August 21, 2014 – While I was in Minneapolis for the 2014 All-Star Game (see blog entry below), I interviewed Hall of Famer Dave Winfield for a first-person vignette on Derek Jeter.
Winfield was Jeter’s favorite athlete during the shortstop’s childhood. Today, it appears that Winfield is quite a big fan of Jeter.
Below are the words of the former Yankees outfielder and Minnesota native.
–Alfred Santasiere III
When a young man first makes it as a professional, even in the minor leagues, you’re not sure how he’s going to turn out. You don’t know how he’s going to develop or mature. Derek had difficulty defensively in the minor leagues before he got to New York. Yankees brass didn’t really know that he was going to excel in the big leagues, and they certainly didn’t’ know that they he was going to help them win five championships and perform as well in the clutch for so many years.
Derek’s been a model of excellence on and off the field, and that’s why people look up to him. I appreciate him. He’s always given back to the community, and he’s done everything the right way. The Yankees have been blessed to have him, and he’s been blessed to play for the New York Yankees. It’s been a great marriage.
August 21, 2014 – One of the three features that I wrote for the September Issue of Yankees Magazine is on Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game, which took place on July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I arrived in the Twin Cities a few days before the Midsummer Classic and covered the American and National League media sessions at a downtown hotel.
From the minute the first availability began, it was clear that this was Derek Jeter’s All-Star Game.
Jeter was joined by his American League All-Star teammates in a ballroom. The star-studded lineup included the two-time reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, Angels phenom Mike Trout and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista.
But as if Jeter were the only guy in the room, nearly the entire contingent of media flocked to his table.
As he fielded question after question, Jeter shared his favorite All-Star Game memory, which took place in 1999.
“During batting practice, I got a tap on my shoulder,” Jeter said. “It was Hank Aaron. He told me that he had been looking for me because he wanted to meet me. I looked at him and said, ‘You wanted to meet me?’ That was a great honor, and it was one of the best moments I’ve had on a baseball field.”
A few hours after the media sessions, the All-Stars arrived at Target Field for a workout, and Colorado Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki had a similar experience to the one Jeter had all those years before.
Before 29-year-old shortstop stepped into the batting cage, he got a tap on the shoulder. It was Jeter.
“I just want to congratulate you on a great first half, bro,” Jeter said. “You’re really doing a great job.”
I caught up with Tulowitzki afterward.
“It’s something that I will always remember,” Tulowitzki said. “When I was growing up, I had a poster of Derek in my room. Anytime someone who you’ve admired since you were a young child wants to talk to you and pays you a compliment, it gives you chills.
The Midsummer Classic proved to be as much of a celebration of Jeter as a baseball game, and in my story, I detail each of the emotional ovations that the captain received.
And, before his exit from the game, Jeter made a significant impact on the American League’s victory, going 2-for-2 with a double, a single and a run scored.
“I can still play,” Jeter said after the game. “I’m not retiring because I can’t play anymore. It’s just time to move on.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 21, 2014 – In early July, I spent an afternoon with Derek Jeter’s parents, Dr. Charles Jeter and Dorothy Jeter. Over lunch at the Highlawn Pavilion restaurant in West Orange, New Jersey, the Jeters shared story after story about Derek’s childhood and his career with the Yankees.
The Jeters’ willingness to share so many never-before-told stories about their son has allowed me to put together an unprecedented feature for the September Issue of Yankees Magazine. I am extremely grateful to the classy couple for their candor, for their time, and for sharing their collection of family photos with me for this feature.
From Derek’s first day of school to the first time he played baseball to the day he was drafted by the Yankees, the Jeters really provided me with a perspective I had never heard.
Of course, our nearly three-hour conversation included some funny moments.
