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Q&A with David Wells — about The Babe

June 29, 2014 — Earlier this month, I spent a day at the Leewood Golf Club with former Yankees pitcher and Babe Ruth admirer David Wells. While we were at the club, I interviewed Wells about his fondness of the Bambino for a sidebar to my feature story on Ruth’s favorite hideouts (which will be published in the July Issue).

In addition to the places I detailed in the blog entry below, the Leewood golf course is also featured in my story. Ruth was a member at the Eastchester, New York club from 1938 through 1944, and his presence is still very much alive on the grounds today.

There is a lounge named after The Babe, and its walls are decked with photos of him — several of which were taken on the course. Additionally, stories about Ruth are often mentioned on the 17th hole. Legend has it that Ruth’s drives from the tee often sailed more than 300 yards and reached the green. On many of those occasions, he scored an eagle, sinking the ball on two strokes.

Ruth’s greatest legacy at the course is a tunnel that connects the Bronx River Parkway to Leewood Drive — a small road that the club is located off of. Prior to when Ruth joined the club, the tunnel was too narrow for automobiles to pass through. It was instead used as a cattle crossing. But in order to make the commute from New York City quicker for Ruth, city officials widened the tunnel so that one vehicle at a time could fit through it.
After our group sank their putts on the 18th hole, I brought Wells to the tunnel for a photo op. Yankees photographer Matt Ziegler snapped a few shots of Wells on sidewalk, and then the pitcher made the next photo even better. In the few seconds during which there were no cars coming through the tunnel, Wells ran into the street and posed for the photo below.

After the photo shoot, Wells spoke to me about the Babe.

“He’s the most recognized athlete of all time because he dominated his sport like no one ever has, and he still burned the candle at both ends,” Wells said. “He was the first rock star in sports.

“Anywhere The Babe spent time is a historical place,” Wells continued. “I have a great appreciation for places like this. I was looking at all the trees and wondering if they were here when he played on this course. I hit a few trees, and I wondered if he might have hit the same ones. It was nice to play on a course that he played on.”

To read the entire interview, pick up your copy of the July Issue of Yankees Magazine, which will be on sale on Monday June 30.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Reflections of Derek Jeter – by Paul O’Neill

June 20, 2014 – A few days after I spoke with Eli Manning about Derek Jeter, I interviewed former Yankees rightfielder Paul O’Neill about the captain for another first-person vignette that will appear in the September Issue (see blog entry below).

O’Neill’s recollections about Jeter are below. Enjoy this unique perspective on the captain’s great career, and be sure to grab the September Issue to read what so many others had to say about Jeter.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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By the middle of 1996, I knew Derek was going to be a great player. His winning attitude and his competitiveness were evident very early in his career.

Derek came up at the perfect time. The Yankees had turned things around and made the playoffs the year before. Sometimes, it seems as if things just happen for a reason. Derek was at the right point of his career at the right time with the right team. And, our team needed him at that time. Derek gave us a shot of youthful emotion. It was a great fit.

Derek was never intimidated by any situation on the field — even during his first postseason. In his mind, he always thought he would succeed in big at-bats. That confidence comes from who he is inside, but he also had a lot to draw from because he had succeeded in clutch spots from the time he got to the majors.

When I think back on being on the same field with Derek, the first moment that comes to my mind is his flip play in Oakland during the 2001 American League Division Series. That’s not a play you practice. People were going in different directions, and it was very hectic out there. He was in the exact right place at the right time. It wasn’t a coincidence that he happened to be there on an overthrow, so that he could field the ball and flip it perfectly to the plate. Some of the great things people do in the game are just instinctual, and he has great instincts.

More than anything else, Derek will be remembered as a winner. He’s a great baseball player who enjoys the game. That’s easy to say about a lot of people but I truly mean it about Derek.

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Eli Manning

June 20, 2014 – In our coverage of Derek Jeter in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, we will be publishing several first-person vignettes about the captain. Those recollections will be authored by Yankees greats who played alongside Jeter and by with several icons from other sports.

Last week, I sat down with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at the team’s training facility in New Jersey to talk about Jeter. Below are the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s words about Jeter, as they will appear in the September Issue.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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When I was a rookie with the New York Giants, dealing with the adjustment of being a starting quarterback in the NFL and struggling to get my first win, I got a very meaningful call. Derek reached out to me to let me know that he was pulling for me, and he told me to keep my head up and keep working hard. He assured me that things would get easier. The fact that the captain of the New York Yankees, a guy who had already won four championships, took the time to call me, meant the world to me.

