What a weekend for baseball fans and Yankee junkies. I wanted to be in Florida this past weekend to prepare for the 2018 baseball season but as many know I had three funerals to attend. Since I was going to be in town, I was told by some of my friends about three giant baseball functions.
First, there was the Hot Stove League Baseball Scouts Dinner to honor the back bone of Major League Baseball, the scouts. I attended the function with the dean of major league scouts, Tom Giordano, affectionally know as T-Bone, who at 92 years of age is the oldest employee in all of Major League Baseball. Also with me was NY Yankees Tristate area scout, Cesar Presbott. Among the Scouts honored was Kelly Rodman, who happens to be the Yankees first women scout. She received the Gil Bassetti memorial award for her dedication and loyalty to the game of baseball. Kelly was a great collegiate softball player that has played all over the world.
The enthusiasm that she showed as a player she also shows as a scout. Kids in many Latin countries still remember Kelly as someone that gave all of herself in helping them learn the game. She is a great ambassador to the great game of baseball so it not surprising that she is doing it as a Yankee.
The next day, I found myself in New Jersey, at the Hasbrouck Heights Hilton. The biggest baseball card show in the world this year was being run by Mollie Ann Bracigliano, who is known as the Queen of the baseball card shows. During the week, she appeared on my ESPN Deportees radio show, Impact, to promote the event.
She told me that many of the Yankees young prospects were going to be at the event including the MLB.com number one prospect, Gleyber Torres. Mollie felt that it would be a good idea for me to be there, so I agreed to go. Andrew Levy of “Wish You Were Here Productions” had an incredible stable of players past and present to assist Mollie. Andrew has always had one of the better reputations in this crazy business and it shows in how his players conducted their business.
When I got to the event, I walked in with Alex Rodriguez. Before Alex sat down to sign autographs he visited with all the baby bombers and depending on the person gave them some positive words of wisdom. When it came to young Mr. Torres, Alex dealt with him with kid gloves. A-Rod told him some great things that I remember Reggie Jackson telling Derek Jeter back in February of 1996 at a similar event. I found Torres to be a terrific young man who was very kind to all of the young people at the event. I asked Legendary Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson what advice would he give Torres and he said that Torres should just stay himself, keep working hard and never forget where he came from and to remember that there is nothing like being a Yankee. New Yankee manager, Aaron Boone, was also there. It was my first chance to actually say hello to the Bombers newest manager.
I could tell that Aaron was already on the job as he went around to all his baby bombers, introduced himself and gave them a hug.
The next day it was a rainy Sunday and I attended the funeral of my beloved priest, Father Richard Gorman, who died of a heart attack during the week. Father Gorman used to go to the difficult hospital visits with me where the kids unfortunately were not expected to make it. He was my support when I would break down and cry. I will miss him forever.
That evening I found myself at the Baseball Writers annual dinner at the Sheraton Hotel. Before the event, I spent time with some of the honored guests. The two VIPs that I wanted to spend time with was new Hall of famer, Jim Thome, a friend from my days in Cleveland. Jim is one of the nicest people that you could ever meet. I always used to tell Jim that he was a cross between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. How I came to that analogy was from stories that legendary Yankee Clubhouse manager Pete Sheehy used to tell me about the personalities of these two fabled giants and of course their baseball prowess. So, getting to spend as much time as I did with Jim I used to love to tell him what a great Yankee he would have been and how he would have been loved by the fans just like Ruth and Gehrig and of course Munson and Murcer.
The other VIP being Giancarlo Stanton. I found Giancarlo to be a very nice person who is genuinely excited to be a part of this juggernaut that is known as the New York Yankees. After we got to talk for a little while many fans started to come over to him and bombard him for pictures and autographs. I told him that I would see him in Tampa. As I walked away I stopped to see if he was going to snap at the people because they wouldn’t stop making requests of him however, he stayed cool as a cucumber.
Later, I would see my reporter friend Tom Verducci from Sports Illustrated and also the MLB network. He has been good friends with Giancarlo Stanton since he came to the big leagues and we talked for about twenty minutes about his admiration of this young man. Tom would later come on my radio show to again praise Giancarlo Stanton.
During the ceremony, I was very blessed to be able to sit at the Yankee table. No matter to what degree, there is nothing in the world like being a part of the Yankees. Forty five years since I started in this organization and I am still extremely grateful to be here and very happy to be able to share my stories with all the people that really care about Baseball.
Today the baseball world mourns the passing of former Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres General Manager, Kevin Towers. Throughout the baseball world he was known as a truly good person and family man. Always a fun loving guy, those who knew him well will really miss him. He was much too young to go at the age of fifty six.
I want to close this column by giving my condolences to Gene Gagliardi and his family. Gene, a long time road manager for Aerosmith and other rock bands of that era, lost his dad Gene Sr. last week. Gene Sr. was a World War II war hero who was a close friend to Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto. To say that he was a Yankee fan would be an understatement. One thing for sure, he was a great man!