Exit Sandman

mariano-rivera-enter-sandman So I don’t get to watch a lot of baseball these days but I really, really loved every moment of the All Star Game. And in particular, I loved the ovation that Mariano Rivera got in his last All Star Game. Rivera is the greatest reliever of all time and I was blessed to get to know him a bit when I covered the Yankees in the late 90s.

A quick story: The Yankees had just won the 1996 World Series against the Braves and I looked over at Rivera’s locker. His entire family had gathered around him and they were so excited. Rivera had come a long way. He is from Panama and his family was so starry eyed to be in the World Series locker room.

I approached Mariano and congratulated him and he gave me a quick “man hug”. Unusual for a player to do that to a reporter but he was excited and had been around me for most of the season’s home schedule. I only had one question for him that day:

“Mariano, you’ve come a long way to get to the major leagues. What do you think this means for all those people in Panama who supported you all these years?”

He looked at his family and said, “I’m just glad they are here with me, but you’re right…it means so much. We didn’t have a whole lot, but we had baseball and spending all that time working really paid off for us.”

Notice he said “us” and not merely “me.”

Rivera is also a deeply religious man, I believe Pentecostal, or some other evangelical denomination. But he’s never haughty about his faith. He thanks God often, but he isn’t preachy, or at least he never was around me. We never had a religious conversation. But on this day, he said:

“You know none of this would have been possible without God and my family and friends from Panama gave me my faith!”

And just then out of nowhere, Mariano and his family started cheering and yelling in Spanish about Panama. I couldn’t understand half of it and it was almost angry…their passion for their country was so high.

I almost thought they were speaking in tongues because somehow that pride was understood by me.

As I left him, I smiled and congratulated him again. I think he was still yelling when I left.

So I was glad to see him get that ovation during the game. If you missed it here’s a clip I found on you tube:

While I thought Chris Sale deserved the MVP award for pitching two scoreless innings there was no way they weren’t giving it to MO. Congrats, Sandman.

Praying Through Baseball

images-1A recent article in the Christian Century tugged at my heartstrings because it brought up the strong connection many of us pastoral ministry types have with baseball. The author, John Buchanan, talks about the connection between having faith in both religion and the baseball team one follows:

The Pirates remain in my heart, of course, and I am in a near existential crisis when they play the Cubs. However the game turns out, I will both win and lose, rejoice and lament. The Pirates have won three World Series championships during my lifetime, most memorably in 1960 when Pittsburgh upset the heavily favored New York Yankees. The Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to break a 9-9 tie and win the series. It was a moment I have never forgotten. The Cubs, on the other hand, have not won the World Series since 1908 and have created decades of frustration and despair for their followers, with high hopes inevitably crushed, only to be renewed again in the spring.

I sometimes wonder why I care about this game so much. In his new book, Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game, John Sexton (Blogger’s note: Sexton is NYU’s President and a three time Fordham graduate) reinforces my lifelong interest, commitment and enthusiasm. Sexton says that baseball, the only game without a clock, requires concentrated attention and teaches us to “live slow and notice.” He observes that fathers want to give their children something to love, something bigger than themselves to be part of. It is often a religion, and it is often baseball and a team. My parents, thanks be to God, gave me both.

These reflections mirror much of my own feelings about the grand, old game. Most people don’t realize that Baseball is as more about what is not happening than it is about what IS happening. (Will the runner steal? What will the pitcher throw him? Why is the shortstop so deep in the hole for this hitter? Should we bring in a reliever?) The minutia in the game is chock full of statistics and stories that have filled dozens of books and oral traditions. It’s amazing how many stories I have that surround baseball. I can remember moments during high school games, where I almost always rode the bench, but came away with amazing stories and life lessons that have stuck with me to this day. One in particular stands out:

Last inning and our pitcher Mike Rodak heads to the mound and has been masterful. If memory serves he’s throwing a two hitter and we’re up 2-0. Rodak walks the first batter bringing the tying run to the plate. He rears back and throws his best curve of the day to stun the hitter cold and there’s one out. The next batter hits a one hopper that our shortstop knocks down but can only get a force play at second on, but there’s two outs now.

We can smell victory.

Rodak looks spent. He’s all over the place and walks the next guy on four pitches. Now the tying run is on base.

“Mike,” Coach Prior bellows to me, the scorekeeper, “what did this guy do last time?”

“Lined out to straight away center.”