“Derek played football when he was about 8 years old, but he pretty much gave up on his career in that sport on one play,” Dr. Jeter said. “He was playing defensive back, and he had really good speed. The running back from the other team took the ball, broke through the line of scrimmage and was running down the field. Instead of tackling the guy, Derek ran all the way down the field with him. I was yelling, ‘Derek, tackle him.’ Then, in the next game, Derek tried to tackle a player, but he was too skinny to take him down. The guy carried Derek on his back right into the end zone. We still tease him about that now.”
On a more serious note, Mrs. Jeter spoke about her son’s love of baseball, which began at a very early age.
“The first team Derek played on was a city league T-ball team in Kalamazoo when he was 4 years old,” Dorothy said. “They played one game a week, and from the first day, Derek loved putting the uniform on. During his childhood and even when he was in high school, he would put his uniform on at home before the season began to make sure that everything looked good. He wanted to make sure everything was perfect before he went out to the field.”
“That tradition of trying the uniform on started during the first year Derek played ball,” Charles added. “They had a parade, and Derek was really excited about marching with his team. The night before the parade, he tried his uniform on. He couldn’t have been more proud to be part of that team. He didn’t march down the street; he strutted.”
What will stay with me forever from that lunch was the enormous amount of pride that Derek Jeter’s parents have in him. They are a special family, and the fact that Derek is as great a person as he is a baseball player has a lot to do with the way he was raised.
In a touching moment near the end of our lunch, Dr. Jeter spoke about watching his son play in his first major league game (see photo below from Derek’s major league debut, against the Seattle Mariners in the Kingdome).
“Hearing Derek’s name announced prior to his first at-bat is something I will never forget,” Charles said. “As I sat in the seats that night, I reflected on watching him play in Little League. I thought back on his first year of T-ball and how proud he was to march in that parade. I could still picture him strutting down the street and talking about how he someday wanted to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees. It was an emotional night, and it’s still the proudest moment I’ve ever had.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 9, 2014 – The August Issue of Yankees Magazine is on sale now 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.yankees.com/publications.
The August Issue features three covers. Joe Torre, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July, graces the cover that will be on sale for most of the month. In that cover photo, taken by team photographer James Petrozzello in March, Torre is sitting in the middle of the Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery — a few feet in front of the wall that his plaque now hangs on.
Petrozzello also took a portrait of Paul O’Neill in Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall for the cover that will be sold at the Stadium only today, the day that the Yankees dedicated a Monument Park plaque to the great rightfielder.
The third cover features a portrait of Torre that staff photographer Matt Zeigler took in the home dugout at Yankee Stadium. That cover will be sold at Yankee Stadium on August 23, when the Yankees will be dedicating a Monument Park plaque to Torre and retiring his No. 6.
In addition to my cover story on Torre (see blog entry below), and my exclusive feature on Bernie Williams (see blog entry below), senior editor Jon Schwartz wrote an in-depth piece on O’Neill, and it is a must-read.
This issue also includes executive editor Ken Derry’s feature on the baseball in Trenton, New Jersey, the home of the Yankees Double-A affiliate. Derry’s feature provides an interesting history of the earliest days of baseball in New Jersey’s capital city, and it also sheds light on the experience of seeing the Thunder play today (which I can say from first-hand experience is wonderful).
Enjoy this edition of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 9, 2014 – On the final weekend of July, I traveled to Cooperstown, New York, to chronicle Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame induction for the cover story of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
During my three-day stay in baseball’s holy cathedral, I had exclusive access to the former Yankees skipper. I interviewed him at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, where he and more than 50 other Hall of Famers stayed. I also had the unique opportunity to attend two private parties, one of which was held in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s plaque gallery and the other which was held at Brewery Ommegang.
The small gathering at the local beer factory and restaurant was co-hosted by the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball. Near the end of the night, baseball commissioner Bud Selig grabbed a microphone and saluted Torre.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Joe for 54 years,” Selig said in a speech that you will only find in Yankees Magazine. “This is a wonderful day for the New York Yankees, for Joe and for his entire family. Joe has clearly distinguished himself in his career on the playing field and as a manager, winning four world championships. But the thing that I’m proudest of is that he has represented this sport in a really, really remarkable way. Tomorrow, he will get inducted into the Hall of Fame on merit and clearly because of who he was and what he did on and off the field. On behalf of Major League Baseball, congratulations on the most richly deserved honor.”
