A beautiful Sunday in New York, this fourth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center towers
Yankee Stadium on Friday night. Photo: DPC.

The 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 live. The 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 Ardie Deutsch invited me to a couple of games at Dodger Stadium in his superior seats behind the Dodger dugout.

Cassie 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 I’ve taken the subway thousands of times, this ride was a first for me. So I had some trepidation about getting off at the right stop. I 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 fans 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.

Derek Jeter at the plate
I 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.
The betrothed Senator Wyden and Nancy Bass
Justin Karr and Cassie Silverman

A 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 bucks.

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.

September 12, 2005, Volume V, Number 154


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