Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baseball stories, my experience with Derek Jeter and more

As Derek Jeter enters his final days as a player, after 20 years of mostly great play and always exemplary behavior, it seems that a little story should be told.  In 1996, at the sixth game of the World Series, the company that I worked for at the time gave me 10 tickets to the game to host with investor clients.  This was at the height of my influence at the firm but not at the height of my earnings power, a strange thing that was only understood fully in hindsight.

Anyway, I invited guests from Morgan Stanley, Fidelity, Alliance, Bernstein(well before their combination), Lazard, and other buy side firms.  We had five seats on the front row just behind and to the left of the Yankee dugout, and five seats behind that.  Perfect seats.  Every batting warm up in the old Yankee stadium was right before us, inches away.  The rookie Derek Jeter the was most accommodating.  With the game early in the balance, he stood next to us, chatted amiably, signed baseballs, and took his swings.

The game was awesome, especially from that front row perspective.  While those investors may or my not remember yours truly, they will always remember that game.  The Yankees won for Joe Torre's first World Series title.  My favorite star crossed player in the final days of his career, Darryl Strawberry,  made an unlikely diving left field catch with his lanky body in the final innings to save several possible runs by Atlanta. You could only imagine the immensity of that catch unless on ground level.

As to Strawberry, I first met him in 1985 when as a corporate banker covering southern Ohio from my perch in New York.  From Columbus to Dayton to Cincinnati, big companies were there and as a corporate sponsor of the Mets, I arranged a lunch presentation for clients with Davey Johnson, the Mets manager, before an early evening game.  We sipped the afternoon away before heading to the then awful Riverfront Stadium.  The game was boring, but all seemed to enjoy it, and then a hearty few of us headed to a bar just outside of the city that was rumored to be the "players" bar.

It was.  Most of the major Mets players showed.  When Gary Carter with his golden locks showed up with his entourage everyone shouted.  I headed to the bathroom after that, and ended up standing next to a silent Darryl at the urinals.  His now famous line there was, "This water is too damn cold".  We later sat at the bar together.  He was a seeming loner in the midst of the many young and attractive girls and his ribald teammates that together would win the 1986 World Series.

Happy trails Derek Jeter, who will prosper, with a hope that you are well Darryl Strawberry.                  

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