September 2012

Baseball Paradise in the Rocky Mountains

September 20, 2012 — In early September, I spent a day at B’s Ballpark Museum in Colorado, learning about one of the most unique collections in the world.

My feature story in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on the downtown Denver Museum, which is dedicated to America’s most iconic ballparks.

The museum’s curator, Bruce Hellerstein, has had a life-long interest in ballparks, and he began collecting rare pieces in the mid-’80s. Within a few years, he had more than 500 items on display in the basement of his house.

A few years later, Hellerstein formed a 501(c)(3) organization and brought his museum to a building that is located a stone’s throw from Coors Field.

“The vast majority of the items we have are unique,” said Hellerstein, a 63-year old CPA. “This is not your run-of-the-mill museum, and it was never intended to be that way. The primary focus is on ballparks, and there’s no other museum in the country that can make that claim. Even the Hall of Fame, which has a section dedicated to ballparks, doesn’t have a collection that is as comprehensive as what we have.”

The museum holds turnstiles from the original Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, light fixtures from Ebbets Field, and an autographed copy of The Babe Ruth Story. There are also several distinct sections in the 1,000 square-foot room, including one dedicated to the classic ballparks that were built between 1909 and 1923.

In total, 14 major league ballparks were built during that time, and there are two original seats from each of those parks in the museum. That group of ballparks includes Boston’s Fenway Park, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, Manhattan’s Polo Grounds, Philadelphia’s Shibe Park and the original Yankee Stadium.

There is a section in the back of the museum displaying several pieces of memorabilia from Wrigley Field, including six flags, one of which reads “WF.” That flag flew at the ballpark during the 1945 World Series, the last Fall Classic the Cubs ever played in.

Nearby the Wrigley Field shrine area is a corner of the museum dedicated to Fenway Park, and it includes an 8-foot piece of the Green Monster, which has an imprint of a major league baseball on it.

Last but not least, there is a section of the museum dedicated to the old Yankee Stadium, and it’s full of one-of-a-kind treasures. The most unique piece in that space (and for all intent and purposes, in the entire museum) is a drain cover from the 1951 World Series, the same Fall Classic in which Mickey Mantle tripped over a drain cover and permanently damaged his knee. While Hellerstein can’t confirm that he owns the actual drain cover that Mantle was injured on, he knows that it came from the same outfield that The Mick patrolled during that era.

There are many more rare collectables in B’s Ballpark Museum, and you can read about them in my feature story, which will appear in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

And, if you’re from Colorado or you happen to find yourself in the Rocky Mountains, I suggest you visit this baseball paradise.

–Alfred Santasiere III

5 Minutes with Broadway Joe

September 20, 2012 — As I wrote in a blog entry last week, I had the privilege of interviewing Joe Namath on September 11 at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan for a “5 Minutes with…” piece that will appear in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The interview took place on the deck of the 17th floor suite we reserved at the private hotel.

Broadway Joe arrived at the room at 9:30 in the morning, and before we walked out onto the deck, he grabbed a cup of coffee and spent about 10 minutes carrying on a light-hearted with me, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and the rest of our group.

From the start, Namath was as kind and as down to earth as any athlete I’ve been around.

After our initial conversation, we went out to the roof and sat at a table that was positioned in front of (and above) a picturesque view of Central Park and the New York City skyline.

I found myself having a cup of coffee with one of New York City’s greatest icons, Joe Namath, while looking down at the Big Apple from a balcony. The weather was perfect, as was the moment. It was so perfect, in fact, that it didn’t even seem real.

But it was real. It was happening.

In the interview, which lasted about a half hour, I asked Namath about his childhood in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and about the experience of moving from Western Pennsylvania to Alabama to play for Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide.

“It was a big-time change for me,” Namath said about his arrival in the South. “Coach Bryant understood that where I came from was very different from Alabama, and he made a terrific effort to help me out. He helped me get acclimated, and he helped me get my mind in the right place. Most importantly, he helped me understand the social structure down there. If he wasn’t my coach, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Of course, I asked Namath about the guarantee he made prior to taking on the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. And, although I’m too young to have followed Broadway Joe’s career, hearing him repeat the guarantee in the same cadence and with the same gusto as he did before to the biggest game of life, was a powerful experience.

“The confidence I had was because of how good our team was,” Namath said about the 1968 New York Jets. “Also, for two weeks, we were told that we didn’t have a chance, so when I said, ‘We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it,’ it was just a reaction. I didn’t plan on saying it, but I felt that way. A few days before the game, someone said something that got to me, and I just responded by guaranteeing the win. That really came from the confidence Coach Bryant instilled in me years before.”

While we were on the topic of Super Bowl III, Namath discussed his emotions when he walked to midfield for the coin toss and met his childhood idol, Johnny Unitas — who was nearing the end of his career with the Colts.

“The voice in my head was saying, ‘Here you are, man. This is where you want to be,’” Namath said. “I savored the moment. It was a thrill shaking hands with Johnny, looking him in the eye and seeing the guy whose number I wore in high school. I didn’t walk back to the sideline. I ran. All I could think was, It’s time to go to work.’”