Derek remembered what it was like being a young athlete in New York City dealing with a lot of pressure. Although he was at the height of his career when he called me, he reminded me that it wasn’t always that way for him. It felt good to hear a guy who owned the town talk about the struggles he had in the minors years before. I never forgot that call because it helped me at a time when I really need a boost.

I’ve always been able to relate to the pressure that Derek is under because as the quarterback of the Giants or the captain of the Yankees, the media and fans expect you to go out there and be perfect all the time. Although that’s the goal, it’s an unreachable goal. Through all of the ups and downs, Derek has always remained calm, and focused on the next opponent.

Derek’s sense of calm has helped him play well in the clutch. You have to be able to respond in those big moments. That’s how you win championships. That’s how you get players to follow you. Whether you’re down by a few runs or a touchdown, if your teammates have the confidence that you are going to step up in your role, they will rise to the occasion, as well. You always want a guy who feels that he can come back from any deficit, and Derek is one of those guys. He’s got confidence in himself, and that has rubbed off on his teammates. The bigger the moment, the better he plays.

Derek is among the greatest athletes to play in New York. His accomplishments on the field, the way he has handled himself off the field and the way he respects the game are the things that make him so special. He’s a great role model, not only to young people, but also to other professional athletes. He’s done it the right way, and he’s done it the right way for a long time.

Eli Manning

Exclusive Q&A with Goose Gossage – in Monument Park

June 1, 2014 – On the day that Yankees team photographer Matthew Ziegler snapped the image of Goose Gossage that will appear on the 2014 Old-Timers’ Day commemorative cover (see blog entry directly below), I sat down with the Hall of Fame pitcher for an exclusive interview for a Q&A that will appear in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The conversation took place in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, where, on June 22, a plaque will be dedicated to Gossage. For Gossage, the early May trip to the place where the greatest Yankees are honored, was his first.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the monuments in the new Stadium,” Gossage said. “It’s an incredible space. When I used to come out to the bullpen at the old Yankee Stadium, I would glance at the monuments, and I always appreciated how special they are. I had the privilege of playing for nine different teams but there is nothing like the history of the Yankees. When you look at all the monuments out here, it’s hard to comprehend that so many great players all played for the same organization.”

I also asked Gossage to discuss the excitement he felt when he found out about the honor of getting a plaque in Monument Park.

“It’s very humbling,” Gossage said. “I was glad that I was sitting down when I got the news because I was overwhelmed.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Gossage to share his thoughts on whose plaque he is most proud to be immortalized with.

“I would hate to slight anyone but when your plaque is going to be in the same area as Babe Ruth’s, that’s incredible,” Gossage said. “Of course, guys like Yogi [Berra], Thurman [Munson], Elston [Howard], Gator [Ron Guidry] and Whitey [Ford] are very special to me because I knew them personally.”

Enjoy the rest of the interview on the pages of the July Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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June Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE, JUNE 2

June 1, 2014 – The June Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale this Monday, June 2 at Yankee Stadium. 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.yankes.com/publications.

The June edition features three very special covers. Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury graces the cover that will be on sale at the Stadium during all but two games in June and that will also be sent out to subscribers and newsstand distributors.

Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht took the Ellsbury cover portrait on the day that the team signed the star outfielder. In the photo, Ellsbury is wearing a gray suit and is sitting on a luggage trunk. The trunk, which has a Yankees top-hat logo painted on the front of it, gives the photo an old school, throwback look, and the cover’s white background really makes Ellsbury stand out on the page.

In my opinion, our photographers, editors and graphic designers have put together some great Yankees Magazine covers this season, but this is one for the ages.

On June 21, the Yankees will be dedicating a plaque in Monument Park to Tino Martinez. The former first baseman, who authored two of the greatest postseason moments in Yankees history, stopped by the Stadium for a Yankees Magazine photo shoot and exclusive interview with contributing writer Jack O’Connell.

Team photographer James Petrozzello snapped a photo of Martinez in the outfield seats, and that portrait will grace the commemorative cover that will only be available at Yankee Stadium on June 21. O’Connell’s compelling story about Martinez’ run in pinstripes will be in the magazine all month.