“OK I’m gonna go get Rodak before this guy hits another shot like that!”

“Coach, c’mon. There’s two outs. He also struck this guy out earlier. He’s come this far. Let’s see if he can finish it.”

I knew Mike would rather die than be taken out of this game and he pitched a beauty and thought he could get this guy out.

“Kid,” Coach Prior barked, “You have to win with your best. And right now, Vasquez gives us the best chance at an out.” And Coach trotted out and took the ball from Rodak and handed the ball to Tommy Vasquez, our ace pitcher.

Tommy was amazing. He indeed was our best pitcher on the squad. He even bounced around the minors a bit after he graduated. He was also a great guy, always taking time for guys like me who just didn’t have the talent, but who he saw loved the game and really wanted to just get a chance to contribute. He’d lobby to get me in the game as a pinch hitter and I’d always be grateful. He even let me pinch hit for him once.

So Tommy comes in and we’re feeling confident. “You got this, Tommy!” I yell. After his warm ups, Tommy looks in for the sign. He winds. He throws. Fastball, belt high…

And the batter hits one that I don’t think has landed yet.

There was no wall at this field so the ball just flew and by the time the ball had gotten back the batter has crossed home plate with a walk-off three run homer.

Rodak had been sitting next to me on the bench. He looked forlorn and said to me, “All that shit for nothing.”

It reminds me a bit of what the disciples must have felt like in the upper room. They had done everything right. Jesus, in fact, WAS the messiah and they followed Him, spending days and nights working with him and giving him every ounce of their dedication. Surely He was the one who would set them free from bondage.

And then they killed Him, hanging Him like a common criminal. It was all over in a short 24 hours.

Baseball reminds us, as does Good Friday, that even when we do everything right, sometimes things don’t go as we planned. This is not God playing torture games with us, rather it’s an opportunity for us to find God within the suffering experience.

That afternoon we boarded the bus and Tommy was dejected. Rodak just as angry, not at Tommy, just at the whole mess. We had a small rubber “Sigmund and the sea monsters” plastic hand puppet that was kind of a team mascot for the day. And so Luis Alvarez, our second baseman decided that someone had to break the silence.

“WOW!” he yelled, thrusting Sigmund’s mouth agape, “Tommy got taken REEEEEEEAL DEEP.” And on the word real, Sigmund’s mouth opened immensely.

We all looked at Tommy, who just smiled and then laughed a bit. It was over. There was nothing more to do or say. It was simply time to move on and get them next time. And the next time out Tommy stood a bit stronger for the journey. In fact, I don’t think Tommy or Mike lost again that year.

The themes of forgiveness, resurrection, mindfulness and even silence are intertwined within both baseball and our faith. Like Rev. Buchanan, I am proud that my parents gave me a rich opportunity to be familiar with my faith and to love it. And they also gave me a love for baseball. Together they both have remained with me and have taught me much about resiliency and sacrifice.

May they never leave me. Play ball.

King of All Baseball Geeks

And we mean that in the nicest way possible…

My best man, Mike “Crash” Caragliano (pictured, right) is known for winning the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) Trivia Championship and this year was no different.

Well..wait a minute…it actually was different.

Crash won the individual championship again, his 8th time which ties him with the all time leader, Al Blumkin, another New Yorker.

However, Crash also played with a team this year and they won the team championship. It was the first time that’s ever been done! A big congratulations.

In the team round, his team fell behind early and it looked like they might get crushed until they hit a Jeopardy-style “Daily Double” question and risked all their 27 points on this question:

What player said: “I’d rather be known for being more like Cy Young, than Pete Gray?”

Know the answer? I did. First person to tweet it to me who was not at the conference, gets a copy of my new book when it comes out in print. (@godgoogler)

For those who know Mike Caragliano, they know that he’s a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. He’ll do anything for a friend. He once drove into the city from the Bronx when I got stranded there missing my last train home to Yonkers. Mind you, it was 2AM. He’s a great dad to two kids now and has been a long time producer and engineer at WABC.

But while to many, he’s the guy with an incredible memory for baseball, I’m much more proud of the fact that he’s just been a great friend! One I’d be worse off for not knowing. And we’re proud of him today! Congrats, Crash! Next year, the crown is yours alone!

Baseball as Religion

John Sexton, a Fordham grad and the current President of NYU teaches a course on Baseball and Religion. Where do I sign up? Two of my most favorite things.

