Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey provided the silver lining in yet another dark cloud of a season for our Flushing heroes. With little else to cheer for, Mets fans and the local media spent most of the second half of the 2012 season obsessing over Dickey’s chance of winning the Cy Young Award, the honor bestowed by the Baseball Writers Association of America on the best pitcher in each league.
Despite winning 20 games, Dickey faced formidable obstacles with respect to receiving baseball’s highest hurler honor. The BBWAA is a conservative body that traditionally honors personnel from winning teams. Plus, no knuckleball pitcher had ever won a Cy Young. Too many sportswriters in the past believed that the knuckleball was a gimmick and that only traditional pitchers should get the award.
It’s a credit to the BBWAA that members were able to overcome those old biases and realize that Dickey’s winning 20 games for the Mets was the equivalent of a decent team’s pitcher’s winning 30.
R.A. not only helped his contract negotiations with the award but his publishing career as well. Last winter his autobiography, “Wherever I Wind Up” (Blue Rider Press), received great reviews and wound up on the New York Times Best Sellers list. In September I saw Dickey and his coauthor, New York Daily News sportswriter Wayne Coffey, chatting at Citi Field. Dickey told me they were discussing additional material for the paperback release, slated for next March. His 2012 dream season should make for a good addendum.
It wasn’t a pleasant homecoming for Indiana Pacers point guard Lance Stephenson, and not just because he scored only four points and turned the ball over three times last Sunday at Madison Square Garden, as the Knicks easily beat his team 88-76.
Lance was a high school star at Coney Island’s Abraham Lincoln High School and led his team to a couple of PSAL titles. Coney Island, sadly, was not spared from Superstorm Sandy. “Yesterday I went to my aunt’s house where I grew up. Although the house sustained serious damage, it is habitable. I spent the day talking with FEMA officials and filling out paperwork with her,” he told me somberly in the locker room before the game.
Is it my imagination or does it seem as if Linsanity was a decade ago? The Knicks 7-1 start certainly has quelled the consternation among the faithful over the team’s decision not to re-sign last season’s folk hero, Harvard alum Jeremy Lin. By the same token, whatever happened to the concern about the Knicks losing their star forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, for two months as he recovers from knee surgery?
Mets pitcher Johan Santana and team Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon were in Coney Island a few days before Stephenson got there, handing out supplies and food as part of the Sandy relief effort. The Mets’ NY-Penn League team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, play at Coney Island’s MCU Park. While there was significant flooding, the ballpark is structurally sound and should be ready for the 2013 season.
Nearly every New York sports team has contributed to relief and recovery efforts in our area. The Yankees made a $500,000 donation last week. Cablevision and Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan doubled that amount.
In a smaller yet still significant effort, the New York Islanders opened up Nassau Coliseum and allowed fans to skate on the ice if they donated cash or food and supplies. The Islanders also held online auctions of memorabilia and fan experience packages (assuming the National Hockey League lockout ever gets resolved).
Meanwhile former Knicks public relations director Sammy Steinlight, who now has his own PR firm in Manalapan, NJ, has started a website, jerseyshorerelief.com, whose mission is to help restore the Garden State’s coastal towns that were devastated by Sandy.
The Major League Baseball Alumni Association held its annual fundraising event to benefit youth baseball programs last week at the Marriott Marquis. Hall of Famer and Yankees great Dave Winfield reminisced about “singing” Rodgers and Hart’s “Manhattan” at the 1981 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “I grew up in Minnesota, but standing on that float lip-synching the lyrics was as cold as I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Winfield.
Dale Murphy was one of baseball’s most feared hitters in the 1980s and he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1982 and 1983. Murphy finished his career with 398 home runs. I asked him if he ever thought of trying to make a comeback to get two more home runs. “It did cross my mind for a second! The sportswriters do look to benchmarks for electing players to the Hall of Fame and 400 does have a nice ring to it. I am hoping that the Veterans Committee will select me in the future,” said the always upbeat Murphy.
In an unrelated comment, onetime Mets pitcher and Dartmouth alum Mike Remlinger told me, “The hardest part of an athlete’s life comes after he retires and is looking for direction. My company helps athletes cope when their playing careers come to an end. It’s a rough adjustment for many who don’t know what it’s like to earn a living outside of sports or to now have to spend more time than they’re used to with their families.”
Yes, there have been countless stories about athletes who wind up blowing their fortunes. Last month ESPN broadcast “Broke,” a documentary that had its debut at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and featured NFL wide receiver Andre Rison and others who couldn’t manage their money. Athletes who take their education as seriously as they do their sports — see R.A. Dickey — can prosper when their careers are over.
A pair of former Mets, first baseman Mark Johnson and pitcher Frank Seminara, are making more money in the world of finance than they did as major leaguers. Johnson, like Remlinger, is a Dartmouth grad, and is a securities broker in tony Greenwich, Conn. for Weeden & Company. He had worked for Goldman Sachs after being released by the Mets in 2002. Seminara, a Columbia alumnus, is a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley’s private wealth division in Florham Park, NJ, located just a stone’s throw from the Jets’ training facilities. Seminara went to work for Smith Barney after getting released by the Cubs at the end of spring training in 1996.
The Mets ownership would have been wise to have turned to their former players for investing advice, instead of a certain infamous Far Rockaway-born financier.
Nearly all of us will be stocking up on bottled water in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. According to Anthony Fiorello, a marketing manager for Hint Water, a zero-calorie flavored water brand, bottled water can be stored for up to five years without any health worries. “If it’s in a glass bottle it can stay for 20 years,” he added.
Now that the holiday season is upon us, look for the major department stores to launch television ad blitzes that will make us nostalgic for the political campaign ads of the just concluded election season. A recent marketing tactic for retail stores is to have celebrities front house clothing and jewelry lines. Kohl’s is using the former husband and wife team of Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, as well as former MTV reality star Lauren Conrad, while Kmart is countering with “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara and former Disney name Selena Gomez. Kmart is still using one of the first actresses to lend her name to a clothing line, Jaclyn Smith of “Charlie’s Angels” fame. Not to be outdone, Macy’s has Jessica Simpson and Madonna and her daughter, Lourdes, for a dress line called — what else? — Material Girl.
These days, shoes seem to be the new celebrities, as Macy’s has spent a fortune in ads touting that it has the world’s largest shoe floor.
Jose Reyes must be glad that he rented an apartment in Miami instead of buying a place. Reyes was one of the big names traded from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays last week as Fish owner Jeffrey Loria decided to dump every big contract that he could after the team’s horrible 2012 season. The Marlins were so awful that they finished behind the Mets in the NL East standings.
New York’s Carlton Hotel, located at Madison Avenue and 29th Street, has just renovated a number of their suites to attract high rollers. Its penthouse suite has a Texas-sized pool. The late Minnesota Fats would be proud.
At the annual International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show, held at the Javits Center last week, the two major satellite TV providers, DIRECTV and DISH Network, were competing for the business of lodging chains. The former was promoting its NFL Sunday Ticket package, which allows a viewer to see every out-of-market game, while the latter was playing up its extensive movie library.