October 6, 2015 – A game with the magnitude of tonight’s tilt has been on the mind of Masahiro Tanaka since he signed with the Yankees.
A few weeks after the righthander from Japan joined the team in 2014, I met him for lunch in Tampa. That meeting — which was for a Yankees Magazine feature story —took place on Tanaka’s first day in a Yankees uniform, the first day of spring training.
While that lunch meeting seems like a long time ago now, one of the things that is still vivid in my memory is our conversation about what Tanaka looked for forward to the most.
More than anything else, his desire to compete in games like this one was what was already on his mind. He had watched postseason games at Yankee Stadium prior to signing with the team, and he wanted to be part of those moments. He wanted to be part of the magic that has taken place in the Bronx for decades each autumn.
A lot has happened for Tanaka since that lunch in Tampa. He dominated American League hitters for half a season. Then, he was out of the lineup with an arm injury. Then, he battled his way back in order to make it to the mound by the end of the 2014 season. This season, he’s been relatively healthy, and he’s posted numbers that have helped pave the Yankees’ road to October. Tonight, he took the ball in the type of game he so much wanted to pitch in.
Not unlike what he’s done throughout his two-years with the Yankees, Tanaka battled tonight. He made good pitches at times. He gave up two solo home runs, but he made big pitches every time he had to. In doing so, Tanaka gave the Yankees a chance to come back from a two-run deficit, even though Joe Girardi pulled him after five innings of work.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 6, 2015— It’s been three years since the Yankees last took the field for a big game in October, but tonight, the team’s postseason drought is over. Tonight, the Yankees are taking on the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card Game.
While the celebrations of 2013 and 2014 for Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, respectively, were spectacular in their own right, there is a different kind of electricity in the air at the Stadium tonight.
Just like he had done so many times in the postseason, October legend Tino Martinez got the crowd on its feet with a ceremonial first pitch. When Martinez took the mound, the crowd noise quickly reached a booming volume, and I do not remember it being that loud prior to a game in a long time.
Things got louder and more electric in a hurry when Masahiro Tanaka took the mound at the start of the game and struck out the first two batters. From the first batter, the crowd stood and cheered when Tanaka got to two strikes.
For a team that was been mired in a difficult end to the regular season, the importance of playing the Wild Card Game at home can’t be overstated. This team’s fans have already given the players a much-needed boost tonight. Now, it’s time for the Yankees to return the favor.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 2, 2015 — September 2, 2015 – The October Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale on October 6 at Yankee Stadium when the gates open for the American Wild Card Game (if that game is played in the Bronx). The October issue will also be on available on newsstands in the Tri-State area that same day.
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://yankees.com/publications.
A beautiful portrait of the late great Yogi Berra graces the cover of this month’s edition, and contributing writer Jack O’Connell’s feature about the iconic catcher is a fitting tribute (see blog entry below).
This issue also includes features on youngsters Luis Severino and Didi Gregorius, as well as three unique stories I put together on three great Yankees from the past.
Take a gander at my story about a recent fishing trip I took with Hall of Famer Wade Boggs for our alumni spotlight, a day I spent with Tino Martinez at a famous golf course for a Q&A piece and my feature on Mariano Rivera’s recent trip to Scranton, Pennsylvania (see blog entries below).
There’s a lot more in the October Issue, including Q&A pieces with two heroes from the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team.
Enjoy this edition.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 2, 2015 — Last month, I spent a day at Leewood Golf Club — where Babe Ruth was once a member — with former Yankees great Tino Martinez. After a round of golf at the Eastchester, New York, course, I interviewed Martinez about the 2000 Subway World Series for a Q&A feature.
At the beginning of our conversation, Martinez, who batted .364 in that Fall Classic, spoke about what was at stake when his team took on the cross-town Mets.
“There was more at stake in that Series than there was in the previous three we had played in before that,” Martinez said. “With the Mets getting to the World Series, we felt that if we had lost, we might have lost our fan base a little bit and that the Mets would have really gained a lot of momentum toward becoming the team of New York. I knew how badly Mr. Steinbrenner wanted it and how much everyone in our clubhouse wanted it. There was definitely a lot more pressure on us in that World Series.”
Martinez also shared his feeling on the home run that Derek Jeter hit to leadoff the fourth game, following the Yankees’ Game 3 loss.
“When you lose a game in the playoffs, whether it’s Game 1 or Game 3, there’s a momentum shift,” Martinez said. “The Mets had the momentum going into Game 4, even though we were still leading the Series 2 games to 1. For Derek to hit that first-inning homer, it really took the air out of the Mets and really gave us the boost we needed to win that game. That was a crucial game because the winner was really going to be in the driver’s seat the rest of the way. I think that home run deflated the Mets, and then we went out and won a big ballgame at Shea Stadium to take a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead.”