And the metaphor of baseball as religion, in Dr. Sexton’s hands, is a long way from the cornball claptrap about stadiums being “green cathedrals.” Over the current semester, the students are reading and discussing the work of theologians and cultural historians like Abraham Joshua Heschel, Michael Novak, Robert N. Bellah and Johan Huizinga alongside novels and reportage by literary chroniclers of baseball like Robert Coover, W. P. Kinsella and Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Dr. Sexton is distilling his own ruminations into a book, “Baseball as a Road to God,” which will be published in early 2013.)

When the class met on the night before opening day this year, Dr. Sexton took out the intellectual version of a fungo bat to knock questions around the room: Was the fisherman in Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” having a religious experience? If he was, how did that experience resonate for the students in the class?

“In the depth of his adversity,” said William Visone, a 19-year-old junior, “he keeps talking about how the big fish is out there. That’s a kind of faith. And it’s like last week when I said that I believe that in my lifetime I will see the Mets win the World Series.”

I totally resonate with this. I remember being a Mets fan as as kid watching the 1986 World Series with my dad in our living room. All was lost…the Red Sox had taken the lead and surely the series. I had never seen MY Team win the world series–too young for 1969.

And then…

That ’86 team often came back when the chips were down. Having faith that they always would was the true mark of a fan. When Carter got the single I turned to my dad and said, “They just might have one more in them.” He thought I was nuts. When Knight crossed the plate I jumped up and nearly cracked my head open on the chandelier in our living room. I tackled my father and was sternly warned by my mother to not react the same way when they won Game 7.

Baseball often provides you with character. There’s an element of forgiveness associated with baseball. Sox fans needed and wanted to forgive Buckner. I have longed to forgive Fred Wilpon for ruining a team, my team…and for treating a bunch of us media types awfully bad in the late 90s. I vowed not to root for the Mets until he sold the team—and karma may still come for Mr. Wilpon before it’s all over, though it seems that he’s escaped having to sell the team for now.

Until that day, I root for the Cubs in these days. They help me build a bit of character. An old ballpark in a great city with great and intelligent fans. The ghost of Harry Caray and Ron Santo and the longing for a World Series. I remember those feelings growing up longing to see MY team win a World Series just once.

I knew I had become a Cubs fan once this happened:

The wheels came off after that play with the Marlins scoring 8 runs after an additional error by SS Alex Gonzalez. They went on to win 8-3 and then again the next night and Steve Bartman became infamous.

Baseball is about loss. It’s almost never about winning. The day in and day out grind of the season reminds me of an imperfect world, where bad things often happen to good people. Even the best teams lose more than a third of the time. You make an out more than 75 percent of the time unless you’re a star and still, you don’t come close to only failing 60% of the time.

The second thing is that baseball is almost never about what happens–it’s about what COULD happen. Anticipation both as a player and an observer is paramount. Strategy is at an all time high with every pitch and every single one is important. Alou makes that catch and Gonzo is shaded a bit differently and perhaps makes a double play a bit easier. It’s a tough game and one moment indeed can make a difference.

I can see Sexton comparing Steve Bartman and Bill Buckner’s one mistake to Richard Wright’s character Bigger Thomas in Native Son, where Bigger, a black man, accidentally smothers a white woman after chauffeuring her home carrying her into her bedroom because she has passed out. Her blind mother entered the room and Bigger thought he would be accused of rape if he was caught in her room. So he stifled her with a pillow and in doing so accidentally kills her. The rest of the story is all downhill from there.

One moment often makes a big difference. That’s life and that’s baseball.

MLB: Understands Addiction

From MLB Fanhouse:

In a display of team unity, and deference to Josh Hamilton’s well known past struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, the Texas Rangers celebrated their American League Division Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays with a shower composed of Canada Dry ginger ale rather than the customary one of champagne and domestic beer.

Nice! Some will quickly say that “just a little bit wouldn’t hurt him.” But those are the folks who just don’t understand addiction. Hamilton is powerless over his alcohol addiction (admitting that is the first step). And in a world where drinking is often linked with celebration, that can be a dangerous place for someone who is a recovering alcoholic.

Hamilton is one of the people who has been pretty public about his struggles and I commend him for that. This celebration should be a signal to many of us to be mindful of those who might not be able to control their drinking at parties, celebrations, social occasions, etc.

It’s also an opportunity for us to ask us if we know enough about addiction? Do we really understand it? Or do we shove the addicted person off to the side and say “He did it to himself?”

