On May 20, 1927, a fight was held at Yankee Stadium. Jack Sharkey vs. Jack Dempsey. Joe Humphreys, the ring announcer, came to the center of the ring and asked for silence.
He had no megaphone, and no microphone, but he screamed at the audience to quiet down.
“May I have your attention? Silence please! Silence please!”
After a few more times, the audience finally quieted down.
“Ladies and gentlemen, young Charles Lindbergh is in the air. May God save him for a safe flight. Bow your head in prayer.”
After a moment of silence, the capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium said, in unison, “Amen.”
I first heard this rather unique story told by Bert Randolph Sugar, a renowned sports historian, writer, author, journalist, and analyst. Sunday evening ESPN reported Sugar, 75, passed away from cardiac arrest and heart complications.
The news of Sugar’s passing in a lot of ways shook me up. He was a colorful reporter, and a well-spoken individual. Sugar’s forte, or his passion if you will, was boxing. Typically seen with his trademark cigar, he was probably the best writer ever when it came to reporting on action inside the squared circle, as evidenced by his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.
But writing and reporting about boxing wasn’t all he could do from a sports journalism standpoint. Sugar had such range, being able to talk about and analyze sports other than boxing.
As a matter of fact, Sugar wrote a baseball book and even co-authored a book about pro wrestling. A wealth of sports knowledge and a well-respected historian, Sugar will be sorely missed.
There were just so many things that made him an elite, top-notch sports writer.
As a young journalist, cutting my teeth into the business, Sugar has left me a wonderful example of what a sports writer should be. The ability to story-tell, range, and knowledge are three essential skills that are basically must-haves for all sports writers, and there’s no question Sugar possessed each of them.
The media studies department at my alma mater, Mercy College, holds an award ceremony called the Quill Awards at the end of every academic year. Typically at the Quills, a Mercy alumnus is given an award, a journalist in the field receives a special recognition, and students in the department are rewarded for their hard work throughout the school year.
I served two years as sports editor of The Impact, Mercy’s student newspaper. Because of that service, I received the Quill for sports reporting in 2009 and the year I graduated, 2010.
The second time I was given the award (which also happened to be about a month before I graduated) for my work as far as sports reporting, it felt good to hear my journalism professor acknowledge my dedication. He announced to everyone in attendance at the ceremony that I would be “a sports writer you will be hearing about.”
And in a sense, I have gotten my name out there. At least a little bit.
ESPN has featured my insight on their “Baseball Tonight” show multiple times, the YES Network has put some of my thoughts on their “Extra Innings” postgame show, and even MLB has showcased Yankee Yapping on its main page.
I had the chance to interview former baseball coach Rick Wolff, who is the son of former Yankee announcer Bob Wolff – the famed announcer who called Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. In fact, it was Mr. Wolff that encouraged me to start my own blog, putting the idea of Yankee Yapping in my head.
Recently, I had the chance to cover a high school basketball game sitting next to Yankee legend Bernie Williams – and got to chit-chat with him watching his daughter play ball.
If I had to sum it all up in one word, to this point: blessed. I personally know sports writers who have graduated from college that are struggling greatly to kick-start their careers, so taking into consideration everything I have accomplished thus far, I truly believe “blessed” is the correct word to use.
Either “blessed” or maybe just “lucky.”
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren once said, “The front page chronicles man’s defeats. The sports page chronicles man’s triumphs.”
Sugar made his whole life chronicling man’s triumphs – which is why I think I love the sports writing business so much. I take so much pride in attending games and writing about the swagger of individual players and teams.
I’ve had quite a few people use certain adjectives to describe my writing. An old friend once called it “amazing” and “incredible.”
As nice as that is to hear, I look at Sugar’s work and a lot of the other writers out there, and the same logic repeats in my mind:
“I may be good, but it’s going to be awhile before I get up to that level.”
And it is my hope that one day I am at the level of a Bert Sugar, because when it was all said and done for him, he was one of the most respected, renowned, and well-loved sports pundits in the world. For his intelligence and wide array of sports knowledge, he will never be forgotten – at least not in this writer’s mind.
Rest in Peace Bert Randolph Sugar (1937-2012)
There has been so much going on lately!
