Moving Story about Brian Doyle

June 25, 2015 — A day after Old-Timers’ Day, the Yankees Legends Game was played at the home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (see blog entry below about the special edition of Yankees Magazine for that game).

The Father’s Day fundraising event was dedicated to former second baseman Brian Doyle, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease since 2014, and proceeds from the game benefitted the National Parkinson Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

For a story that will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine, I spent the day at PNC Field in Northeastern PA, and I sat down with Doyle for a long conversation prior to the game.

“They raised $40,000 for Parkinson’s research in one day,” Doyle said from his seat in the dugout. “We’ve gotten an amazing turnout of great players, and everyone is having fun. I feel very blessed.”

Doyle also shared his excitement with me about achieving a goal that he had worked diligently and courageously toward. Despite the physical limitations that Parkinson’s has presented him with, Doyle was determined to jog onto the field when he was introduced.

“My daughter takes me to work out every Thursday,” Doyle said. “After I go through my Parkinson’s therapy, we go to a track, and I jog just a little. Eventually, I was able to jog a little more, and I began to think that I could do this. It meant so much for me to jog out to the infield at Yankee Stadium yesterday and here at PNC Field. Then, I was not only able to throw the ceremonial first pitch today, but I also threw it for strike. That capped off an unbelievable weekend for me.”

On a personal note, I feel very lucky to have had the chance to spend time with Doyle. He’s a kind man and a class act, and it’s a pleasure to be around him. I’m also grateful to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and especially their co-managing owner David Abrams for rolling out the red carpet for my family and I. Being in the dugout with my wife, Tiana, and our son, Alfred, made for an unforgettable experience. And, after the game, I took my 7-year-old boy “to work with me.” Having Alfred at my side in the clubhouse as I interviewed several Yankees greats for the story was an equally memorable Father’s Day present.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Special Feature on Mel Stottlemyre

June 25, 2015 – This year’s Old-Timers’ Day festivities were as special for me — and I’m sure for so many Yankees fans — as any have been.

Prior to the Old-Timers’ Day game, the Yankees dedicated Monument Park plaques to two of their most important alums. As I wrote on this blog earlier, plans were in place to recognize former second baseman and coach Willie Randolph. Randolph was indeed honored, and his speech was wonderfully heartfelt. For more on Randolph’s great career in pinstripes, check out the June Issue of Yankees Magazine, where my story on the Brooklyn native was published.

A few months ago, I learned that that there was a plan in place to also dedicate a plaque to Mel Stottlemyre on Old-Timers’ Day, but that it would be a surprise to the former pitcher and coach. With the blessing of Stottlemyre’s wife, Jean — contingent on my promise to not reveal the news — I traveled to Snoqualmie Falls, Washington to interview the great Yankee about his career. When Stottlemyre and Jean sat down with me at a restaurant in the Salish Lodge & Spa for a three-hour interview, he had no idea why I was writing a retrospective piece on him this year.

Regardless of that, I enjoyed every second of our candid lunch conversation, which covered everything from when Stottlemyre first got interested in baseball through his tenure as the Yankees pitching coach.

“My younger brother and I used to play baseball in the backyard,” said Stottlemyre, who grew up in Mabton, Washington. “I always pretended that I was playing for the Yankees. We used to watch the baseball game of the week religiously, and the majority of the time, the Yankees were playing in those games. I always loved the Yankees, and from the time I was about 5 years old, I actually dreamt of playing for the Yankees one day.”

Sometime later in our conversation, Stottlemyre spoke about his rookie season with the Yankees, when his heroics helped get the team to the 1964 World Series.

“I just think I filled a void that they had at the time,” the humble Stottlemyre said about his 9-3 regular season. “We didn’t have anyone else in Richmond [Yankees minor league home] who was ready to come up, and I was able to pinpoint my pitches and get major league hitters out.”

Stottlemyre also shared a story about one of his first days on the Yankees coaching staff in 1996.

“On the first day of spring training, I walked into Joe Torre’s office to let him know which pitchers I was going to have throwing,” Stottlemyre said. “He looked at me and said, ‘You don’t have to tell me that. I hired you to do a job, and I trust everything you’re doing.’ That was a huge relief because it wasn’t always like when I was with the Mets.”

When I said good-bye to the couple, Stottlemyre — who has been battling multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer, for several years — told me that he was hoping to make it to New York for Old-Timers’ Day — simply to take part in the annual tradition.

Without knowing about the surprise tribute, and despite a few more health-related setbacks between my late April interview and mid-June, Stottlemyre was able to make the trip.