The third cover will be available at Yankee Stadium on Old-Timers’ Day, which falls on June 22 this year. An image of Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, taken by team photographer Matthew Ziegler, is on that commemorative cover.

Prior to the Old-Timers’ Day festivities, a Monument Park plaque will be dedicated to Gossage. Along with the commemorative cover, my Q&A feature with Gossage and his former teammates Ron Guidry and Bucky Dent (see blog entry below) will be in the June Issue all month.

In addition to those stories, my feature on the 30th anniversary of Don Mattingly’s 1984 batting title (see blog entry below) and executive editor Ken Derry’s feature on the Yankees current first baseman, Mark Teixeira, are part of this impressive issue.

Enjoy this edition of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Memorable Q&A with Derek Jeter and Ernie Banks

June 1, 2014 – During the Yankees recent series at Wrigley Field, I sat down with two of the greatest shortstops of all time.

Derek Jeter and Ernie Banks spent about 20 minutes with me in front of the visiting dugout at the Friendly Confines for a Q&A feature that will be published in September Issue of Yankees Magazine.

In the beginning of the conversation with the legendary shortstops, I asked Jeter to share his thoughts on the impact that Banks — who stands over 6 feet tall — had on the future of the position.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese, who where two of the other great shortstops from Mr. Banks’ era,” said the 6-foot, 3-inch Jeter. “Those guys epitomized who played that position back then, shorter guys without a lot of power. Mr. Banks redefined the position, and he really paved the way for taller players like me to get the opportunity to play shortstop.”

A few minutes later, Banks, who won two National League MVP Awards and finished his career with 512 home runs, spoke about his admiration for Jeter.

“He’s a remarkable player, and that’s proven by the fact that he is still playing shortstop,” Banks said. “We all slow down a little as we get older, and I moved to first base after about 10 seasons at shortstop. But Derek has done what no one else has, and that’s remarkable. He’s accomplished so many great things. He’s knowledgeable about every aspect of playing the game. He studies the opposing pitchers, and he learned how to hit the ball to all fields at a young age. He’s an amazing young player. When he got his 3,000th hit on a home run, that was really special for me to watch.”

The two greats also discussed how much it has meant to them to only wear one uniform during their respective careers.

“Playing my entire career in New York has always been important to me,” Jeter said. “I’ve been fortunate because in this day and age, it’s more difficult to stay with one team than when Mr. Banks was playing. With free agency, there is so much player movement, and teams get rid of players when there are younger players available who can play the same position a little better.”

“It means the world to me,” Banks followed. “We played all day games in Chicago back then because they didn’t have lights at Wrigley Field until 1988. That was something I got used to and really enjoyed. The only night games we played were when we were on the road. If I had played for another team and I had to play most of the games at night, it would have felt like every game was an away game for me.”

As the interview wound down, Jeter shared his feelings about playing in Wrigley Field during his final season, and when he concluded his thought, the ever-humorous Banks hit Jeter with a question he didn’t expect.

“You’re not really going to quit, are you?” Banks asked.

“After this season,” Jeter replied.

“You can’t do that,” Banks countered with a laugh.

Jeter paused for a second and responded.

“Yes I can.”

Don’t miss the rest of this historic interview in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, which will be dedicated to Derek Jeter.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Chasing the Ghost of Babe Ruth

June 1, 2014 — Babe Ruth made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox 100 years ago this July 11. To mark this special anniversary, I wrote a comprehensive and unique feature story on The Babe, which will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine.

As many baseball fans know, in addition to changing the game of baseball with his on-field heroics, the Bambino also lived life to the fullest when he wasn’t on the diamond. He loved to fish, hunt, play golf, and of course, enjoy the nightlife.

For the story, I found 10 places in and around New York that The Babe frequented — and which still exist today. While The Babe has been gone for 66 years, his memory is very much alive at the destinations that are included in the feature. If you’re a fan of Yankees history or an admirer of the man who set the baseball’s single-season and career home run records, you will not only enjoy this story, but you might even be travel to one of the golf clubs that Ruth played at or grab a drink at one of the taverns that he frequented or visit the hotel that he lived after his contract was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees.

In my opinion, the most interesting place I found during several weeks of research was Gyp’s Tavern in rural Sandyston, New Jersey.

