March 21, 2012 – On March 7, I conducted one of the most memorable interviews of my career.
A few hours before the Yankees took on the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida I interviewed Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt.
As I sat in the home dugout between Schmidt, who hit 548 career home runs and Jackson, who hit 563 home runs, I can honestly say that I took it all in.
The half-hour long interview brought out the best in both legends. While the mood was relaxed, the former players offered answers that were as luminous as their play once was.
At the start of the interview, I asked Jackson what made Schmidt one of the best players in history, and I asked Schmidt what made Jackson one of the all-time greats.
“The well roundedness of his game,” Jackson began. “When I think about players like George Brett, Brooks Robinson and Eddie Mathews, who had great careers, I still believe Mike is the best third baseman of all-time. Mike’s power, consistency and run production were second to none, and he always got big hits when it mattered the most. Mike won a championship, earned World Series MVP honors and led the league in home runs eight times.
“Mike and I came into the game together, and there were some high expectations on both of us,” Jackson continued. “We both lived up to those expectations, and we’ve been friends for a long time, which is pretty cool.”
“Reggie is the epitome of charisma and winning,” Schmidt added. “He always enjoyed the pressure of big games. One of the things I admired about him before we became friends was his ability to handle that pressure. There was something about Reggie in that he could always find the big hit when his team needed it. He was a winner from his days in Oakland through the years he spent with the Yankees, and it’s very special to have a such a great friendship with him now.”
A few minutes later, I asked Jackson to talk about Bob Sheppard, whose career as the Yankee Stadium public address announcer spanned more than 50 years, and who Mr. October once referred to as “The Voice of God.”
“Bob Sheppard had been at Yankee Stadium from the days of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle through the Derek Jeter era,” Jackson said. “That is an incredible tenure, and one that will never be duplicated. When fans walked into Yankee Stadium and heard, ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to Yankee Stadium,’ they felt a reverence for the ballpark. When Bob announced my name, it gave me the chills, and it was an honor for every ballplayer to hear their name get announced by him.”
I then asked Schmidt to discuss another iconic baseball voice, Philadelphia’s Harry Kalas, who I am proud to have once met, when I was an intern in the Phillies ticket office in 2000.
“Harry began his career at around the same time I broke into the big leagues,” Schmidt said. “Harry called just about every game of my career. I owe a great deal to him because he was the middleman between our fan base and me. Harry always painted a positive picture of me, and he always said good things about me in between innings.
“Of course, he also gave me the nickname, Michael Jack, which people in Philadelphia still call me,” Schmidt continued. “It’s fun to live through Harry’s voice, memories and the pictures he painted of my career. Like Bob Sheppard, Harry is a baseball legend.”
As Schmidt was answering my final question, Jim Thome of the Phillies arrived in the dugout and greeted Jackson. That moment was somewhat surreal as I was now in the presence of three members of the 500 Home Run Club. Between Thome, who has 604 home runs to his name, and Jackson and Schmidt, the men who had converged on the far side of the third base dugout had hit a combined 1,715 home runs.
The entire Q&A feature with will be published in the October issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
March 21, 2012 – On March 1, I celebrated my 33rd birthday over lunch with a guy who once wore No. 33 for the New York Yankees.
David Wells, who pitched a perfect game for the Yankees on May 17, 1998, spoke to me about his career in pinstripes at his favorite eatery in Florida.
Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I met Wells at Pete & Shorty’s Tavern in Clearwater for lunch and for the first part of a candid interview that will ultimately take us to San Diego in May.
The story I’m working on will detail Wells’ first and second tenures in pinstripes along with his current-day life, in which he is a Yankees spring training instructor, a baseball analyst for the TBS Network and a pitching coach for his alma mater, Point Loma High School in San Diego.
I found Pete & Shorty’s, which is famous for its delicious burgers, to be the perfect place to meet Wells at because of his history of dining there with a most-influential owner.