As Stottlemyre sat in the home dugout during the introductions of the other former Yankees on June 20, he wondered when his name would be called.

“I thought they forgot me,” Stottlemyre said.

Then, after the last Yankee was introduced, Stottlemyre’s family emerged from the other dugout, and the masters of ceremonies announced that the Yankees would be dedicating a plaque to one of the team’s greatest right-handers and the guy who guided a group of pitchers to four championships.

“This is the best surprise I’ve ever had,” Stottlemyre said when he got to the podium. “There’s no one happier to be on this field than myself.”

As moving as Stottlemyre’s entire speech was, he saved the best for the end.

“If I never get to come to another Old-Timers’ Day, I will take the memories that I have today, and I will start another baseball club, coaching up there wherever they need me.”

After the ceremony, I caught up with Stottlemyre in a Yankee Stadium suite for the follow-up interview I had been looking forward to for several weeks. During that conversation, I thanked him for meeting with me in Washington, and I told him how special that time was for me.

“It was special for me too,” Stottlemyre responded. “It gave me the chance to reflect on my whole life, and that felt great.”

My feature on Stottlemyre’s life in baseball and his well-deserved Monument Park plaque dedication will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Commemorative Program for Yankees Legends Game at PNC Field in Scranton – ON SALE, JUNE 21

June 19, 2015 – A day after the Yankees will celebrate their glorious past on Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium, several former pinstriped heroes will be traveling to PNC Field in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for the much-anticipated Yankees Legends Game.

On June 21, World Series stars such as Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Joe Pepitone, Charlie Hayes, Don Larsen and Jeff Nelson — along with several other great players — will converge on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders home field for a Father’s Day barbecue and a game of baseball.

The game will be dedicated to 1978 World Series hero Brian Doyle, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A portion of the proceeds from the game will benefit the National Parkinson Foundation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

When RailRiders co-managing partner David Abrams asked me about the possibility of producing a game program for this important fundraising event, I was elated.

We have produced a special edition of Yankees Magazine, with a commemorative cover that features a beautiful photo of PNC Field. As a graduate of nearby Misericordia University, I’m proud to bring Yankees Magazine to Northeastern Pennsylvania for the first time, but most importantly, I’m honored to be involved in this special day.

If you’re at PNC Field for the Yankees Legends Game on Sunday or if you head out to the ballpark on a later date in 2015, be sure to grab your copy of this special commemorative program.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Special Q&A Feature with Joe Torre and Tom Coughlin

June 19, 2015 – I was fortunate enough to spend about a half hour with two of the greatest on-field leaders in New York City’s sports history. Prior to the True Blue celebrity softball game benefitting fallen officers Brian Moore, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, I interviewed Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin about their careers.

At the beginning of our conversation, I asked the men to discuss whether they made adjustments to their respective leadership approaches through the years.

“One of my assistants came up to me and said, ‘Let the players see what you’re like when you’re with your grandchildren,’” Coughlin began. “I thought about it and started to do that, and as a result, I think I became much more approachable to the players. I don’t think my values changed at all but my perspective on how I could get my players to understand that what I was trying to get them to do was in their best interest certainly changed.”

“Just like Tommy said, we can only do as well as our players perform on the field,” Torre said. “Coaching or managing is all about dealing with people. When I took over the Yankees, I started to believe some of the press clippings — which stated that I was a player’s manager. That was viewed as a negative thing, but when I started to think about it, I realized that over the course of 162 games, if you try to be someone your not, that will be exposed. I really needed to be sure that my style and the way I was going about my business was going to be beneficial to the Yankees. I had players with a lot of character, guys who you would want to be in a foxhole with. I quickly realized that being true to who I was and to how I had always dealt with players was going to be the way I could get through to my guys during the tough times. What teams do during those moments really define a season.”

I also asked Torre and Coughlin, who have won a combined six championships in New York, to share the best part of winning it all in the Big Apple.

“The parade,” Coughlin said. “I’m telling you, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. When we were riding down the Canyon of Heroes, I was watching people hanging out of their windows and celebrating. I got the same feeling I had a few days earlier when we won the Super Bowl. There’s just nothing like it. Quite frankly, I have never experienced anything like that in my life, and I was so glad I had my wife with me.”

“There’s no doubt that it’s the Canyon of Heroes,” Torre agreed. “When you’re going through the season and the postseason, you have tunnel vision. You know there are fans in the stands and you know they always appreciate it. But when you look at what we accomplished as a team, how it affects those people lining the streets and hanging on light posts, you realize that what you’ve done is something special. To have that kind of glee and to see the smiles on so many faces was really unforgettable.”