As the crowd of about 50 people applauded, Selig handed the microphone to Yankees managing general partner/co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner.
“On behalf of the entire organization and my entire family, I want to congratulate you on this very well-deserved honor,” Steinbrenner said. “During your years with us, you managed some very special players and some very special teams. Your leadership, your poise, your character and your coolness under pressure made those teams world champions many times over. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for everything you did for the organization.”
At the conclusion of Steinbrenner’s speech, Torre embraced him and shared his own thoughts.
“It’s an honor just to be associated with your family, and especially your father,” Torre said. “I had a great relationship with George, and I’m forever grateful to him. I was never a Yankees fan until the first time I put the pinstripes on, but once you do that, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“But my coolness under pressure is going to be tested tomorrow,” Torre continued. “I never afforded myself the luxury of thinking about the Hall of Fame. I knew what the Hall of Fame was, and I respected the heck out of the guys who were in the Hall of Fame. I’ve dreamt about it on occasions, but I always thought it was unreachable.”
Before he concluded, Torre spoke about the recent days in Cooperstown.
“One thing I realized over the last few days is that there’s an awful lot of Hall of Famers at the Hall of Fame,” Torre said. “Every one of them checks their ego at the door, and that’s really cool. The outpouring of love that I’ve felt this week is something I’ll never forget.”
In front of about 48,000 fans, Torre joined baseball’s greatest fraternity the next day, as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In my story, I detail just about every step Torre took on induction weekend, as well as the key points of his speech. This special story also includes several anecdotes from Torre’s time with the Yankees, which he shared with me during a visit to Cooperstown in March (see photo below from that interview in the Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery).
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 9, 2014 — Stephen Costello is an executive vice president at Steiner Sports, a leading sports marketing and memorabilia company, and a long-time partner of the New York Yankees. Costello recently wrote the book, “My Father Never Took Me To A Baseball Game,” which details his childhood with an abusive father. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. I recently sat down with Costello, who I have worked with for several years, to discuss his life and his new book.
–Alfred Santasiere III
Alfred Santasiere III: How would you describe a typical day with your father when you were growing up?
Stephen Costello: He was a truck driver. So, he would go somewhere to pick the truck up, be in the truck all day, and then at night, he was very gruff and very belligerent. The way he talked to everyone, including me, was definitely a hit on our confidence. Once I was a little older — around 12 years old — I would just leave out the back door when I saw his car in the driveway. I would go to my friends’ houses where the type of tension that existed in our house didn’t exist.
AS: Did you ever talk to anyone outside your home about your father?
SC: No. It was a different time back then. People really didn’t say anything about what was going on in their homes back then. I was scared to say anything or tell anybody so I just counted the days until I was old enough to get out of the house.
AS: How were you able to re-establish your confidence amid the negative and abusive behavior of your father?
SC: There were certain things, that regardless of what my dad said, I knew I was a good at. I was a good baseball player. I knew I was a good student. I knew I was a good writer. Maybe he said some things because he didn’t want me to become a truck driver like he was, but I knew from a very young age that I was not going to be a truck driver. I was pretty certain of that. Once I got to a certain mental level, I didn’t let anything he said or did affect me.
AS: You talked about it being a different time now as opposed to when you were growing up. Please speak to the progress our society in the United States has made in raising awareness for domestic abuse and limiting it.
SC: It’s definitely not tolerated. Today, there’s a much-heightened awareness to abuse. It’s very hard for a parent to get away with it for a substantial amount of time without a neighbor, a teacher or a friend finding out about it and speaking up. In the 1960’s and ’70s, the mindset was “mind your own business,” and that was wrong in every way.