Today let’s pray for all those caught in addiction’s grasp and may we be able to reach out to others when they need a friend to help.

Good Friends, Good Beer…Sounds A Lot Like Jesus

We got in late last night and decided to grab a nightcap at Rock Bottom which is a brewery across the street from our Cincinnati hotel. Will Carrroll, who some may know from ESPN or Baseball Prospectus, has been along for the ride and joined us. He’s been a great traveling companion for the group and is filled with a lot of baseball knowledge and fun stories. It brought me back to the days of when I covered baseball in radio.

Seemingly though, just sitting and talking about baseball, our wives, mutual friends and life in general in our respective cities has been enriching for me.

We even discussed Big League Tours doing a “Baseball Widows” tour where they can set up alternative fun activities for couples in the cities that they also take you to a game to. So if let’s say MY wife wanted to do something in addition to going to a baseball game, well that might be included in a tour package. Perhaps something like going to San Francisco and Seattle with some sidetrip options in those great cities and finishing it off with an Alaskan Cruise. Probably out of my league expense-wise–but these folks are awesome and I think they’d figure out how to make that a great experience for people.

From my own spiritual perspective, as I did my examen last night, I found myself back at the bar and with a fuzzy mascot at the ballpark…two essentially non-sports watching activities were the highlights. Sports was part of both activities to be sure but it was just fun sitting and talking and goofing around mostly.

A story showed up on the news about an aid worker getting killed in Afghanistan, a young woman, who clearly reminded me of one of my students. I found myself riveted to the screen. A second story about how 75% of NFL players are broke no more than three years after they retire also caught my attention.

I realized then that this was one of the reasons that solely covering baseball (or even other sports) wasn’t really at the heart of who I am and more importantly, what motivates me.

Jesus was accused of eating and drinking too much with his friends. At the wedding feast at Cana, we should notice a few things. One it was a party and Jesus was there. Two, the author points out that they’ve run out of wine immediately after he notes that Jesus and his friends were present. Three, Mary, seemingly out of the blue runs over to Jesus and tells him that they’ve run out of wine. I loosely translate this as Mary saying “Jesus, you and your friends have been drinking all afternoon. You’ve essentially drank enough for the entire party and now they’ve run out of stuff. FIX THIS.”

And he does. Let the party continue.

And much of the same occurs here. I think Jesus would have liked baseball. Young people stretch themselves to compete and others are amazed by their efforts. All the time it is a quiet reflective afternoon in the sunny weather. There’s laughing and carousing with good food and simple food (well, sorta–it’s getting more elaborate as time goes on).

Today is our final game in Cincinnati. We get to meet Hall of Famer Dave Parker and tour the Reds Hall of Fame. I know funny stories will be central to today’s discussions with Parker, who had it tough playing for a racist owner in Marge Schott who called him the n-word and kept a swastika in a drawer in her house. How he kept his composure, I have no idea. We’ll find out though.

The Voice of God…Stilled

Bob Sheppard the great Yankee public address announcer has died at the reported age of 99 after a full life filled with much joy. I place a picture of his microphone here as most people didn’t know what Bob looked like–and that was kind of the way he liked it. But you knew that voice. A perfect pronunciation of every syllable made Sheppard a standout. Derek Jeter has his voice recorded and only allows that recording to be used for his at bats.

“Now batting for the Yankees…number 2… the shortstop…Derek Jee-tuh….number 2.”

I got to interview Sheppard twice, once for a piece for BustedHalo® and again during my radio career at the stadium. (For the audio version of the Sheppard interview listen here)

The guy was the classiest man I have ever met. A daily communicant all his life, Sheppard was a big supporter of Catholic education, coaching forensics at Mary Louis Academy in Queens and teaching speech at St John’s University for dozens of years (a fact unknown by many). He inspired me to go into ministry when I was a locker room reporter for WOR and we chatted in the middle of a ballgame in his booth.

He asked my last name and I told him “Hayes.”

He replied, “Oh! Like the Cardinal! (A former Archbishop of New York–no relation).”

He then said, “Well what the heck are you doing HERE!? You should be at the seminary or something!”

Little did Bob know, I was thinking of going into ministry and you never know when you’re going to hear the Voice of God telling you exactly what you should do. I let him know about this in a brief interview and he got a real kick out of it. Again the audio is on this podcast.