It’s hard to believe that the Yankees World Series triumph over the Mets took place 15 years ago, but this conversation will bring you back to what was a memorable time in New York City. Check it out in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 2, 2015 – On September 3, I covered a special story in Scranton, Pennsylvania that centered around Mariano Rivera.
That night, the Yankees Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, honored Rivera at their ballpark. But prior to those festivities, Rivera inspired two distinct groups of people, the first of which was the highlight of the day.
At about 4:30 pm, an SUV pulled into the driveway of Temple Hesed in Scranton, where the NativityMiguel School is housed. Rivera jumped out of the vehicle and walked into the ground floor of the building. There, on the first day of the school year — and the first day of classes ever for the school — the 16-person student body beamed as Rivera walked into their classroom.
NativityMiguel is a tuition-free, Catholic school, which provides private education to fifth graders from low-income families, and the Scranton chapter is one of 64 in North America.
Once Rivera got to the front of the classroom, the students walked up to him and introduced themselves. A few minutes later, Rivera addressed the group and then each student asked the former closer a question.
“Were you ever nervous when you went into a game?” a child asked, as he read the question off of a post-it note.
“Yeah, I was nervous,” Rivera answered. “Being nervous is OK. It’s part of being human. Don’t ever think that there is anything wrong with being nervous. The problem is when you are nervous when you are actually working or taking a test. I was nervous before I went into games, but once I went out to the mound, I was not nervous. I was in control.”
After the Q&A, the group moved to another room, where 16 RailRiders jerseys were hanging from a bookshelf. The jerseys had each of the children’s last name and Rivera’s No. 42 stitched across their backs.
Rivera’s 30-minute visit to the school concluded a few minutes later, as he was quickly whisked back to PNC Field. Before throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, the future Hall of Famer delivered a moving speech to a RailRiders team that would clinch the International League’s North Division.
“What you guys do is amazing,” Rivera told the players from the middle of the home clubhouse. “Only a handful of people in the world can do what you do. But this is only the beginning. This is not it. I hope you guys don’t want to stay here. Playing in the majors is incredible. That’s where you really get to shine.”
For the entire story, including some exclusive quotes from my interview with Rivera later that evening, pick up a copy of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 2, 2015 – In addition to my Art of Sport feature with New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes (see blog entry below), the October Issue of Yankees Magazine includes a Q&A with the man who authored one of the single most dramatic moments in sports history.
Thirty-five years ago, Mike Eruzione gave the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team a 4-3 lead over the heavily-favored Soviet Union squad with 10 minutes left in the first of two medal-round games. The United States held on to win that game and then captured the gold medal two days later against Finland. For the captain of America’s iconic team, that goal was life-changing, and I was proud to interview Eruzione in Boston this summer.
As if breaking bread with Eruzione wasn’t great enough, the location of our lunch made the experience even better. Eruzione agreed to meet me at Beantown’s famous Union Oyster House, which holds the distinction of being America’s oldest restaurant.
The symbolism didn’t end there. Thanks to the gracious management of the restaurant, we sat at the most famous booth in the Union Oyster House, a table that President John F. Kennedy referred to as his favorite and which he sat at frequently, even on a few Election Days.
Much of our conversation was about the 1980 Olympics, and I was fascinated by every part of it, including when Eruzione spoke about the night before the game against the Soviets in Lake Placid, New York.
“I missed curfew,” Eruzione said. “My father, my cousin, my high school football coach and three other friends drove from Boston to Lake Placid in a Winnebago for the game. I had a state police officer take me to the campsite they were at, and I had a few beers and hamburgers. The police officer brought me back to the Olympic Village at about 10:30, and I hung out with Jim Craig and Bill Baker for a little while.”
Eruzione also revealed when the magnitude of the game against the Soviets sunk in for him.
“When we walked into the locker room, there were bags of mail with telegrams in them, and I’ll always remember one that I got from a lady in Texas,” Eruzione said. “It read, ‘Beat those [communists].’ It had nothing to do with the hockey game, but that made me realize that this was bigger than a hockey game for people in this country. To me, it was a hockey game, but our country was looking for something to feel good about because of the hostages, the troubling economy and the gas shortage. We were tired of people losing faith in our country.”
As our conversation turned to the gold medal game — in which the United Stated defeated Finland two days after they shocked the Soviets — Eruzione shared what I think was the best anecdote in the conversation. It epitomized the spirit of the team and their late head coach, Herb Brooks.
“As great as the Soviet victory was, we didn’t go to the Olympics to win one game,” Eruzione said. “Our dream was to win the gold medal. I will never forget being in the locker room before the third period of the Finland game. We were losing 2-1. Herb walked in and said, “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your [freaking] graves.” Then he walked to the door, stopped and said, “Your [freaking] graves.” He was so right. After having come that far, worked that hard and accomplished so much, if we had let it skip away, it would have stayed with us forever. We went out and played the best 20 minutes of hockey in the Olympics, scored three goals and won 4-2.”
To read the rest of this special Q&A feature, grab a copy of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III