November 20, 2010 – New York City began buzzing about the
Notre Dame- Army game on Thursday night. That’s when the University of Notre
Dame honored Lou Holtz at a gala in his name.
The former Notre Dame coach posted a 100-30 record with the
Irish and captured the 1988 National Championship.
When I asked Holtz what tonight’s game means to Notre Dame, the coach provided an impressive historical perspective.
“I think it’s marvelous,” Holtz said. “This rivalry goes all
the way back to 1913, when Yale wouldn’t play Army, so Army invited Notre Dame
to play them in New York. The New York Times wrote that Notre Dame was
from Illinois — and not Indiana. But even though no-one knew anything about Notre Dame, they came
in and won the game. Of course, the 0-0 tie in 1946 is probably the most
memorable game of them all, but there have been so many great moments over the
“Knute Rocke’s speech tells you everything you need to know
about attitude,” Holtz said when I asked him about the his predesesor’s “Win One
for the Gipper Speech. “It made those players understand what their purpose
was. That pep talk gave all of us motivation, not just the people who were in the locker room that day.”
Holtz also discussed the pressures that are unique to being
the head football coach at Notre Dame.
“You’re the keeper of the flame,” he said. “It’s your job to
keep up the tradition of Notre Dame, and that tradition is greater than any
other in football.”
The day after I interviewed Holtz, I spent a few hours with
another person whose name resonates in the hearts of Irish fateful. Daniel
“Rudy” Ruettiger, who is best known for the movie, Rudy, was in town to deliver
a motivation speech at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. I spent an hour
with Rudy before he took the stage, and that interview will be published in the
spring issue of Yankees Magazine.
The interview was as inspiring as the movie – which I’ve
seen more times than I can remember. For those of you who haven’t seen the
flick, Rudy isn’t much more than 5 feet tall, and he walked on to the Notre
Dame football team in the mid-70s. After a two-year stint on the team’s practice squad, Rudy
dressed for the final game of his senior year. He was put into the game with 27
seconds remaining, and he sacked Georgia Tech’s quarterback on the last play of
the game. Moments later, Rudy was carried off the field by his teammates.
When I asked Rudy which scenes from the movie make him think “How did I do
that?” he answered quickly.
“I never think that when I watch the movie,” he said. “I may
have been a long shot to play football at Notre Dame, but I expected that
moment to happen all along. I always believed it would happen, and I never gave
up that hope. I was preparing for that moment for ten years.”
After the interview, I guided Rudy on a tour of Yankee
Stadium. I brought a commemorative football to use as a photo prop, and I
played catch with Rudy on the Yankee Stadium field with the keepsake ball. That
is a memory I won’t soon forget.
Another experience from the days leading up to the game that
I will bring to Yankees Magazine is my interview with Notre Dame grad Regis
Regis reminisced about watching the Cadets march into the
old Yankee Stadium before one of the legendary Army-Notre Dame games that took place during his
childhood. And when I asked Regis – a noted Yankees fan – “If you could have one wish granted,
would you take the field for the Yankees or for the Fighting Irish?” I got a most unique response.
“That’s one of the toughest questions I’ve been asked in a
long time,” Regis said. “It’s too hard to answer. How do you like
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 22, 2010 – The Yankees followed a World Series
championship with a 96-win season and a postseason run that took them to within
two games of the World Series.
While the Yankees goal each and every year is to win the
World Series — not to get within a few games of the Fall Classic — it should be
noted that the Yankees 2010 journey was a courageous one.
In the season our organization lost its leader, George
Steinbrenner, and the voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard, the team played inspired
baseball, game in and game out.
Additionally, Joe Girardi’s lineup was constantly changing
because of significant injuries to Andy Pettitte, Curtis Granderson, Nick
Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (earlier this week), along with
season-ending injuries to Damaso Marte and Alfredo Aceves.
But the Yankees found ways to win. They found contributors
in the farm system, and they took the AL East race to the final game of the
In the end, the Texas Rangers were an opponent the Yankees
could not overcome. And while it’s hard to accept defeat, especially after
living through a magical season in 2009, nights like this make me appreciate
just how special winning a championship is. It doesn’t come every year – even
for the Yankees. It’s an elusive goal, but it’s one that the Yankees are
constantly in pursuit of. Because of the people who are in place — on the field
and in the front office — I am confident that we’ll be contending for the AL
pennant in 12 months from now.
And with a little luck and something to prove, the end
result might just remind everyone of 2009.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 22, 2010 — Game 6 is here. If I wrote anything about it being loud prior to or during ALCS Game 1 or 2 last week, I didn’t know how wild it could get in North Texas.
October 22, 2010 — The Yankees might have figured out the mystery that is Colby Lewis. They were quieted by Wilson in Game 2 of the ALCS, and the Rangers pitcher only gave up two walks (and no hits) through the first four innings of this game.
October 22, 2010 – In Game 2 of the ALCS, Phil Hughes was
scored upon in each of the first three innings. And he got into trouble at the
start of this game, giving up a lead-off double to Elvis Andrus, which
ultimately resulted in the Rangers taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the
But unlike in Game 2, Hughes has settled in. Hughes has retired
12 out of the last 16 batters, and through four innings, he has only given up
two hits and one run.
While Hughes’ difficulties at the start were worrisome, he is
certainly dealing with the big-game jitters well.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 20, 2010 — The Yankees came into Game 5 of the ALCS on the brink of elimination for the first time since 2007.
October 20, 2010 — CC Sabathia pumped his fist after striking out Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland for the third out of the sixth inning.
October 20, 2010 — Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano opened the bottom of the third inning with back-to-back home runs, giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
October 20, 2010 — Before the Yankees took a 3-0 second-inning lead, Alex Rodriguez and Lance Berkman each earned four-pitch walks against C.J. Wilson. The Texas starter also fell behind in the count on Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.