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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Don Mattingly

November 14, 2014 – Earlier this month, I spoke with Yankees great Don Mattingly about Derek Jeter for a first-person vignette that will be published in the updated DJ Commemorative Edition (see blog entry below).
The interview took place at the New York Chapter of the ALS Association’s Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit in New York City. At the dinner, Mattingly spoke with me about a conversation that Jeter considers to be one of the most influential of his career. Mattingly also discussed the pride he feels in having his name on the list of former Yankees captains along with the likes of Jeter and Gehrig. Enjoy this special interview below.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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I first met Derek when he was in the minors. He had a long way to go at that point, but I liked the way he went about his business. One morning during spring training, we were both coming off a back field together. I was running off the field, and I noticed that he wasn’t. I quietly told him to always run onto and off the field because you never know who’s watching you. At first, Derek thought I was referring to fans watching him, but I knew that Mr. Steinbrenner had his eyes on us.

Derek picked up his pace that day, and I never saw him walk onto or off the field again. He ran on and off the field before and after every practice and every inning of every game for the rest of his career. Over the years, I’ve also heard Derek talk about that conversation and explain that he took something out of it.

Derek was going to be a great player regardless of whether that conversation took place. But guys like Derek, who become great players, take the right things and make them their own. They take what they like so that it becomes part of who they are, and they get rid of the advice they’re not comfortable with. Derek has done that so well over the years. He’s had his own mindset, always knowing exactly who he wanted to be.

Derek was a great captain of the New York Yankees. Speaking from experience, I can say that when you’re named captain, you never really understand how much it means. Derek really grew into that role over time, and he gained an understanding of the meaning and the honor of that position. To share that distinction with Derek is special to me. He represented the captaincy of the New York Yankees as well as anyone could have.

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Dan Marino

November 14, 2014 – While I’m extremely proud of the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine, I feel that it can be an even more comprehensive publication.

The original version of the DJ Commemorative came out on the first day of Derek Jeter’s final homestand, and in my opinion, it was a masterpiece. However, based on the timing of its publication date, it did not include my feature on Jeter’s final home game or executive editor Ken Derry’s story on the last game of Jeter’s career.

In an effort to include everything we missed from last season, along with a few first-person vignettes that we have collected since the season ended and which we will gather over the next few months, we will be releasing an updated Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine on Opening Day of the 2015 season. All of the content that was in the original version will be in the updated version.

The first interview that I conducted for one of the new vignettes was with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. In my conversation with the Hall of Fame quarterback, which took place at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Livingston, New Jersey, the Hall of Fame quarterback spoke about his friendship with Jeter, and he also shared his thoughts on the shortstop’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

Although we’re several months away from printing the updated DJ Commemorative, you can read Marino’s words below.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Great players relish the opportunity to have the game in their hands. Continually succeeding in those situations makes you better because you’ve proven to yourself that you can come through when it matters most. Derek has come through in those spots more than anyone I can remember. No one can come through in the clutch all the time, but the great ones do it consistently, and that was what Derek did.

Of all of Derek’s late-game heroics, the one that stands out the most to me was his game-winning hit in his last game at Yankee Stadium. It’s hard to describe the range of emotions he must have been feeling that night. Baseball was his love. It was what he grew up playing, and it’s what he did until he was 40 years old. For someone who is such an important part of a team to know that you’re not going to be there any longer is difficult to deal with. But with all of those feelings, Derek still came through at the end, and that was amazing. We all wished for an ending like that because it was perfect.

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The Art of Sport with Thurman Thomas

November 4, 2014 – A few weeks ago, I traveled to Buffalo, New York to spend a day at the New Era corporate headquarters for a feature story on the company in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl Official Game Program (which I will detail on this blog in a few weeks).

While I was in Buffalo, I also met up with Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas at Ralph Wilson Stadium for an Art of Sport interview. The Q&A piece with the former Bills great will be published in the Spring Issue of Yankees Magazine, along with interviews with fellow Bills heroes Jim Kelly (see previous blog entry) and Andre Reed.

After interviewing Kelly on the 50-yard line of the Bills home stadium a year ago, I asked Thomas to sit down with me in the end-zone. Since the former running back scored 88 touchdowns in his 13-year NFL career, I was thrilled that he was on board with such an appropriate location.

Thomas arrived at the stadium in the late afternoon, wearing a Yankees sweatshirt and a Bills hat. Upon meeting him, he was quick to point out his allegiance to the Yankees.

Before the interview began, Thomas asked me to guess who his all-time favorite Yankees player is. Based on his first name, I guessed the late great Thurman Munson, and I was correct.