During Ruth’s time in pinstripes, he befriended Yankees pitcher Russ Van Atta, who was from Sussex County, New Jersey. After he retired from the game, Ruth often traveled to the rural area in northwest New Jersey to visit with his former teammate. On one of those trips, Ruth was introduced to Gyp’s Tavern (see photo below), located nearby Big Flat Brook, where The Babe and Van Atta liked to fish. Ruth forged a friendship with the tavern’s owner, George “Gyp” Roselli, and the two spent a lot of time together in the tavern, hunting in the woods and fishing on Big Flat Brook.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch at Gyp’s with the original owner’s son, also named George, and Bob Edwards, who owned and ran the bar from 1974 through this spring.

Edwards, who purchased the tavern after Gyp passed away, showed up at the bar with a box filled with Ruth photos, all of which were given to him in the years he owned Gyp’s.

The stack included an image of Ruth and Gyp in front of the tavern (below), photos of Ruth hunting and a photo of the two friends fishing on a bridge at Big Flat Brook — which we visited after lunch and which is part of a separate entry in the story.

Although Gyp’s son was not yet born when his father hung out with the great Bambino, he remembers learning about those good times. When we sat down for lunch, he shared those memories with me.

“A lot of people met The Babe, but my dad was buddies with him,” Roselli said from a table that overlooks scenic Kittatinny Lake. “Babe never paid for a drink, but he did a lot for my dad as well. When Babe came up, my dad would get him to tend bar. People would walk up to the bar, and there was Babe Ruth, asking them what they wanted to drink. That was a novelty.”

Copies of the Ruth photos from Edwards’ collection still hang in the bar.

“In the first week I was here, a few people asked me where the photos were,” said current owner Bill Miller. “That’s when I knew I had to put them back on the walls. That’s one of the reasons people come to Gyp’s.”

Gyp’s is just one of the interesting places in which Ruth made a lasting imprint. Check out this story to read about several others. Hopefully, you will be compelled to visit a few of them.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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BABE RUTH AND GEORGE %22GYP%22 ROSELLI - IN FRONT OF ORIGINAL GYP'S TAVERN

May Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE, MAY 2

May 1, 2014 – The May Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale this Friday, May 2. You can purchase 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.

This edition of Yankees Magazine includes an interesting group of features, beginning with the cover story on Brett Gardner. In managing editor Nathan Maciborski’s story on the outfielder, he reveals some of the off-field antics that make Gardner a popular clubhouse presence. Maciborski’s story also delves into the Yankees’ decision to sign Gardner to a multi-year contract extension over the winter — even through he was still a year away from free agency and they had already signed centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term, free-agent contract.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman summed up the team’s commitment to Gardner with a quote that is included in Maciborski’s feature.

“Gardy represents a player that is a success story for us,” Cashman said. “We don’t typically [sign players to extensions before they become free agents], but it shows the level of confidence, belief and trust in the type of person and player he is.”

This issue also includes deputy editor Kristina M. Dodge’s story on former infielder Andy Phillips. Today, Phillips serves as the University of Alabama’s hitting coach, and Dodge traveled to the campus to spend a few days with the Phillips for this alumni spotlight feature, which is a great read.

This edition includes a feature about another University of Alabama alum. On March 3, I earned the distinction of becoming the first person to sit down with Joe Namath and Derek Jeter to interview them together (see blog entry below). I am very proud of my exclusive Q&A with the New York City icons, and I hope you will enjoy reading it.

Finally, the May issue features “5 Minutes with…” Q&A’s with two of the most prolific goal-scorers in the history of the National Hockey League. A few months after Yankee Stadium hosted two hockey games, I met up with Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils (see blog entry below), who played in one of the 2014 Stadium Series games, and Mark Messier (see blog entry below), who attended the other game. While both interviews are interesting, the piece on Messier really stands out.

Grab a copy the magazine so that you can read the rest of this in-depth issue.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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5 Minutes — and a lopsided passing competition — with Phil Simms

May 1, 2014 – In November, I sat down with legendary New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms for a “5 Minutes with…” Q&A that will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine, along with my interview with the Giants Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells (see blog entry below).

I spoke with Simms at the 2013 ALS Association Greater New York Chapter’s annual dinner, and the former quarterback discussed his admiration for Lou Gehrig — whose life was cut short by ALS.

“I wish I could have seen him play,” said Simms, who was honored at the dinner. “I know everything about Lou Gehrig. He stood up to what he had in the most dignified way, and I am honored to be here tonight.”