To read the rest of this special Q&A feature, check out the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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The Art of Sport with Triple Crown Winning Jockey Victor Espinoza

June 19, 2015 – Less than 24 hours after jockey Victor Espinoza captured horse racing’s first Triple Crown since 1978, he took the mound at Yankee Stadium to toss a ceremonial first pitch.

Two days after Espinoza’s June 6 win at the Belmont Stakes, I met the jockey at the Essex House hotel and interviewed him over a cup of coffee for an Art of Sport Q&A feature that will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.

In our conversation, Espinoza spoke about the first time he rode American Pharoah.

“I knew he was a special horse on the first day I rode him,” Espinoza said. “He had never run before, but I could tell just by the way he ran. It was an amazing feeling. I didn’t want to jinx myself but I thought right away that he was going to be a Kentucky Derby winner. I didn’t know he was going to win a Triple Crown through.”

Espinoza also spoke with me about the long gap since the last Triple Crown sweep and his two near misses.

“It took a long time,” Espinoza said. “Before the Belmont last year, I was thinking, ‘I need to win, I need to win.’ This time I felt like, if it’s meant to be, than it’s going to happen. I believe in destiny and that things are meant to be. I guess after all these years, destiny was waiting for me to win the Triple Crown.”

At the end of our conversation, Espinoza shared his thoughts on the Yankee Stadium first pitch.

“It was an amazing experience,” Espinoza said. “That was my first exercise since the race, and I did not work out or anything before the pitch. Last year, I threw a ceremonial first pitch before the Belmont Stakes, and I was very tense. This time, I was completely relaxed, and I had a lot more fun.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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June Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE, JUNE 5

June 3, 2015 – The June Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale this Friday, June 5, at Yankee Stadium and on newsstands in the Tri-State area.

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.

The June Issue features an action photograph of Mark Teixeira on the cover of the version of the magazine that will be sold at Yankee Stadium throughout the month — save for June 20.

On that evening, the magazines that will be on sale at the Stadium will feature a portrait of former second baseman and coach Willie Randolph, who will be honored during the team’s annual Old-Timers’ Day festivities.

The Yankees will be dedicating a Monument Park plaque to Randolph, and my feature story on his career will is also included in the June Issue.

In addition to the cover stories on Teixeira and Randolph, this edition includes features on prospect Rob Refsnyder, who deputy editor Kristina M. Dodge spent some time with in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and on the making of Bernie Williams Night, which senior editor Jon Schwartz scribed. Lastly, there is a photo essay dedicated to the 2015 New York Yankees/New Era Pinstripe Bowl charity golf outing as well as Art of Sport features on basketball greats Chris Mullin and Bill Wennington.

Enjoy the June Issue.

Alfred Santasiere III

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Ceremonial First Pitch for Chris Mullin

June 3, 2015 – As I wrote in a blog entry below, St. John’s University men’s basketball head coach Chris Mullin — who is also the school’s greatest player — is the subject of an Art of Sport Q&A in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Well, on the day that we signed off on the June edition, that feature got a lot better. On the afternoon of May 27, Mullin took the mound at Yankee Stadium and tossed a ceremonial first pitch. For the story, we added a full-page photo (below) of Mullin throwing a strike to catcher Brian McCann as well as a last-minute quote about the experience.

I spoke with Mullin for a few minutes before the pitch and then again afterward.

“It was awesome,” Mullin said. “I warmed up with Reggie Jackson in the batting cage, and Joe Girardi gave me a few tips. And I think I threw a strike. I certainly tried to throw it in there pretty hard.”

As a longtime fan of St. John’s basketball program, and an adjunct professor at the university, I am especially proud of the Q&A with Mullin and in being part of his special day at Yankee Stadium. I hope you enjoy reading about Mullin’s career in basketball — as well as his pitch — in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Exclusive Coverage of Bernie Williams Night in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine

May 25, 2015 – Last night’s celebration at Yankee Stadium for Bernie Williams was one for the ages, and there will be plenty of exclusive coverage from the pre-game festivities in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Senior editor Jon Schwartz’ feature on the making of Bernie Williams Night will give you an inside look at how all aspects of the tribute to the former centerfielder came together — including the Monument Park plaque.