AS: Tell me how writing the book, “My Father Never Took Me To A Baseball Game” has affected you from an emotional standpoint?
SC: The point of the book is that if you’re abused as a child, you should try to minimize it. You should try to escape the situation, and you should understand that it doesn’t have to ruin your life and you certainly should not pass it on to the next generation. After I wrote the book, I have had so many people tell me what happened to them. It’s not something that any of us are proud of, but writing the book really let me get out from under it.
July 21, 2014 – Among the features in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine will be a very special story on former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Puerto Rico with Williams to spend a few days with him in his homeland.
During our trip to the beautiful island, we visited the field in which Williams was playing centerfield on when he was first approached by a Yankees scout. We also visited his favorite place in the world, a beach that his late father used to take him to when he was a young child.
We didn’t stop there. We also visited Williams’ high school and the track that he established himself as one of the fastest young sprinters in the world on when he was a teenager.
In addition to conducting several lengthy interviews with Williams for the feature, I sat down with the ballplayer’s mother and brother during two separate meals to discuss the great Yankee before he was a major league star.
Of all the stops we made in San Juan and in Williams’ hometown of Vega Alta, the most memorable one was at the field where he fist played baseball (see photo below).
When we arrived at Parque de Pelota del Barrio Maricao in Vega Alta, Williams hopped out of the SUV we were in and walked to a metal fence that surrounded to the field.
To his amazement, the gates on the fence were locked, and we had no way of getting onto the field.
Just then, a man in a red SUV approached the field and came to a complete stop.
“Welcome back, Bernie,” the man shouted in Spanish. “I will get someone to open the gate and get you on the field.”
Although Williams didn’t know the man, he was confident that he would come through.
That’s exactly what happened.
Within minutes, a second man pulled up to the field.
“Bernie Williams,” the man shouted.
With a huge smile on his face, Williams walked over to the man and embraced him.
The man was Angel Crespo Jimenez, and he coached Williams during his early teenage years.
Jimenez unlocked one of the gates, and Williams stepped on the field for the first time in more than a decade.
“The first position I ever played was second base,” Williams said as he crouched down and began to draw in the sand with his index finger. “I wasn’t very good at second base because I never paid attention to the game, and I was more interested in playing with the infield dirt like this. My coach moved me to shortstop and then to first base, but I wasn’t much better at those positions. Then, he moved me to center field and I fell in love with the game.”
Just as Williams finished his thought, Jorge Lopez Adorno, the coach who first put him in center field, arrived.
Williams greeted Adorno — who has been involved with the local youth league program for more than 50 years — at the pitcher’s mound.
“If it wasn’t for these guys, I would have never developed the love for the game that I have,” Williams said. “Their love and obsession for the game was contagious. I had to do a lot of work on my own, but it was because of them that all of the teams I played on were assembled and all of the tournaments took place.”
“When Bernie was 8 years old, his mother, who was the principal at the school I taught at, wanted him to play baseball,” Adorno added. “We didn’t have a team for 8 year-olds, but as a favor to her, I put together a team.”
To read about this entire scene — which was one of the most surreal occurrences I’ve ever witnessed — along with the rest of the story about Bernie Williams’ upbringing, grab your copy of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
July 21, 2014 – An “Art of Sport” Q&A feature with former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy will also be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine. Like Jim Boeheim (see blog entry below), Levy etched his name into sports lore during his time in Western New York. Among his accomplishments on the sidelines, Levy led the Bills to an unprecedented four consecutive AFC championships.
I spoke with the Hall of Fame coach over lunch at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in Chicago — which is Levy’s hometown.
After discussing his childhood in the Windy City, I asked Levy what his favorite memory of Wrigley Field was.
“I was at the last World Series game played there,” Levy said. “World War II had ended about two months before, and I was still in the service. The Cubs won Game 6 to even the Series up against the Tigers on the day I got back to Chicago. My friend and I went to Wrigley to get tickets, and the line was practically from here to Milwaukee, but we got the tickets and went to Game 7.”