“When I was 11 years old, I heard his name for the first time,” Thomas said. “Other than me and my father, I had never heard that name before. That got me interested in watching him play, and I followed him for years. I remember when he was named captain of the Yankees, and I really admired the way he led those guys and kept those teams together.

“Of course, I still remember the day he died in the plane crash, and I still relive that in my head. Derek Jeter has been my favorite Yankee over the last few decades but no-one will ever be as special as Thurman to me.”

In the interview, I asked Thomas several questions about his career with the Bills including one about leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage a record four years in a row.

“I will always remember that record because it was a record that Jim Brown held,” Thomas said. “That’s special. Not only are you talking about a guy who played the running back position, but when you mention his name, you’re talking about one of the all-time greats at any position.”

I also asked Thomas what his favorite memory of playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium [formally named Rich Stadium] is, and he spoke about the Bills’ 1990 AFC Championship Game victory. In that game, the Bills defeated the Los Angeles Raiders and earned their first of four consecutive Super Bowl berths.

“The atmosphere in this place was amazing that day,” Thomas said. “It was joyful. I’ve never seen a group of fans as happy as our fans were that day. I remember looking into the stands in the fourth quarter and seeing people crying and hugging each other. Until that day, Buffalo was known for two things: snow and O.J. Simpson. When we won that game, this city became known for having a team that was going to the Super Bowl, and all of the excitement that you could imagine was rolled into this stadium.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Thomas to discuss his friendship with Kelly and the time he spent with him during the former quarterback’s most recent battle with cancer.

“I’ve known for a long time how tough Jim is,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen him get knocked out, go into the locker room and come back onto this field. He battled cancer the same freaking way. He took it one day at a time and kept battling. I’m so proud of him, and seeing how close he and his family are, made me closer to my family.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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October Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE, OCTOBER 20

October 14, 2014 – The October Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale on Monday, October 20.

Even though the Yankees’ 2014 season is over, the latest edition of Yankees Magazine will be available at Yankee Stadium throughout the autumn and winter.

You can purchase a subscription to the print version of Yankees Magazine by calling (800) GO-YANKS, and you can purchase a print or digital subscription by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications.

Derek Jeter graces the cover of the October Issue. The cover photo, taken by Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht, features the captain saying good-bye to the home crowd for the final time, and it is truly an inimitable shot.

This edition includes three stories on Jeter. I wrote the cover story on Jeter’s final home game (see blog entry below), and we’ve also published a photo essay on Derek Jeter Day in this issue (see blog entry below).

Additionally, executive editor Ken Derry penned a beautifully-written feature on Jeter’s final game. Derry’s description of the sunny afternoon in Fenway Park is one of the greatest stories you will ever read on the captain.

Also in this issue are Art of Sport pieces with Chicago Bears legends Mike Ditka and Jim McMahon (see blog entry below).

Lastly, I wrote a feature on The Clemente Museum, which was previously published in the 2014 Edition of Yankees Magazine en Español.

Enjoy the final issue of Yankees Magazine in 2014.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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A Look Inside The Clemente Museum

October 14, 2014 – Last September, I traveled to Pittsburgh to visit a hidden gem and to write about it.

My feature on The Clemente Museum in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine will take you behind the scenes of a 118-year-old firehouse turned shrine.

The museum, dedicated to the life and career of Roberto Clemente, was founded by Duane Rieder (below).

Rieder, a Pittsburgh photographer who grew up about 120 miles outside of the Steel City, has been an admirer of Clemente since he was a young child.

Long before the great Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder died in a 1972 plane crash while attempting to deliver relief supplies from his native Puerto Rico to Nicaragua in the wake of a devastating earthquake, he was revered throughout Latin American and in the United States.

In the city where the baseball pioneer made his most profound contributions to the game — collecting 3,000 hits and helping the Pirates win two championships — stands a temple that he would be proud of.

Among the hundreds of unique photos of Clemente in the museum is a portrait taken in 1960. In that photo (below), Clemente is jumping up to catch a baseball. A cloud formation that resembles angel’s wings sits perfectly on the outfielder’s shoulders.

“I think it’s the best sports photograph ever taken,” Rieder said during my day-long tour last year. “The angel’s wings symbolize who Clemente was. He did so much charitable work. He spent every free moment helping the poor and doing other good deeds. He really was an angel.”

Several other rare items including letters written by Clemente to Pirates’ brass, benches that once sat in the home dugout of Forbes Field and 17 of Clemente’s official military documents are also in the museum.

Clemente’s world Series rings — from the 1960 and 1971 seasons — along with two of his Gold Glove Awards and several of his bats and jerseys, are as eye catching as the beautiful photographs on the walls.