Following the trade in which Wells (along with Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd) was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roger Clemens, Wells met the late George Steinbrenner at Pete & Shorty’s on several occasions, as the two became friends.
On Christmas Eve of 2001, at which time Wells was a free agent, Steinbrenner threw a curveball to the pitcher.
“He offered me a three-year deal to come back to the Yankees,” Wells said. “It was hard for me to hold back my emotions. I wanted to pump my fist, because I was so excited. George was writing out the terms of the deal on paper napkins. Finally, someone brought us some paper. It was absolutely crazy to think that the deal came together in a conversation among two friends over burgers.
“When I left the restaurant that day, I was laughing because I couldn’t believe what had just transpired,” Wells continued. “I also shed a few tears of joy because I was going to be coming back to a place I loved.”
As our conversation continued, Wells spoke to me about what it meant to throw a perfect game in pinstripes — a game that Petrozzello and I were at many years before either of us worked for the Yankees.
“It gave me a legacy in New York and with the Yankees,” Wells said. “If I had thrown a perfect game anywhere else, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. Even today, when I walk through New York City, I hear ‘Hey Booma, great perfect game.”
I will post a second blog entry about this story, which will be published in the August issue of Yankees Magazine, following my upcoming trip to San Diego.
–Alfred Santasiere III
March 21, 2012 – In case you haven’t seen it yet, the Spring 2012 Issue of Yankees Magazine is out.
As I wrote on this blog a few months ago, the cover story details Derek Jeter’s return to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan for the ceremony in which his high school field was named after him.
I am especially proud to have had the opportunity to spend time with the Yankees captain where he learned to the play the game that has catapulted him to iconic status.
This issue also features a story by contributing writer Jack Curry about Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano’s mid-winter trip to Taiwan for an All-Star series and sightseeing tour, as well as managing editor Kristina M. Dodge’s story on the first 10 years of the YES Network.
There is also a story about the many Negro League games played at the old Yankee Stadium in the 1930s and 1940, and contributing writer Eric Enders brilliantly wrote that feature.
This issue of Yankees Magazine has added significance because it’s the first ever edition that is also available digitally.
You can place an order for individual copies of this groundbreaking issue or for a one-year digital subscription to Yankees Magazine through www.yankees.com/publications.
In addition to being able to purchase the print edition of Yankees Magazine through www.yankees.com/publications, you can also subscribe by calling (800) GO-YANKS.
–Alfred Santasiere III
March 4, 2012 — One of the feature stories I am working on this spring will detail a day in the life of Michael Pineda, the Yankees newest starting pitcher. The feature will be published in the April 2012 issue of Yankees Magazine and in the 2012 New York Yankees Official Yearbook.
Pineda is 23 years old, and he was traded to the Yankees for another budding star, catcher Jesus Montero.
In his first big-league season, Pineda made an impact on the baseball world, posting a 9-10 record with a 3.74 ERA. The 6-foot, 7-inch righthander, who struck out 173 batters in 171 innings for the Mariners last year, was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.
At around 7:30 am on February 29, I met Pineda at the apartment complex he is living in during Spring Training. On the way to the ballpark, he spoke to me about now much his thoughts on pitching for the Yankees.
“I’m proud to have a chance to play for the Yankees,” Pineda said. “I’m looking forward to having the chance to win every time I go out there. The Yankees’ goal is to win the World Series every year, and I feel lucky to be a part of that.”
After we arrived at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Pineda retreated to the players’
lounge, where he ate breakfast with Ivan Nova and Rafael Soriano before taking a seat at his locker next to Freddy Garcia. Garcia, whose career also began in Seattle in the late ’90s, has taken Pineda under his wing this spring.
Garcia has taken every possible opportunity to educate Pineda on the challenges of pitching on baseball’s brightest stage.
“He’s really relaxed from what I have seen so far,” Garcia told me. “He’s confident, and that’s really important. If you play in New York, you have to be confidant and go out there and show people you can pitch there.”