Just like Yankee Shortstop Paul Zuvella. Sheppard approached him on his first day in a Yankee uniform and asked,

“Is it Zu-vell-uh or Zoovuh-la?”

Paul responded with the former pronunciation, Sheppard gave him a quick thank you and departed. Zuvella then looked at then Daily news reporter Michael Kay and asked, “Who the hell was that?”

Kay responded, “That…was God.”

Zuvella: “I don’t get it!”

Kay: “You will once you get to the plate today.”

A confused Zuvella shrugged and moved on with his pre-game ritual.

Before his first At Bat Sheppard intoned:

“Now batting for the Yankees…..number 26….The shortstop…Paul…Zu-vell-uh…..number 26.”

Zuvella looked up with the expression like “Oh! Now I get it!”

Sheppard had two loves, The Yankees and his beloved family, starting with his devoted wife, Mary who he married and always looked at her with loving eyes. Listen to the interview I did with him and you’ll hear it for yourself. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were always his priority.

Imagine being a church lector and then telling people that Bob Sheppard trained you in proclaiming the Word of the Lord! That’s exactly what many people in Bob’s parish were able to say and he always took special interest in young lectors. A friend watched him sling his arm around a young lady who read at mass that day and watched him critique her quietly, lovingly.

She hung on to his every word.

Today I am sad for the Yankees and baseball but grateful for my ministry, and for a few brief moments that I spent with a sincere gentleman, kind enough to take a few moments for me. It is in gratitude for his encouragement that I celebrate today along with a ministry that was encouraged by the very Voice of God.

Grant Peace to Desme

Oakland Athletics prospect Grant Desme is trading in his glove for a collar. So says this article.A snip:

The A’s prized prospect exited the season with a head-turning presence, accompanied by a bat that produced 31 home runs and a speedy 6-foot-2 frame that stole 40 bases in Class A ball — making him the only player in Minor League Baseball to enjoy a 30-30 campaign.

An exceptional performance and MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League followed, so surely Desme was close to getting a call, most assumed — if not for a trip to The Show, then at least for an invitation to Spring Training.

Yet, Desme insists he’d already received the call long before his final at-bat in the fall came and went — the one that would take him to bigger and better places.

It just so happens it wasn’t what the A’s organization — or anyone else, for that matter — had in mind.

The call, Desme announced Friday, came in the form of priesthood in the Catholic church.

“Last year before the season started, I really had a strong feeling of a calling and a real strong desire to follow it,” the 23-year-old said. “I just fought it.”

Thus, Desme chose to play out the season as a test of sorts, “just hoping and praying about it.”

“As the year went on,” he said, “God blessed me. I had a better year than I could have imagined, but that reconfirmed my desire because I wasn’t at peace with where I was at. I love the game, but I aspire to higher things.”

I kinda know how he feels.

While not being good enough to become an athlete, I was good enough to be a broadcaster. For 10 years of my life I tried to give broadcasting a go, with limited success. I produced a lot behind the scenes, did some small on-air things for the stations that I worked for and felt like I was just spinning my wheels. I was a snotty 20 something who thought that I was better than some on the on-air staff (and I can honestly say that I was in certain cases) and didn’t need to go an earn my dues somewhere outside of the world’s biggest media market. Still, that limited success was enough to earn me a spot as a minor league broadcaster in my hometown for the Yonkers Hoot Owls.

And I was pretty good. My partner and I had good banter and people who showed up at the games would tell us that we did a good job. I sent tapes to major league broadcasters for advice and they liked what they heard and advised me to just be patient that my time would come. At the end of that season, I believed that I was a good broadcaster. I had proven to myself that I indeed could be a solid broadcaster.

But I wasn’t excited about it. I complained through most of the season and when one of my high school coaches showed up to take in a game he noticed my negativity. “You look like you could use a break from this season,” he said to me.

He was right.

Even other radio colleagues noticed my lack of enthusiasm, despite a lot of talent. One even mentioned that he saw my energy rise after a returned from a weekend retreat that I had led with my parish and that he had never seen that side of me before.

So I searched my heart and I found much peace after admitting that I was scared to leave one career for what might lie ahead. Friends encouraged me to seek the advice of others and after meeting with many other ministry professionals my fears began to subside. After meeting with a bunch of major league broadcasters, I found myself less envious of their stature and more excited about making a choice for ministry rather than for something for which I just lacked passion.