There are hundreds of other authentic pieces of memorabilia in the museum, and having visited this unique place, I encourage my fellow baseball fans to do the same.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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The Art of Sport with Mike Ditka

October 14, 2014 – On a balmy day during Spring Training, I traveled to Naples, Florida, to meet former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka for an exclusive interview.

During the afternoon I spent with Ditka, I interviewed the Pro Football Hall of Famer for an Art of Sport Q&A feature that will appear in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Ditka and I spoke about several topics including his famed 1985 Chicago Bears squad, a team that captured the imagination of the Windy City and the rest of the country with it’s dominance of the rest of the league.

“We had a lot of characters that had a lot of character,” said Ditka who led that team to a 15-1 record en route to a Super Bowl championship. “We had great leadership on our football team. On the defensive side of the ball we had Mike Singletary and Gary Fencik. On offense, Jim McMahon was a renegade, and he liked to defy authority a little bit, but he was a great leader and a great competitor. I knew my players had a lot of parties and liked to have a good time on and off the field, but everything was done in moderation.”

Of course, no conversation about the ’85 Bears would be complete without the inclusion of the famed Super Bowl Shuffle video.

“[The players] came to me in the middle of the season and told me that they had a chance to make a music video,” Ditka said. “I asked them when they would be shooting it, and they told me that it was going to be on an off-day. As long as it didn’t’ interfere with our schedule, I was OK with it. I never thought about it again until I saw the video. By that time, a lot of people were saying how arrogant and egotistical the video was. Maybe it was. But if you don’t think you’re going to win, you will never win. If you don’t think you’re the best, you will never be the best. It’s too bad I wasn’t in the video because I would have stolen the show.”

Before we wrapped up our lunch meeting, I asked Ditka to share his thoughts on Derek Jeter.

“He’s a credit to the game,” Ditka said. “He’s the epitome of what you want an athlete to be. I’ve never seen him do anything but go out and try to win baseball games. There are guys who are more talented, but I don’t think anyone has played the game harder than Derek. Derek reminds me of Walter Payton and Michael Jordan. They had the same drive, and they never became satisfied.”

My complete interview with Ditka, along with an Art of Sport Q&A with the aforementioned Jim McMahon, will be in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Lasting Tribute to Derek Jeter at Fenway Park

October 14, 2014 – On the day after Derek Jeter’s final game, my wife, Tiana, our son, Alfred, and a few of my Yankees colleagues returned to Fenway Park for a tour.

On the sunny Fall day, we visited several areas of the ballpark, including the seats on top of the famed Green Monster. While we were admiring the view of the field from atop the Monster, I noticed that someone had paid tribute to the Yankees captain during his final game.

On the sign for Section 2, the words “Jeter Last Game, 28th Sept. 2014, Green Monster” were written. Like the other hand-written notes on the Monster, I can only imagine that these words will be there for a long time.

Before we left the Green Monster seats, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello snapped a photo of the sign, and that image will be published in the On Deck Circle section of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Memories for a Lifetime

October 14, 2014 – Two days after Derek Jeter’s emotional send-off at Yankee Stadium, I traveled with my family to Boston for the final game of the captain’s career.

In my “From the Press Box” column in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine, I share my experiences from that special weekend with my wife, Tiana, and our son, Alfred.

Below is an excerpt from that column about what was a most unforgettable and enjoyable time.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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On the eve of Jeter’s last game, [my family and I] strolled into a popular family-style Italian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for dinner. When we arrived at East Side Bar & Grille, Harold Medeiros, a middle-aged host with a strong Boston accent, greeted us. Upon asking us where we were from, Medeiros promptly revealed his baseball allegiance.

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” Medeiros said. “But from the first time I saw Mickey Mantle play, I was a Yankee fan. The Yankees have had great players since Mantle’s days, but no one could ever match his grace or power.”

After we got to our table, Medeiros stopped by to tell us that he would be at Fenway Park the next day to see Jeter wrap up his storied career.

“I wouldn’t miss that for the world,” Medeiros said. “He’s a hero, one of the greatest players who will ever live, and certainly one of the best Yankees of all time. But, in my heart, no-one will ever be as special as The Mick.”

As I sat next to my 6-year-old son, Alfred, on a picture-perfect afternoon at Fenway Park and watched with him as Jeter walked to the plate for the final time and collected his 3,465th and final hit, I thought about Medeiros’ words about Mantle.

More than ever, I realized how powerful and long lasting an impression an athlete can have on a young fan. On a day that was filled with mixed emotions, I left the ballpark filled with happiness. That joy came from knowing that my son’s favorite player had left the same indelible mark on his heart that Mantle left with the millions of youngsters who watched him play a half-century ago. I also left Fenway Park with pride, knowing that Alfred’s baseball hero is not only a legend on the field, but a perfect role model off the field and someone who made my young boy feel as if he was the most important person in the world each time he met him.