I then accompanied Pineda to a traveling camper that the Mizuno baseball glove manufacturer brings to each spring training complex, so that players can select the mitts they want to use during the upcoming season.
Pineda choose three new mitts for 2012.
Following that day’s workout, Pineda spent about an hour in the weight room, before leaving the complex for the day.
“It’s a pretty detailed schedule for me here,” Pineda said as he walked toward the parking lot. “If there is something to do after practice, I will do it, but I like to go home and get some rest in the afternoon.”
A few hours later, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello, the Yankees On Demand video team and I were back at Pineda’s apartment, where the pitcher and his mother Daisy cooked locrio de pollo, a traditional Dominican meal, for the group.
“I started cooking in Wisconsin when I was 19 years old,” Pineda said. “I was pitching for the Mariners Single-A team, and there was no Dominican food there. I would call my mom every night to ask her questions about cooking. The first time I cooked a full meal was for five of my teammates. At that point, I didn’t know how much salt or sugar to add, so everything had a lot of flavor. But by the middle of that season, I had figured it out and I was a good cook.”
I believe this story will provide a thorough introduction to who Pineda is off the field, as well as how good he can be on the mound.
–Alfred Santasiere III
March 4, 2012 – A few short hours after the NBA All-Star Game came to a close, I was at George M. Steinbrenner Field for Media Day. As always, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello captured beautifully lit portraits of virtually every Yankees player. Many of those photos will grace the covers and interiors of upcoming issues of Yankees Magazine this season.
Petrozzello photographed the players from the umpires’ locker room rather than from his customary spot in the dugout. The location change will give the magazine a slightly different look in 2012, and I am optimistic that it will be well received.
Another difference from media day in recent years is that the New York Yankees media relations department brought back a tradition that had not been carried out in at least a decade.
For the first time in years, players were given index cards with their names on them, so that the many photographers and editorial directors could easily identify each player on the 40-man roster, which includes several guys who have not yet played in the majors.
During Derek Jeter’s first spring training in the Yankees big-league camp, a few photographers asked the shortstop to hold up the index card, so that he could easily be identified.
Twenty years later, Jeter was again walking from photo station to photo station with an index card featuring his name and uniform number. This time around, we were the only publication to ask Jeter to pose with the card. Needless to say, our reason was not because we didn’t recognize one of the most famous faces in the world, but rather because it made for a unique photo, which will be published in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
March 4, 2012 – On Sunday night (Feb. 26), I was in Orlando for the NBA All-Star Game. The high-scoring affair was thrilling from start to finish, as the West edged out a 152-149 win over the East.
Although the West won the game, most NBA fans will likely remember other aspects of the evening long after they’ve forgotten the score.
For me, the most memorable part of the night was the first quarter. At that juncture, it seemed as if the only two players on the court were LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. In one sequence, Bryant hit a three pointer, James responded with a monster dunk, Bryant followed with another three-point bomb, and again, James came back with a gravity-defying slam.
There were three Yankees players at the game, and I caught up with two of them before they made the trip back to Tampa.
Alex Rodriguez told me that while watching James and Bryant battle it out in the first quarter was fun, the incredible number of slam dunks by both teams was what he enjoyed the most. In total, there were 40 dunks in the game.
“Those guys are rock stars,” Rodriguez said. “They put on a great show, and I was glad I could be there. It was the first time I was at an NBA All-Star Game, and it was a good one to be at.”
Curtis Granderson told me that his favorite NBA player is Kevin Durant. The Oklahoma City star, who finished with 36 points, took home the game’s MVP Award.
“Kevin is my favorite player because he is so quick for a big guy,” Granderson said. “He played hard the whole night, and his endurance really stood out. He would get a dunk, and then get back and play defense. It never appeared as if he was tired.
“All of those guys are athletic, and they had a chance to display their skills on Sunday,” Granderson continued. “The fans wanted to see them do what most people in the world can’t do, and that’s what they saw.”
There will be a Bomber Bite article in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine on the Yankees who were at the game.
–Alfred Santasiere III