Additionally, the entire On Deck Circle photo section will be dedicated to Bernie Williams Night. The beautiful image below will be among the four photos we will be publishing in the first few pages of the magazine. Chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht snapped this shot seconds after Williams unveiled his now retired No. 51 in Monument Park.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Quote of the Month — from Andy Pettitte

May 25, 2015 – A few hours before the Bernie Williams Night festivities got underway last night, Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht took a portrait photograph of legendary pitcher Andy Pettitte in the Yankees bullpen. That exclusive image will be featured on the cover of the copies of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine that will be sold on Andy Pettitte Day — August 23 — at Yankee Stadium.

During the photo shoot, I spoke with Pettitte for a few minutes about Williams, and you will find a few sentences of that conversation in the Quote of the Month section of the June Issue of Yankee Magazine.

In advance of the June Issue, you can read more of what Pettitte had to say about his longtime teammate below.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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When I came up, Bernie was already established. I will always remember what an all-around great player he was. Defensively, he could run down anything that was hit near him. He had power from both sides of the plate, and you really didn’t see that very often. He was a special talent, and he was a great teammate. We know that we would not have won any of the championships in the late ’90s or in 2000 without Bernie.

Of course, he traveled with his guitar. You don’t find too many players — or at least I didn’t run into too many of them — who were so musically inclined. That was always an interesting part of being around him.

I’m extremely happy for him. I love that Bernie’s number is being retired. I wouldn’t have had the success without players like Bernie around me, and it means a lot to be here tonight.

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The Art of Sport with President George W. Bush

May 7, 2015 – A little over a year ago, I wrote on this blog that my one-on-one conversation with Bill Clinton was the greatest interview of my life. When I posted that entry, it was difficult to imagine that any interview could have topped that experience.

But on April 23, I conducted what I consider to be an even more exciting interview. On that morning, I sat down with George W. Bush at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Battery Park — located a few blocks south of the World Trade Center site — and interviewed him for about 20 minutes for an Art of Sport feature. That experience was second to none.

With respect to Clinton, who I interviewed for about a half hour in 2014, the connection between Bush and the game of baseball made for an unmatched conversation. Bush, who owned and ran the Texas Rangers organization prior to entering the political world, remains a passionate fan of the game.

Aside from the interview, my experiences that morning with the kind and outgoing President were more unforgettable because my wife, Tiana, and our son, Alfred, were with me.

I’ll never forget walking into the President’s suite and watching as he extended his hand to my son and in a booming voice asked the 7-year-old boy what position he played on the baseball diamond.

“You look like a third baseman,” Bush said. “And I’ll bet you’re a great hitter.”

After President Bush posed for a few photos with me and my family, he and I sat down on a couch in the suite.

I began the interview by asking the President about a baseball exhibit that will be on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, through October.

“The planners of the exhibit knew that I loved baseball,” Bush said. “When they researched baseball and the presidency, they realized that some of the presidents made very important decisions regarding baseball. Then, we began to collect memorabilia, and we found some interesting items. There’s a letter from Franklin Roosevelt to the commissioner of baseball in 1942, asking him to continue to play during World War II. There are some interesting autographs, many of which I collected when I was a little squirt. I’m the only president to have played Little League baseball, and the roster from my Midland Cubs team is on display.”

Bush also shared his first memories of watching a game in person.

“The first baseball game I was ever at was at the Polo Grounds,” Bush said. “The magnetism of Willie Mays attracted a little guy from West Texas. I was forever a Willie Mays fan, and I still marvel about his abilities. I think he’s the second greatest player of all time, only behind Babe Ruth.”

As much as I enjoyed discussing all aspects of baseball with the President, nothing was as poignant as his memories of the ceremonial first pitch he threw prior to Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

“The crowd was unbelievably emotional, as was I,” Bush said as he described the game that took place about six weeks after 9/11. “When I got up onto the mound, I gave the crowd a thumbs up, and that was a spontaneous gesture. It was in many ways my way of saying thank you for how New Yorkers had handled the post 9/11 drama, and for how the firefighters, the rescue workers and the other citizens refused to give in to the thugs and murderer. Then, I stared down at my catcher, Todd Greene, a pretty good-sized guy, who looked tiny at that moment. That was the most nervous moment of my presidency, and I would say by far. When I was out on the Yankee Stadium mound, my adrenaline was surging, and the ball felt very heavy. I was relieved when the ball didn’t bounce. It was an exhilarating moment, and a really great moment.”

This very special Art of Sport feature with George W. Bush will be published in the July Issue of Yankees. There you’ll get to read the entire interview, including Bush’s recollections of his conversation with Derek Jeter moments before that epic ceremonial first pitch at the old Yankee Stadium.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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