Talking baseball with The Boss

It had been a long day I had been in New York City all weekend covering press events for an upcoming movie release. The city was undoubtedly more charged than usual, with the Yankees-Red Sox feud just ending. An air of extra importance had swept over the city the prior week, and with the fantastic ending to a fanatically-hyped series, every New Yorker was on cloud nine.

Sitting in the hotel restaurant just five hours before Game One of the World Series kicked off, I knew my job was finished. With my interviews completed, I was just sitting at the bar watching the traffic pass by. A small motorcade pulled up, stopped and escorted a rather neat man into the restaurant where I sat. He was wearing the traditional Yankees blue turtleneck, which made sense, since he was George Steinbrenner.

“Well, what the hell?” I thought. “I’m here, he’s here, I’ve got my press credentials and some leftover room on my tape recorder.” With that, I got up and went in for one last interview.

When he heard I was from a D.C. paper called The Hatchet, a worried look swept over his face.

“The Hatchet! That sounds a little aggressive,” Steinbrenner said.

I told him not to worry, that I was “a total professional and besides, also a Yankees fan.” I winked, he smiled, we laughed and he agreed to talk as long as he would be able to finish his chocolate ice cream.

The terms set, I asked him only if he had any words to share right before the series kicked off.

“We’re very fortunate to be where we are. I think the Miami team is an outstanding team and I think that they are going to give us an outstanding fight,” Steinbrenner said. “However, what happens at the first game may not be indicative of what happens throughout the rest of the series, mainly because we’re in a pitching bind for this first game. It’s hard to decide whether or not to start David Wells because they’ve got so many right-handed hitters and we’re worried about starting a left-handed pitcher, but David Wells is a tough guy and I know if nothing else he’ll do a good job.

“We had to beat Boston. That was our target because they’re such a rival of ours and they made it very tough on us. They have a great team, and while I won’t deal with the owners (of the Red Sox) because we’re not very close, we still had to respect the talent they put on the field. No apologies were made by me, I just wanted to beat them. We tried to treat them with dignity and unfortunately we weren’t treated that way by them. One of (the owners) was a former partner of mine and I am a bit disappointed in him. Nevertheless, we told our players to just play like champions, and they in the end prevailed over a very, very, very – and I underline that three times – good Boston team.”

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