At the end of Hank Steinbrenner’s life it was tough to get together, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
We had to be careful to not possibly bring the virus around.
The last time we actually did together, I knew that I and Aris Sakellaridis, who was also very close to Hank, would not be seeing him again.
Aris and I were there with him, with very heavy hearts.
We went to see Hank with the intent of spending 10 minutes.
We ended up staying for four hours.
Hank wanted to have fun and laugh so we decided to watch a Richard Pryor show.
I laughed more at him laughing then I did at Richard Pryor.
I laughed so hard that tears streamed down my face.
I have to admit that half of those tears were due to my own sadnessof my sadness; I guess they served as good camouflage.
In between the “horsing around” as we usually did during our visits, and Aris screaming at Hank to get up so that they could go to the front yard to play catch one more time, as was their routine, I could tell that Hank was having a great time. I could also tell that he was getting very tired so we told him that we were going to leave so he could rest.
Hank at that moment “ordered” us to stay and watch one more movie.
Aris screamed, in his standard sarcastic manner, “I don’t work for you! But I’ll stay of course because I like Clint Eastwood in “‘Pale Rider.'”
The movie was an an all time favorite of Hanks.
We all laughed because that was classic Aris.
Hank knew me very well and asked when I would be running into the fire, referring to the coronavirus situation in New York. He knew how seriously and personally I took my city, as well as the people living there.
Hank always used to tell me I couldn’t save the world but he loved the fact that I thought that I could.
For several years, Hank Steinbfrenner actually became a regular visitor to the Bronx. He got to know the people there. On several occasions he visited schools and actually didn’t make it to Yankee Stadium.
That’s how seriously he felt about the people in the Bronx and I have to add that the kids loved him.
Just about halfway through the film, he fell asleep. I looked at Aris and I said, “Let’s go.”
As we were leaving, Hank woke up and asked us if we were coming tomorrow.
I said yes.
I knew we weren’t, but I didn’t want to disappoint him. He told me not to leave for New York without letting him know, and if l left to tell Max, his assistant.
As we walked out, Aris said that he really would have liked to give Hank the cross that he wore around his neck. I said, “then go back in the room and give it to him.”
Aris said that Hank wouldn’t take it. So I told him to force it on him. Aris walked back into the room and said,”Hank this is for you.”
Hank saw it and said, “No that’s yours.”
Aris told him that he wanted him to accept it, so Hank lowered his head and Aris put it aroound his neck.
Hank always had the greatest smile and with that he warmly said, “Thanks Pal!”
We knew that when we got into my car that we had seen Hank for the last time.
Not a word was spoken as we drove from Hank’s home in Clearwater to St. Petersburg, Florida.
Today I’m in New York trying to help as many people as possible in anyway possible during this pandemic. I have two sons who are police officers.
They are on the front line in the frot line of duty.
I worry about them every day.
There are many who are hungry; we’re helping them, along with doctors and nurses needing support. It’s an every day thing in New York. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for this city and all the great people that I have met here.
One of the great things that happened at one point this week was that I got calls from Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela asking if there was anything that they could do to help.
I thought that was a beautiful thing. I told them that when things got back to normal I would love for them to just do what they always do, visit the kids at the schools.
I think of Hank Steinbrenner every day.
I miss him.
He was a beautiful person with a crazy, yet wonderful soul.
I wish you would have known him the way Aris Sakellaridis and I knew him.
To us — he was just Henry.
I produced an animated film a few years ago “Henry & Me.” Hank voiced his father, George. Hank was quite proud of his work in that film. Kidding around he used to say that he didn’t want to show up Richard Gere or Chazz Palminteri, who also provided voices in the film.
Hank Steinbrenner was a different kind of guy. He was special and he will be missed.
Just ask a bunch of kids in New York known as Hank’s Yanks.
That’s a story for another day.