So I hope that Grant Desme has a great life in the seminary. I hope he discerns well and that he becomes a good priest. Because we need good priests and more importantly, we need men and women with a passion for ministry.

Let’s all pray for that today.

The Faithful Departed

BustedHalo® has begun it’s annual series on those who have passed away this year and Marc D. Adams reflected on Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart beautifully.

It was just the beginning of the season… the April dew still lingered on the short blades of grass, the electricity and excitement for a year full of potential filled the air, and just a few hours earlier, a young Angel pitcher by the name of Nick Adenhart had thrown six shut out innings in his season debut. The future was bright. The baseball world was his oyster. And then came the crash.

Nick Adenhart, 22, and two others tragically died in a car accident last April when a drunk driver blew through a red light and struck their vehicle with maximum force. It happened hours after Adenhart took to the field in just his fourth Major League start ever. He had achieved his dream of playing baseball at the highest level. But his family has been living a nightmare every day since.

How could someone so young be taken from this earth so soon? If I am to believe that everything happens for a reason (which I do) what possible reason could there be for this? They’re the kind of questions that only God can truly answer and any answers that do come seem wholly inadequate.

Check out the rest of the article and more from the faithful departed series as the week goes on.

Memories of Mr October’s Swagger

Reggie Jackson is doing a show called October Nights on Sirius Satellite Radio these days and with the dawn of baseball’s post-season, I always think back to baseball stars of the past that I can remember. Reggie is certainly one of them.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s there were two men who I remember as just having such arrogance that their swagger and confidence always made you want to hate them but they were so good that you had to respect them as well. Muhammad Ali was one and Reggie jackson was the other.

I hated him. I was a Mets fan who was surrounded by Yankee fans in my Yonkers neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the House that Ruth Built. Reggie was a star, nay, THE star on a loaded Yankees squad that won the World Series in 1977 and 1978 when I was in first and second grade and just beginning my love affair with baseball.

Fast forward over 20 years and I was a radio beat reporter for WOR covering the Yankee Old Timers Day. Out of the dugout stepped Reggie. He still looked larger than life. And he still had that swagger, that arrogance. He stepped into the batter’s box for batting practice and crushed a pitch into the bleachers and another and another. The old man could still swing well into his 50s. Jackson finished his batting practice regimen and then came over to talk with us reporter types.

He answered easy questions on a fun day such as what the difference is in the game today as opposed to when he played. “Money” was his one word answer (and for his time, Reggie was paid handsomely but nowhere near what guys get today!).

I had my moment to ask him a question:

“Reggie, I can still see you appreciate the fans coming out to see you. You still are trying to hit those pitches out of the park. Can you tell me what the fans mean to you today as opposed to when you were playing?”

Reggie: “I love them. And hold on? What do you mean I’m TRYING to hit some out? I hit a few! I hit more than a few!”

Me: (Nervous, thinking I’ve annoyed him) No, Reggie..that’s not what I meant…”

Reggie: (now smiling) Nah man, I ain’t mad. (Slings his arm around me and pokes me in the chest playfully) I’ll tell you what..I’m gonna hit you a homer today in the Old Timer’s Game. Just for you!”

Me: Yeah, OK.

Reggie: “No, I REALLY am.”

Me: (Trying to stay professional) “OK, Reggie. Thanks.”

We departed and I went upstairs and took my seat in the press box as the Old Timer’s Game began. If you’ve never been to an Old Timer’s Game it’s hysterical. It’s the equivalent of a not-so-serious softball game, although some would say that even at their age most of these guys hate to lose and some take it more seriously than others.

Reggie got up to the plate. Dug in and awaited the pitch. Fastball belt high.

Reggie swings…


And like a bullet the ball flew high and far into the right field bleachers. Home Run.

Reggie took his home run trot and as he rounded third base he looked up to the press box and pointed to me. I simply waved back and started laughing.

Later on I ran into Reggie as he made he way to his office which was near the press box (Reggie works for the Yankees as a special assistant now). He winked at me and said “Told ya.”

Such swagger, such arrogance…but in a good way. It’s something I used to hate but now wish I would see more from today’s athletes who, as Reggie even admitted seem to be more about making money than winning baseball games. Derek Jeter may be the lone exception but even he lacks that kind of swagger that Reggie and Ali oozed at all times.

So tonight I hope that the Yankees can begin their quest for another World Championship with the swagger that demands respect, an arrogance that comes with being great.