Thank you, Derek Jeter, for 20 years of great play and for inspiring your fans forever.

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Perfect Goodbye

October 14, 2014 – All of the excitement that Derek Jeter created in the first inning of his final game at Yankee Stadium (see blog entry below) was just the beginning.

The events that took place on the field in the latter part of the game made it a night for the ages.

For Jeter to be the hero in his own swansong was even more improbable than the rainy weather clearing up moments before game time and giving way to a beautiful rainbow over the Bronx skies. But, then again, this was Jeter’s night, so maybe it was more appropriate than improbable.

Regardless of how the captain’s game-winning, ninth inning hit — which was made possible by a comeback by the Baltimore Orioles in the top of the frame — is described, one thing is for sure: It will be written about and talked about forever.

From my seat in the press box, I recorded all the details I possible could for the cover story of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine. Following the game, Jeter spoke about the emotional night in a press conference, and I also caught up with his former manager, Joe Torre, moments after that. In my exclusive conversation with Torre, the skipper shared his thoughts on meeting up with Jeter in the home dugout seconds before the captain left the field for the final time. In my opinion, that was the perfect ending to a perfectly unscripted goodbye.

“Just like a lot of other things tonight, that certainly wasn’t planned,” Torre said. “All the other guys were leaving, and I noticed that Derek was going back onto the field, and I wanted to take that all in. I didn’t realize he was going to be back in the dugout so quickly, and I didn’t expect to be there when he came off the field. I was glad I was there because it was a special time for me.

“What he represents, we don’t have enough of in sports,” Torre continued. “I’m not just talking about his ability to play baseball, but also what he represents as a man. Sports will cry out for more people as respectful as Derek Jeter.”

A few days later, I spoke with Jeter about his Yankee Stadium finale, and those quotes are also in my story.

This story does not only include exclusive words from Jeter and Torre, but it also features a unique collection of photographs. Our team of photographers had unparalleled access to the field on Sept. 25, and they made the most of it.

One of my favorite images from the night is below. The photo, taken by Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht, captures Jeter’s final stop at the shortstop position.

“I say a little prayer before every game, and when I got out to short, I just said thank you because this is all I’ve ever wanted to do and not too many get an opportunity to do it,” Jeter said. “It was above and beyond anything I’ve ever dreamed of. I’ve lived a dream, and that dream is over now.”

Enjoy “A Dream Gone By” on the pages of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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The Last Time in Pinstripes

September 25, 2014 – There are millions of people who have undoubtedly echoed these sentiments, but I can’t believe tonight is Derek Jeter’s final game in pinstripes. It feels like yesterday when DJ caught our attention for the first time time. That was 20 years ago.

I have had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the Yankees captain for the final twelve seasons of his career, and it’s been one of the great honors of my life.

When I found a minute in which Jeter was alone at his locker yesterday, I shared those thoughts with him. I told him how lucky I felt to have been one of the people — in what is a small group — to have gotten to know him. The fact that Jeter took the time to offer a thoughtful response and reminisce with me for a few minutes added to what is a lifetime of fond memories I have. It also underscores his class and patience, which is unwavering — even at a time when the whole world is trying to talk to him.

After a day full of rain — during which it seemed as if tonight’s game might never get played — the storm clouds made way to an orange and blue sky over Yankee Stadium, and a rainbow covered parts of the Bronx.

The capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium filled every seat before Jeter was introduced for the final time in pinstripes. And, with a large contingent of press photographers assembled in front of the outside part of the home dugout, Jeter led his team onto the field. Out of respect for their captain, Jeter’s teammates waited until he got to his familiar position at shortstop before running out of the dugout.

When Jeter emerged, the crowd roared, and began to chant “Der-ek Jee-ter” until the shortstop tipped his cap several times.

Nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. Not the weather. Not the two home runs that Baltimore Orioles batters Nick Markakis and Alejendro De Aza hit before Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda recorded the first out of the game.

When the voice of the late Bob Sheppard echoed through the Stadium in the bottom of the first inning, the crowd was already standing and cheering.

Jeter took the first four pitches of the at-bat from lefthander Kevin Gausman.

Then, the captain did what I believe he has done better than anyone in the history of the game. He delivered in a big moment. Jeter showed his flair for the dramatic by smacking a line drive to left-center field, missing a home run by a few feet and putting the Yankees on the board.

As Jeter stood on second base, the volume in the Stadium remained on high. For the Yankees faithful, it was one of many moments to remember. He’s authored a lifetime worth of those moments in his career.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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