Once the top of conversation turned to football, Levy discussed what it was like coaching in Buffalo, one of the NFL’s smallest cities.
“We had great fans,” Levy said. “Even when we lost that first Super Bowl game, there were 30,000 people waiting to greet us. Buffalo is thought of as being in the Rust Belt with awful weather, but it’s a very quaint town. It was a wonderful place to live. When the Bills drafted Jim [Kelly], he didn’t want to live in Buffalo, so he went to the USFL. But he still lives there now, and he once said, ‘No one ever wants to come to Buffalo, but once they get here, they don’t want to leave.’”
Levy also shared the backstory about when he began saying, “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now,” to his teams at the start of each game.
“The first time I ever said that was before my first game as a head coach at the University of New Mexico,” Levy said. “As we were getting ready for the kickoff, I felt all of that excitement welling up inside of me, and it just came out. I said it before the kickoff of every game I ever coached.
“On one occasion, before a freezing cold Sunday night game in Buffalo, we were walking up the tunnel and I turned to one of my assistant coaches, Elijah Pitts, and said, “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now,’” Levy continued. “He said, ‘I’d rather be at home and in bed after we win this game.’”
Before Levy and I left the iconic restaurant in Chicago, we participated in the time-honored tradition of posing for a photo with the bust of the late Harry Caray (below).
To read the rest of the interview with Levy, be sure to turn to “The Art of Sport” in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
July 21, 2014 – For the first “Art of Sport” feature (see blog entry below), I traveled to Syracuse, New York to interview legendary basketball coach Jim Boeheim. I sat down with the Hall of Fame coach in his office on the campus of Syracuse University, where he has led teams onto the court for 38 years.
In the interview, I asked Boeheim several questions about the heyday of the Big East Conference, which for years dominated college basketball.
“Before the Big East, we were one of 30 good programs in the Northeast and we never could get enough recognition,” Boeheim said. “Once the Big East was formed, all the recognition channeled into the four or five best programs in the conference. Right away, we went from being a good regional program to having a chance to be in the top 20 programs in the country every year. We were lucky that when it started, we had really good players. We were able to capitalize right away on all of the extra attention. We were able to recruit kids from California who didn’t even know where Syracuse was prior to the Big East and the inception of ESPN, which also took place in 1979. [Big East founder] Dave Gavitt was able to put together one of the best — if not the best — conferences in the country in about five years”
Boeheim also spoke about the atmosphere in the Madison Square Garden during the Big East Tournaments.
“It was electric,” he said. “The final game always took place on a Saturday night. It was a packed house, and the teams were playing in front of a national audience. There’s really no place like Madison Square Garden for college basketball.”
My last question for Boeheim, who is a longtime Yankees fan, was about the Captain. I asked the coach to share his opinion of how Derek Jeter has represented his team and his sport during his 20-career in pinstripes.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in sports who epitomizes what you should do on the field and how you should behave off the field better than Derek Jeter,” Boeheim said. “I understand that ability is important, but as a coach, I often talk about the importance of coming to practice with a positive attitude, being a leader, wanting to play every day, playing hurt and doing the little things that don’t show up in the box score. I’m in awe of the way Derek has done those things. There really hasn’t been an athlete who you can put at the same level as Derek in terms of consistency, effort and character over such a long period of time.”
The Q&A feature with Boeheim will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
July 21, 2014 – Beginning with the August Issue of Yankees Magazine, there will be a new department titled “The Art of Sport.”
This feature will mirror the “5 Minutes With…” Q&A pieces that have been part of the publication for several years, but will delve deeper into the lives and crafts of the subjects.
As is the case was with the “5 Minutes with…” pieces, “The Art of Sport” will feature subjects from all walks of life, with the title changing to reflect the arena in which the subject has had his or her greatest success.
The “5 Minutes With…” pieces will continue to be included in the First Pitch section, while the longer “Art of Sport” interviews will be run throughout the magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III