Instead of writing a whole bunch of different blog entries, I decided to write a little different this time–just for this time, since there are so many topics I want to cover.
First things first…
- We lost a legend today. Bob Sheppard, at the age of 99, passed away. I put this
loss up there with losing Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio in 1995 and 1999, respectively.
Sheppard was the voice of Yankee Stadium for over 50 years and life will just not be the same without him; it hasn’t been, ever since he stopped announcing games at Yankee Stadium in 2007. He officially retired back in November.
Mr. Sheppard, you will ALWAYS be remembered as a classy, dignified, and honorable man. They say true legends will live forever, and you will certainly live forever in the minds of the Yankee fans.
“I have one style of speaking. It’s the same, whether it be at Yankee Stadium, at home, in the classroom, or when I lector at Mass.“–Bob Sheppard.
- I have been especially busy this week at my job with the Hudson Valley Renegades. After a walk-off win on Friday night, we were beaten on Saturday night at the hands of the Auburn Doubledays.
Although we lost, there was a little ceremony before the game that really made me think. At Dutchess Stadium, there is a Scout’s Hall of Fame; a place dedicated to honor important people who helped recruit players.
Last night the Renegades honored Bob Miske, a scout who worked for the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, among other organizations. He told a cool story about Tommy Lasorda for his induction speech, and how he became friends with him.
Yet before he spoke, an excellent point was brought up: why is there no Scout’s Wing to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Of course all the legendary players and great writers are enshrined in Cooperstown, but where is the recognition for the people who pick out the young players who go on to become larger-than-life superstars?
It’s a great point. When you think about it, someone picked Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez out of a ton of other players. From there, they went on to become who they are today. Shouldn’t the person who discovered them get some credit?
I think they should.
The baseball scouts also dedicate their lives to the business. They travel around the country going to high school and college baseball games with nothing but a book, a pen, and a radar gun, looking for the next top player. Since they dedicate such a big part of their lives to the game, they should certainly be recognized for it.
Congratulations to Miske on being honored by the Renegades. We appreciate your effort.
Also on a side note, Renegades’ manager Jared Sandberg (who I recently found out is Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg’s nephew) was standing right next to me during the ceremony…I snapped a picture of him via my camera phone very discreetly before it ended.
- How nice has CC Sabathia been? His victory over the Seattle Mariners today marked his eighth win in as many opportunities.
The Yankee ace has a total of 12 wins this season and only three losses. He is traditionally known as a “second half player,” meaning he usually puts up his best work in the second half of the season after the All-Star break. It’s pretty scary to think how many wins he could potentially reach if he keeps winning the way he is.
I’m not necessarily saying he’ll win another 12 games over the second half of the year and reach a mind-numbing 24 wins, but 20-21 wins is certainly looking possible at press time. As far as the Cy Young Award goes, it could be him. David Price certainly has a little bit of an edge halfway through the season, but as I said if Sabathia keeps going the way he is, he’s a definite candidate.
It’s great to have an ace/horse like him on our side. If his good friend Cliff Lee had become a Yankee (as it looked like he was going to be on Friday) it would have been VERY scary; to have two number one pitchers like Lee and Sabathia on the same team is frightening. To have them on the same team that already has the best record in baseball, is just plain terrifying.
But of course the Lee deal fell through and he went to the Texas Rangers. But wait until next year. The Rangers are never going to be able to pay him after this year and it’s quite possible Lee will be in pinstripes in 2011.
As for Sabathia, it’s just business as usual. He is slated to pitch again on Friday vs. Tampa Bay at home. If he wins that game, it’s pretty much a given that he’ll at least reach 20 wins this season.
- In the fifth inning of today’s game Marcus Thames crushed his third homer of the year, a long shot high off the foul pole in Seattle.
It was kind of a bittersweet home run for me.
Thames hit that home run off Brian Sweeney, a fellow alumnus of my alma mater Mercy College and a journeyman pitcher from Yonkers, N.Y. I recently had the chance to talk to Sweeney, and he agreed to do an interview with me for the blog. (He is such a nice guy, by the way!)
Sweeney also pitched on Thursday night; he got Jorge Posada to bounce into a double play and got through the eighth inning without giving up an earned run. I’ll admit I was rooting for him. I wanted him to get the Yankees out. After he surrendered the homer to Thames today, he got Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Rodriguez out.