Simms also shared his thoughts on playing for Parcells.

“He was tough,” Simms began. “The way he talked to players was different from anything I had ever been around. It was very cool, but you couldn’t be sensitive. He was good to play for, and he made all the hard work tolerable. Bill was as tough as any coach that has ever been in professional football, but at the end of the day, you didn’t hate him for it. That’s a great quality.”

When I asked Simms about his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXI, he spoke about the significance that game has had in his life and the emotions he felt when he took the field.

“Well, when I really think about it, I’m here tonight and you’re talking to me because of that game,” said Simms, who completed 22 of the 25 passes he threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. “It sure isn’t because I beat the Detroit Lions twice in 1985. I didn’t know how important that game was at the time, and that’s probably a good thing. [Super Bowl III MVP] Joe Namath and I were laughing recently about the fact that if we knew what a big deal it was to play in the Super Bowl, we would have been a lot more nervous. I was not afraid to fail in that game, and I took the field with an aggressive approach. I wish I had played my whole career like that.”

In April, Simms came to Yankee Stadium for an exclusive Yankees Magazine photo shoot, and team photographer James Petrozzello snapped several portraits for the Q&A piece, including the image below.

While we were on the field, Simms showed off his passing ability.

“I bet you I can throw a football underhanded farther than any of you guys can throw it overhand,” Simms said to me, Petrozzello and managing editor Nathan Maciborski.

Before any of us took him on, Simms threw an underhanded strike to me that sailed about 40 yards. Had I not gotten in front of the pigskin, it would have gone several more yards. I threw the football back to Simms from where I was standing, and it hit his hands with much less velocity than the pass he threw to me. At that point, I knew he had won the competition, and instead of prolonging it, we played catch from a shorter distance (see photo below).

As much fun as it was to interview the NFL great, catching a football from him was the best part of the experience.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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5 Minutes with Hockey Legend Mark Messier

April 24, 2014 – A few weeks ago, I interviewed hockey legend Mark Messier for a “5 Minutes with…” Q&A feature that will be published in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.

I met up with the NHL’s eighth-ranked goal scorer at the old Kingsbridge Armory, which is in the process of being transformed into the largest ice facility in the world. Only a few miles from Yankee Stadium, there is a building that will soon hold nine full-sized ice rinks. While the project is far from complete, Messier, who is the chief executive officer and an investor in the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, predicts that the project will be complete by 2017.

After taking a tour of the cavernous 750,000 abandoned landmark with Messier, the Hockey Hall of Famer spoke with me about his dream for the facility.

“I have a shared vision to do something here in the armory that will be inclusive of everyone in the community,” Messier said. “I understand that we’re not going to get every child in the Bronx to play ice sports, but it’s a healthy alternative. We look at this armory as the vehicle to create economic growth. It will create jobs in the Bronx and bring in new businesses. That will help everyone.

“I want to walk through the front door and see six or seven different ice disciplines on the ice all at the same time,” the former New York Rangers captain said from a rooftop that overlooks Manhattan. “There will also be a health and wellness center and a community center, which will have several after-school programs. We are also planning to have internship and mentorship programs available every day.”

After our conversation about the ice facility, I asked Messier about the guarantee he made 20 years ago, when he told the world that his Rangers would defeat the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“The basic inspiration behind [the guarantee] was to find a way to make sure that my teammates knew that I believed in them,” Messier said. “We had lost momentum in that series, and I wanted my teammates to know that I thought we could win that game and win the series. I knew we could win the game, and I was just doing anything I could to instill the confidence and the belief that we could do it.”

Behind Messier’s hat trick, the Rangers won that game. A few weeks later, the team captured its first Stanley Cup in 54 years. From that epic championship run, Messier became a New York legend, and I asked him what it’s like to be one of the very few people who will never have to buy a drink in the Big Apple.

“It means a lot,” Messier said. “I came here when I was 30 years old, and although I was excited about what was ahead of me, I never expected to be embraced the way I was. I was lucky to be part of a great team on and off the ice, and that is a big reason why I am still well respected in New York. We were approachable and honest, and we played hard. Everyone on that team was entrenched in the community. When the team embraces the community, the community embraces the team, and there’s an energy that forms. That’s what happened to us in 1994, and for me, that energy has never gone away.”

To read the rest of this compelling interview, check out the May Issue of Yankees Magazine, which will be available on May 2.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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