks in advance and in some cases even months in advance.

The interview that I conducted with Condoleezza Rice for The Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine took place in June, but I reached out to the former secretary of state for the first time in January.

Some interviews require no planning at all, and the process of trying to secure time with the subject through phone calls and e-mails is non-existent.

Those interviews usually take place when a dignitary, entertainer or sports figure makes a surprise visit to Yankee Stadium. In the last five years, I was able to interview Paul McCartney (2007) and Colin Powell (2010) on what were spur of the moment visits to the ballpark.

Earlier this summer, I spoke to former University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer in the Yankees dugout. I didn’t know that Meyer was going to be at the game until I walked onto the field, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him.

My interview with Meyer will be published in the October issue of Yankees Magazine, and it includes Meyer’s recollections of George Steinbrenner. Long before Meyer led the Florida Gators to two National Championships, he was an assistant coach with Ohio University, an institution that Steinbrenner made major contributions to over many years.

“I actually know more about Mr. Steinbrenner because he was in the shipping industry, and I lived on Lake Eerie,” Meyer said. “He meant a lot to Ohio State because he not only donated money, but he also gave so much of his time to the university. When I moved to Florida, I began to see how much philanthropic work he did in Tampa. Of course, he also transformed the game of baseball because of his desire to always be the best.”

Check out the rest of the interview in October issue of Yankees Magazine, which comes out on Friday September 30.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Never Forget

September 9, 2011 – Before today’s game, the Yankees held a ceremony to commemorate the tragic events of 9/11.

In the ceremony, congressional medal of honor winner Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry was honored and former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld escorted several wounded veterans, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, onto the field.

Following the ceremony, Hank Grazioso of the Yankees ticket office threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. Grazioso lost both of his sons, John and Tim, on 9/11. Both men worked in the World Trade Center.

Grazioso is kind man, who is well respected throughout the Yankees organization for his spirit, work ethic and passion. I was honored just to be standing on the field with Grazioso in the moments before he took the mound. When Grazioso greeted me with a hug, I felt overwhelmed by his warmth.

As I’ve said before, Grazioso’s sons would be proud of their father today — and they would have been proud of him on every other day since 9/11.

After the game got under way, I interviewed Rumsfeld about the ceremony. While I was interested in his words about the festivities, I couldn’t wait to hear the former secretary of defense’s comments about Grazioso.

“I was happy to have a chance to visit with Hank and his family,” Rumsfeld said. “They are strong people, and I admire them for that. I told Hank that I was glad he was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch because I’ve got a titanium right shoulder, and I couldn’t have gotten it half as far as he got the ball.

“I have a lot of respect for the Yankees organization for hosting this ceremony, for bringing in the Wounded Warriors and for inviting the Medal of Honor winner to be here,” Rumsfeld continued. “As we approach this tenth anniversary of 9/11, it’s important for everyone to pause and remember the sacrifice of the troops, the firemen and the policemen, those who lost their lives and their families and friends. I appreciate what the Yankees organization has done.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

September Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE NOW

September 7, 2011 – The September issue of Yankees Magazine is on sale at Yankee Stadium, and it will be on the shelves through the end of the month.

This issue features an interesting group of subjects, including two pitchers who are a big part of the Yankees present-day hopes, two pitchers who are a part of the Yankees future plans and a guy whose arm was better than that of most pitchers and who almost became a big part of the Yankees past.

The two current pitchers who are profiled are CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon. Associate editor Nathan Maciborski wrote the cover story on Sabathia and managing editor Ken Derry wrote the feature on Colon. Both stories offer exclusive quotes and take readers into the lives of the subjects.

Research editor Craig Tapper spent a few days in Trenton, N.J. and Scranton, PA, where he met with pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances — who are both pitching for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees at this time. Similar to the way I introduced our readership to Jesus Montero last year when I spent a few days with the catcher in Scranton, this story will introduce Yankees fans to two pitchers who will likely play significant roles on the big club before long.

As I wrote on this blog earlier in the summer, my feature story in the September issue is on former Yankees minor league outfielder John Elway. I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to interview the football legend in his office at the Denver Broncos training facility, and I believe Elway provided me with the most candid words you will ever see about his time in the Yankees organization and his ultimate decision to play professional football.

Finally, this month marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, and in several areas of Yankees Magazine, we paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who were killed on that horrific day.

If you purchase this issue, please read my Press Box column on page 1. I am especially proud to have had the opportunity to work with two men who epitomize dignity in everything they do. Hank Grazioso of the Yankees ticket office lost his two sons, John and Tim, on 9/11. Frank Swaine, who served as an executive in the Yankees ticket office for many years, lost his son, John on that tragic morning.

Since 9/11, Grazioso has honored his sons by coming to work and doing his job in the most passionate and graceful way that one could imagine.

Before his retirement in 2008, Swaine represented everything that is good about the Yankees organization, treating everyone who crossed his path with respect.

Earlier this summer, I interviewed former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and he spoke to me about the morning of 9/11, the Yankees role in helping to heal a wounded city and about how he reacted when he learned that the United States military had conducted a mission that ended the life of Osama bin Laden. I believe that interview is a must read, as is the feature that columnist Bob Klapisch wrote about the Yankees 2001 World Series run and the tragedies of 9/11.

–Alfred Santasiere III