He gave up two runs in the fifth but went 1-2-3 in the sixth. I was proud.
To me, Sweeney serves as an inspiration. He has made me realize that graduates of my college CAN really go on to do great things. I sometimes have very little faith in myself, especially now considering I’m a recent college graduate struggling to find a real job (I like working for the Renegades, but it’s an internship; it’s going to be over by the end of the summer).
But I look at Sweeney, pitching for a Major League Baseball team. He came from the same place I did and has reached a great place in life. It gives me hope and encouragement and makes me believe that I can do something great with myself, if I work hard enough.
When I heard John Flaherty mention Mercy College on the YES Network this afternoon and on Thursday night, it made me smile; it made me very proud. It also made me wonder if Flaherty would mention when he visited Mercy last year; I interviewed him and wrote a feature article about him when he came, as I was the sports editor of the school paper.
It was, by far, my favorite story that I wrote in college.
I’m actually still trying to get in touch with Flaherty; I’d like to send him the story I wrote on him. Unfortunately, I can’t find a way to get in touch with him at the moment. I’ll keep trying though and eventually I’ll get a hold of him. I’d like for him to see all the nice things I wrote about him.
As for Sweeney: I am proud of him, and I’m sure the rest of the Mercy College community is, too. I’ll be talking to him soon and when I get my interview with him, it’ll be posted here right away!
Lastly, I’d like to thank my good friend Micheal Robinson for coming up with a new picture for the Yankee Yapping Facebook page. He is a wonderfully skilled person when it comes to graphic design and he is a genius with photo-shop.
It looks great, buddy. I love it and thank you once again!
On May 15, 2009 Brett Gardner made history. In a game he wasn’t even originally part of (thank Johnny Damon for getting himself ejected) he raced 360 feet around the Yankee Stadium bases in a dashing 14 seconds for an inside-the-park home run against the Minnesota Twins.
Yes, 14 seconds. The Flash and Sonic the Hedgehog can eat their hearts out.
Many people are familiar about the real story behind the home run. A young lady by the name of Alyssa Esposito had given Gardner a bracelet earlier in the day, claiming that if he held onto the bracelet he would hit a home run.
Her premonition came true.
Gardner became the first Yankee since Ricky Ledee to hit an inside the park home run. Ledee accomplished the feat on Aug. 29, 1999 vs. the Seattle Mariners. The speedy Gardner finished the night 3-for-3 with the in-the-parker, and even led off the ninth inning with a triple that sparked the Yankees’ come-from-behind rally.
The Yanks went on to win the game 5-4 on a Melky Cabrera walk-off single.
Gardner left the Stadium that day, not only with an inside-the-park homer, but with a lifelong friend–Esposito. The 18 year-old (now 19) was waiting for four months for a heart transplant and received it the night of Gardner’s amazing show of speed.
The courageous young lady recently spoke to Yankee Yapping about her experience, what she is up to now after her successful surgery, and how she made it to the back of Gardner’s baseball card.
Yankee Yapping: Were you always a Yankee fan, or did your experience with Brett Gardner make you one?
Alyssa Esposito: I was never a Yankee fan, but I also was never a baseball fan in general either. I guess I was raised a Mets “fan” until I met Brett Gardner at the hospital. Now I watch every game on TV, and root for the Yankees. I never realized how cool and exciting baseball was until after Brett hit the inside the park homerun.
YY: What was Brett’s initial reaction when you gave him the bracelet?
AE: Overall Brett is a really sweet and humble guy. He really connected with each patient after he read a book at the hospital event, provided by Project Sunshine. When I gave him the bracelet he gave me a really big smile that just made my day. I could tell that he was hesitant about the fact that I said it would help him hit a homerun, but like I said, that’s the humble guy inside.
YY: After your heart surgery you found out Gardner hit the inside-the-park home run. What were your thoughts after it happened?
AE: It’s actually a pretty funny story. Supposedly my family told me Brett hit the inside-the-park home run right before I went into surgery, but the heavy duty drugs the doctors give me to put me to sleep must have gotten to my memory which made me not remember.
