Last night, thanks to an invitation from my friend Mike, I attended a Steiner Sports dinner in New Rochelle, NY. (For those who don’t know, Steiner is basically THE biggest sports memorabilia company in the world.) The purpose of this event was a) to showcase some items that will be sold at an upcoming auction and b) to raise money and awareness for a not-for-profit agency called Family Services of Westchester.
Here’s a photo of the room where the event took place:
Some people were wearing suits and ties. Others were wearing jeans and baseball caps. And Dwight Gooden was wearing a leather jacket:
Gooden was one of three players in attendance. Unfortunately I didn’t get to have my photo taken with him (or to tell him that I attended his no-hitter in 1996) because it was so crowded, but I managed to get photos with the other two guys:
I knew I was only going to have 20 seconds with Yogi Berra, so rather than telling him that my dad served with him at a submarine base during World War II, I mentioned my baseball collection and asked if he had any weird stories about baseballs. All he said was that back in the old days, when balls were hit into the stands during BP, one of the coaches would sometimes walk out there and ask the fans to give ’em back.
As for Brett Gardner, the first thing I told him was, “Last year, during the final week at the old Yankee Stadium, you tossed your ninth-inning warm-up ball into the bleachers, and I got it, so thank you for that.”
“Oh…” he said, “you’re welcome.”
“Now, I don’t want you to feel used,” I continued, “but I’ve actually caught a LOT of balls in my life, and if I told you how many, you’d probably call me a liar.”
“How many?” he asked.
“Over forty-three hundred,” I said, and since there was no one else waiting to talk to him at that point (he’d already been there for a couple hours), we got to chat for a few minutes. He asked me questions about my collection, and after I explained some of the details, I told him that I used my collection to raise a lot of money for charity this year. I then asked him what his fastest time running the 60-yard dash was, and he said it was something like “six-three-six,” meaning 6.36 seconds, which is thoroughly insane, not to mention more than a full second faster than I ever ran it. I bowed down to him in “We’re not worthy!” fashion, and he admitted that he’s probably not quite that fast anymore.
“But you WERE when it mattered,” I said, “when all the scouts had their stopwatches ready.”
Dwight Gooden and Yogi Berra and Brett Gardner weren’t the only celebrities at the dinner; the man responsible for the food itself — Executive Chef Robert Hesse — was quite well known as well. Here’s a photo of him with my friend Mike:
Hesse starred on the show “Hell’s Kitchen” and has recently worked as a personal chef for some bigtime sports stars (including Hank Aaron). Here’s a short article about him.
In the photo above, the plate in Hesse’s right hand has two slices of pork tenderloin and a small cup of his beyond-awesome sausage gumbo. The plate in his left hand has a pulled pork slider, mac-n-cheese, and roast beef with some kind of white/creamy sauce on top.
I asked Hesse if he’d ever caught a baseball at a game, and when he said no, I said, “Good because I’m completely inept in the kitchen.”
Back to the baseball memorabilia, here are a few of the items that were on display:
In the photo above, do you see that little case just beyond the upper right corner of the “final season” base? That contained a freeze-dried clump of dirt and grass from the old Yankee Stadium.
Here’s another cool item. I don’t know exactly what to call it or where in the old stadium it was located, but it seems to be some kind of mail slot unit. Check it out:
Here’s a close-up:
Here’s another photo of the room:
Did you notice the turnstile in the photo above? (I miss the old NYC stadiums so much. I can’t even describe it. I had a dream last night that I was at Shea, and there were about 14 fans in the entire ballpark. I was in heaven…and I was nearly depressed when I woke up.)
Here’s a signed “holiday ball” from Joba Chamberlain:
(I got Joba’s autograph for free at the 2007 Futures Game. Haha.)
I wanted to see what kind of ball Joba had signed. In other words…what did the logo say? Was it an All-Star ball? Those are typically the only types of balls with multi-colored stitching (click here and here and here for some examples), so I walked around to the back of the table and crouched down. This is what I saw:
Whoa. That’s pretty snazzy. I never knew that such a ball even existed…and do you see the name on it? The printed signature? It says “Brandon Steiner.” That’s THE guy at Steiner Sports — the head of the whole company. Shortly after I took this photo, I got to meet him and chat for a few minutes, and based on a few things we discussed, I have a feeling that I might be crossing paths with him again next season…