Lastly, I asked Namath to talk about his friendship with Mickey Mantle.

“One night during my rookie season, I was at a club in New York City called The Pussycat,” Namath said. “I was standing at the bar, and the manager asked me if I had ever met Whitey Ford, Billy Martin or Mickey Mantle. I began to laugh as I reminded him that I hadn’t been in New York for long and that I could have only wished to have met those guys. The next thing I know, the manager escorted me to a booth where they were sitting. They invited me to sit with them, and it was a thrill. Over the years, Mickey and I got to know each other better. We played golf together, we did some charity work, and we visited with each other quite often. He reminded me of some of the dudes I was friendly with in Alabama, and he reminded me a lot of myself. We were country boys in the big city. He was a wonderful friend, and we lost him too soon.”

Following the interview, Petrozzollo took a portrait of Namath (below), which will accompany the interview in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine. In my opinion, this photograph is as impressive as any that have been taken of Namath. Talk about a perfect setting … Broadway Joe perched above the city that he gained iconic status in.

When the photo shoot came to an end, Namath joined our group for another cup of coffee in the suite, and again proved to be a class act.

“This was a fun visit,” he said. “I enjoy talking about positive things, and that’s what we did today.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

 

Yankees Magazine en Español – ON SALE, SEPTEMBER 14

September 11, 2012 – The first-ever issue of Yankees Magazine en Español will be on sale this Friday, September 14.

As I wrote about on this blog earlier in the summer, Robinson Cano will grace the cover of this special publication. Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took the photos of the Yankees second baseman in a park in Weehawken, New Jersey, and it features the perfect backdrop — New York City.

Yankees Magazine en Español, includes an original feature on Cano, as well as eight other stories, which were previously published. Our team of editors chose some of their favorite pieces for this publication. Among them are contributing writer Bob Klapisch’s feature on Jorge Posada’s career, deputy editor Ken Derry’s intriguing tale about his most recent trip to the Dominican Republic and my story on Alex Rodriguez’ grueling training regimen.

I also caught up with a fan favorite from the Yankees late-’90s dynasty — Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. In a lengthy phone interview, Hernandez spoke to me about his present-day life, which includes an extensive role at El Duke Sports Association, a baseball school outside of Miami.

“I really enjoy working with kids and helping them to become better players,” Hernandez said. “They have a passion for the game, and that is something that is nice to be around.

“El Duque” also discussed what playing for the Yankees has meant to him.

“Being a Yankee is an honor for life,” Hernandez said. “I got to play in front of the best fans in the world, and I am so thankful to the Steinbrenner family for everything they did for me. The thing I will remember the most is getting my first World Series ring. I felt as if it was my prize for all the difficulties I had encountered in the past.”

You can purchase Yankees Magazine en Español at Yankee Stadium, through (800) GO-YANKS or www.yankees.com/publications.

–Alfred Santasiere III

September Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE, SEPTEMBER 14

September 11, 2012 – In addition to Yankees Magazine en Español, the September Issue of Yankees Magazine will also be on sale this Friday, September 14.

Robinson Cano is on the cover of this edition, and in my story about the second baseman, I compare his body of work to that of every Hall of Famer who ever played the keystone.

The September Issue also includes deputy editor Ken Derry’s story on the Charleston RiverDogs, which are the Yankees Single-A affiliate. In the feature, Ken provides an in-depth and interesting description of the atmosphere in the city of Charleston and around the team.

Additionally, this issue includes two stories related to the Hall of Fame.

Earlier this year, associate editor Craig Tapper was in Cooperstown, New York, where he perused in the Hall’s research center. In his feature, Craig details the location that holds the most information on baseball anywhere in the world, and it’s a great read.

Finally, if you think you know every Hall of Famer who ever wore the pinstripes, check out contributing writer Rick Cerrone’s story in the September Issue. You may be surprised to learn that several players who are synonymous with other clubs also played for the Yankees.

You can subscribe to Yankees Magazine —print or online versions — through (800) GO-YANKS or www.yankees.com/publications.

–Alfred Santasiere III

The Greatest City in the World

September 11, 2012 – I was in Manhattan this morning, conducting an interview with Joe Namath for the October Issue of Yankees Magazine. The interview — and photo shoot — took place on a 17th-floor balcony at the New York Athletic Club, which is located on Central Park South.

I will write more about the experience of interviewing Broadway Joe in a separate blog entry, but for now, I will share my thoughts on being in New York City on the 11th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

When I looked at the landscape of New York City in the early hours of the morning, I instantly became mindful of just how special the Big Apple is.

As I watched people jogging and riding bicycles through Central Park, while others scampered along the sidewalks, I could feel the energy from 17 stories above. As I continued to stare at the giant park in between two long stretches of skyscrapers, I was reminded that New York City’s beauty is unwavering.

To me, the photo below is a reminder that while we’ll never stop morning the loss of nearly 3,000 people on 9/11, it’s also important to remember that New York City is and will always be one of the single most spectacular places on the planet.

Most importantly, when I looked out at the city this morning, I am reminded that New Yorkers continue to be as resilient as they come.

–Alfred Santasiere III

 

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