But I was reminded as soon as I woke up from my surgery.
My family also showed me the replay after my transplant but apparently I had to watch it several times and I was told I had said “He’s running for me”, which brought tears to my Mom’s eyes. At that time the medicine from surgery and also the pain medicine was still wearing off.
YY: A number of publications and media outlets called you Gardner’s good luck charm that night. Can you explain how that feels?
AE: I smile whenever I hear or read that I am Brett’s good luck charm but honestly I really think God just set it all up. He took two unlikely circumstances and made them into two miracles. As of this day whenever I think about what has happened, I get the chills.
YY: After the May 15 win over the Twins, the Yankees went on a stretch where they went 17-9. Did you at all feel you really were their good luck charm?
AE: I like to think that I am their good luck charm in a way that they just got a boost from the inside-the-park home run Gardner hit. Maybe they felt that anything is possible and that just made them want to try even harder.
YY: It’s every little boy’s dream to have his face printed on a baseball card. You are on the back of Brett Gardner’s card. How did that happen?
AE: I didn’t know about the story being on the back of Gardner’s baseball card until a mother of a girl I graduated high school with asked me on Facebook if I knew about it.
Her son has a collection of baseball cards and his mother was looking through them one day and came across Brett’s. She had said her son wanted me to have it, which I thought was the absolute sweetest thing. She mailed it to me and when I went to a Yankee game, Brett signed it for me.
YY: After your transplant you reunited with the Yanks and Gardner. How special was it to see Brett again and was it an emotional experience?
AE:The first time I saw Brett after my heart transplant was at a press conference at the hospital. It was very emotional seeing all of my doctors there to support the hospital.
Brett and I spoke for a few minutes to just catch up and talk personally. It was just an overwhelming feeling being there with the healthy new heart inside of me and reuniting with Brett. I thought it was a special day because I got to meet him when I was actually healthy and full of energy.
YY: The other Yankees gave you some pretty cool gifts when you went to your first game after the operation, huh?
AE: The first Yankee game my family and I went to after my heart transplant was the most fun I have had in a long time. The stadium is amazing and it was my first time going there. Each one of the Yankees I met are extremely nice and they were all concerned about how I was feeling after my surgery.
Nick Swisher was full of excitement and energy and I loved his huge smile on his face. He referred to me as “The Gardner Girl” when he came up to me, and I absolutely love that nickname!
Alex Rodriguez had signed both of his gloves he had just used for batting practice and gave them to me. He was very sincere about it and did not want to make a big deal at all in front of the cameras.
I got a baseball signed by a few players as well and have it in my room along with the batting gloves inside a case. I also have a signed jersey by some of the players that I wore on the field the day I went to the game. I plan on making a scrapbook with the hundreds of pictures my family and I took that day as a beautiful memory.
YY: The Yankees capped off the 2009 season with a World Series title. When the last out was made– the Shane Victorino groundout to Robinson Cano–like most Yankee fans you were probably very excited. Was it especially a sweet win for you, considering what you went through earlier in the year?
AE: It was for sure a sweet win for me and it was so great to see the excitement. Every bit of hard work they put in playing, was worth it.
I look back all the time and realize how much I have gone through and I truly believe the Yankees deserved every bit of that title with their hard work. Just like every bit of strength and fighting power I gave in to survive, was worth the gift of life I received. I continue to thank God for my precious donor who gave me a priceless gift.
YY: Now that you have had the successful heart surgey, what are you doing in terms of your future?
AE: I am in college right now. I took one semester of courses all online and I plan on continuing to do that until I feel it is time to attend the actual classrooms. I have to be careful because my immune system is suppressed. I love the online classes because it is convenient and if I have a visit to the hospital it won’t interfere with them.
In less than 24 hours I will officially be ending (what seems like) a pretty long and important chapter in my life. I will be graduating from Mercy College Wednesday morning.
Over the past couple of days I have been reflecting on what life has been like for the time I spent in college. There have been a lot experiences and different things I have been able to do. Some semesters were better than others, some good and some not as good. I can say I had many good times and just as many difficult times.
But as Derek Jeter once said, “You find out a lot about yourself when dealing with adversity.” The Yankee captain couldn’t have been more right. I did learn a lot about myself through difficult times.
