Stadium on Friday night. Photo: DPC.
weather yesterday was not unlike that fateful day although
the events erased that fact from memory. Yesterday
New Yorkers could enjoy Mother Nature’s gift and they took
to the streets and the parks. Twilight along the river was especially
beautiful with lots of people out for a stroll alone, with friends
and partners, with children and babies and dogs, and a light breeze
and a perfect half-moon rising in the eastern sky.
Friday night I went up to Yankee Stadium to see the
first of a Yankees-Red Sox three game weekend series. I’m
not a big sports fan but I do love watching baseball, especially
first time was
when I was a kid and my father took me and a nephew to Fenway
Park in Boston to see the Sox. Later in Los Angeles, my late friend
Deutsch invited me to a couple of games at Dodger Stadium in his
superior seats behind the Dodger dugout.
Silverman and Nancy Silverman at Yankee Stadium
To get up
there, I took the Number 4 subway train (of what used to called
the Lexington Avenue line) to 161st Street. Although
taken the subway thousands of times, this ride was a first for
me. So I had some trepidation about getting off at the right
should have known better.
I got on at the Express at 86th and Lexington Avenue about twenty-to-seven.
There was already a great game crowd waiting on the platform,
and when the train arrived, it was already packed with baseball
who’d got on at previous stops. Lots of Yankee baseball
caps and shirts, and more than a few Red Sox caps too.
The atmosphere was light and chattery. No drinking, and no drugging,
just a vibrant, happy crowd, full of excitement and anticipation
of the Great American Pasttime. I was particularly aware of the levity
considering what the past week had been like for so many Americans,
and the victims of Hurricane Katrina especially.
It was the first subway ride I’ve ever taken in my life that
was a party train. Not raucous but noisy in a cheerful way, and an “up.” I
immediately decided, it’s the only way to go to the game. You’re
psyched for fun when you arrive at the 161st Street stop.
Jeter at the plate
had the privilege of being a guest of Henry and Nancy Silverman in
their box at Mr. Steinbrenner’s ballpark, the House
That Ruth Built. Henry is the CEO of Cendant Corporation
which is the world’s second-largest hotel franchiser
by number of rooms (AmeriHost Inn, Days Inn, Super 8). They
also own Avis, Budget Rent A Car, timeshare resorts (Fairfield),
travel services (Galileo International and Cheap Tickets)
and Real Estate franchise groups (Century 21 and Coldwell
Banker). I think his company did about $20 billion in sales
last year. I mention all this because this couple is the
real McCoy in terms of New York (and worldly) power, access
and accomplishment, and otherwise, all that aside, they are
very comfortable and very down-home hosts who have a way
of treating their guests like family. Not just family, but
family at a picnic, or a ballgame. Just like the thousands
who came up on the train with me, they were there for the
just plain good time. So, were we lucky or what?
Their box at Yankee Stadium belongs to Avis and is used mainly, from what I can
gather, to entertain business associates, clients, etc. There are a number of
these boxes, spectator suites really, on the second tier behind home plate. They
contain a sitting room with an in-the-wall sink, cabinets and refrigerator, sofas,
chairs, tables and sliding glass doors which lead onto the outdoor balcony with
twenty seats on five levels. In the sitting room a buffet table was set up with
plastic plates and forks, two steam tables – one for fried chicken pieces,
another with hot dogs and sauerkraut (separated) and next to them, a big bowl
of potato salad, along with the tray of condiments. There were soft drinks, beer
(Bud) and liquor for those who wanted it.
I arrived about ten minutes after the game had started. Everyone
was in their seats. The Silvermans always have an eclectic group of friends,
and there isn’t a one of them who isn’t a baseball fan, at least
when their watching the game. First of all, it’s beautiful sight — the
crowds, the playing field, the lights, the inky blue night sky and the apartment
buildings surrounding. It’s home. It’s America. We’re okay
for at least a moment. There’s a lot of chatter in the group, especially
about the game — although there are the irresistible moments of opposing
political points of view that creep in, albeit, believe it or not, congenially.
Bryant Gumbel and his wife Hilary were
there. He’s a big baseball fan and has lots to say about
the play-by-play. Entertainment lawyer Allan Grubman and
his wife Deborah, the real estate broker, were
there. It’s a standing joke that Mr. Grubman doesn’t
go for the baseball but for the food – i.e., the wonderful
hot dogs. Joel Klein, the Chancellor of New York
City Schools was there with his wife, Nicole Seligman,
as well as Wall Street investor Steve Rattner and
his wife Maureen White who is national finance
chairman for the Democratic Party. Also, Nancy Bass,
who with her father owns the famous Strand Bookstore in Manhattan.
Nancy also sells her books in the bookstalls set up by the Park at 60th Street
and Fifth Avenue. She was with her fiance whom she’s going to marry in
a couple of weeks, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. Les
Moonves, the much publicized President and CEO of CBS was there with
his wife, newscaster Julie Chen, along with Don Hewitt,
the creator and producer of “Sixty Minutes” and his author-wife Marilyn
Berger. and the Silverman’s daughter Cassie and
her boyfriend Justin Karr, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and
her son Jack.
betrothed Senator Wyden and Nancy Bass
Karr and Cassie Silverman
little history: I wondered if these guys
remembered that CBS once owned the Yankees. The team, which
was originally owned by an early 20th-century beer baron Jacob
Ruppert (whose brewery was on Third Avenue between
89th and 90th Street where the Mitchell-Lama apartment
towers stand today), was purchased in late 1964 by William
Paley for CBS, the network he created. He paid
$11.2 million for the team and sold it to Mr. Steinbrenner
less than nine years later for $10 million. At the time,
a lot of people thought baseball was dead, believe it or
not. Henry Silverman was telling me that in those days,
you’d go to a game and there’d be 10,000 fans
in a stadium with a capacity of over 70,000. Today they
sell 4 million tickets annually and Mr. Steinbrenner’s
annual payroll is something like a quarter of a billion
As the world knows, the Yanks and the Sox are always going to be a good game
after what happened last year. And obviously, the home team has the most fans
although there were Boston fans in the bunch. The Sox started off with two
runs in the first inning and then gained a third in the second inning, with
zero for the Yanks. Then everything suddenly turned around. The Sox had four
errors (literally dropping the ball, oy!) and the Yanks pulled ahead for a
final score of 8 – 4. By quarter to eleven, at the top of the ninth,
the game was over and the crowd disbursed in a rousing (and in some cases by
the time I got back on the subway train, a rowdy mood). A lotta noise and no
broken hearts in Mudville that night.
I was a guest of Nancy and Henry Silverman in this
box once before. It was in the summer of 2001 and
it was memorable for a couple of reasons. Among that guests that
time were business media tycoon Michael Bloomberg,
who a few months later was elected Mayor of New York, and Neil
Levin and his new wife Christy Ferrer.
Neil was then the Executive Director of the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey. Two months later, on September 11, he
was in his office on the top of the World Trade Center.
Yesterday in the New York Times obituary section there was the following In
Memoriam : “Levin – Neil. In honored memory of my beloved son Neil
and the men and women who perished with him on 9/11/01.”
A fine weekend,
the beautiful with the bittersweet. And the tragic to remind
of us of the precious, fleeting moments we are blessed with.