I think the busiest semester had to be last spring, or the spring of 2009. There was a lot going on at the time, both good and bad. One of the good parts about that semester was the weekend of March 13. I had a cool story to cover (and a date with the girl I liked at the time the next day…but that’s another story for another time!)
That Friday, former New York Yankee catcher and current YES Network broadcaster John Flaherty was the guest of honor at a fundraiser breakfast my college’s softball team hosted. As the sports editor of the school newspaper, my job was to cover the event and write an article about it.
Cover an event and talk to an ex-Yankee? Yeah, I was up for it! (Please don’t laugh at the picture; it was REALLY early in the morning…I am NOT a morning person!)
After the breakfast was over, Flaherty spoke to us about his career and what it was like playing for the Yankees. He told some great stories and encouraged the Mercy teams to enjoy their time together as friends and teammates.
Probably the best story Flaherty told was how he got called up to the majors. He mentioned that he and his friends had gone out for “sodas” the night before and his first day on the job in the majors he felt a little…hung-over.
I asked him what it felt like to be in the Major Leagues, seeing as how it’s every little boy’s dream to be there. He said aside from being hung-over that it was a whirlwind; it took awhile for it to sink in that he was a major leaguer. He even said he didn’t believe it until Kirk Gibson told him he was not going back to the minors.
Flaherty said his favorite Yankee teammate was Jorge Posada and that he still keeps in touch with him to this day. Well, I guess working for YES and just being a former Yankee, he can probably pretty much keep in touch with all of the current Yankees.
There were also some things Flaherty talked about that day which took me by surprise. First off, until then I had no idea he was originally drafted in the 25th round by the Boston Red Sox. Long before he swung his bat and beat the BoSox on July 1, 2004, he was a member of the Red Sox.
Another thing he spoke about was how he almost passed on being a Yankee. The Texas Rangers called him and they wanted him to be their everyday catcher. When he realized the deal with Texas was not going to work out, he had to call Brian Cashman back and tell him he wanted in.
He came to Spring Training in 2003 as a non-roster invitee and ultimately made the team.
One last thing he said (that I didn’t even think of until he mentioned it) was the 2003 World Series, which the Yankees played in against the Florida Marlins. “Even though we didn’t win, it felt good to be there,” Flaherty said. “There really is nothing like playing in the fall classic.”
After it was all over, Flaherty took a picture (above) with me and signed a ball for me.
He was very friendly and overall I feel it was one of the better and more interesting articles I wrote as sports editor of the school newspaper. I put a lot of hard work into that article.
I can pretty much say that was one of the best experiences I have ever had in college. It was just a perfect weekend; everything that happened meant a lot to me and it’ll be a memory I’ll carry with myself for the rest of my life.
There were good times, bad times, easy times, and difficult times. Ups and downs, lefts and rights. But looking back, I probably would not have changed anything. I feel I worked as hard as I possibly could and tomorrow I will get what I went to college for; reach the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and receive my Bachelor’s degree.
I’d just like to take this time now and thank everyone who helped me along the way; my family and my friends. They all believed in me, even in times when I really didn’t believe in myself.
I’d especially like to thank all my friends from Mercy at the newspaper (Perrota, John, Kevin, Jenn, Ashley, Kristina, Katie, Shedeiky, Sean, Paul, Bloomy…and everyone else, there’s too many to list!) I’ll never forget meeting every week to discuss story ideas, learn about new things in terms of how to write articles, and of course laughing at all the jokes we cracked in between work.
Lastly I’d like to thank the loyal readers of this blog. I started Yankee Yapping last summer and I honestly never thought it would even go as far as it has. It has been the featured blog on the MLBlogs page and has amassed over 600 fans on Facebook.
So to all you readers, THANK YOU! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and your kind words are truly encouraging.
Tomorrow is the big day; wish me luck everyone. I am nervous, which kind of strikes me; the day I graduated High School I was not nervous at all. In fact, I could not have been more thrilled to be leaving. But even right now I have butterflies in my stomach and I am a little saddened that college is over.
As for the Yankees: well, hopefully they learn how to hit the ball again and beat the Minnesota Twins tonight. This losing nonsense is getting quite ridiculous!