#70 - (Bernie Williams)

I will always remember talking guitars and Opening Day with New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams.  Bernie patrolled center field for the Yankees from 1991-2006.  He was a 4 time World Champion (1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000), a 5 time American League All Star, a 4 time Gold Glove recipient a Silver Slugger and the 1996 ALCS MVP.  In the Yankees 114-48 1998 World Championship year, he became the first player ever to win a batting title (.339), a Gold Glove and a World Series ring.  Prior to that season, Bernie was the constant victim of George Steinbrenner trade threats, and I remember being fearful after the 1998 season that he might leave and sign with the Red Sox as a free agent.  But he didn’t, and instead signed a 7 year contract with the Yankees and they proceeded to make the playoffs every year of Bernie’s contract.  He finished his Yankee career with a .297 batting average, 287 HRs, 1257 RBIs and over 2300 hits.  He was as clutch as they come in the post season and still holds the post season RBI record with 80.  Bernie post baseball keeps busy with his jazz guitar performing and recording.  I saw him play on Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.  Here is his Opening Day memory.

“I remember it was Opening Day against the Red Sox in 1992 and the Rocket was pitching. I don’t think I was playing. I just remember the whole stadium was packed. I think we broke a record for the highest Opening Day attendance that year.  I just remember the atmosphere at the Yankee Stadium playing against the Red Sox on Opening Day and Roger was pitching and everything seemed so surreal. It was just a memorable moment for me.”

Thanks Bernie. See you in two. Richie

Bernie Williams

#69 - (Art Howe)

This week there is no legal section of the blog, but the blog is back.

Now for the Opening Day memory:

Art Howe played infield, and primarily third base from 1974-1985 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. His best years were with the Astros from 1976-1982. He finished with a career .260 average. He probably was more known for managing over 2000 games with the Astros (1989-1993), Oakland A’s (1996-2002) where he made 3 straight playoff appearances but the A’s were not victorious in any (2000-2002) and New York Mets (2003-2004). I agreed with him that he was unfairly portrayed in the movie “Moneyball.” Art conveyed his Opening Day memories to me one morning before an A’s Yankees game in Oakland while we both sat at his desk in his office in the A’s clubhouse—just me and him. Here they are:

“My vivid memories of all Opening Days are of the butterflies I still get, and that’s why I know I should stay in this game for a while longer, because for me, on Opening Day, if you don’t get butterflies and get excited, then you’re in the wrong profession. Lining up along that baseline and knowing that this is game number one – it reminds me of football games in a way, you’re waiting for the first hit to take the edge off to be able to relax and get into the game. I always look forward to  the enthusiasm of the crowd and the excitement I can see in the players’ eyes. And a lot of times, I look at the young guys, the first year guys, having their first Opening Days just to see their excitement, and I then remember back how excited I was the first time I actually went out there on Opening Day as a player.

One specific Opening Day I remember is when I was managing the A’s in 1997 and Mark McGwire hit a game winning bomb at Yankee Stadium to dead center in the black area off of Mariano Rivera, which ruined the Yankees raising their World Championship banner.”

I, unfortunately, attended the game Art describes and yes, my day was ruined. See you in two. Richie

ArtHowe

#68 - Holiday Greeting/New Beginnings/Holiday Blog

As this will be the final edition of my Opening Day blog for 2013, I first wanted to take the opportunity to wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday season. I hope you will be doing something relaxing and enjoyable, whether it be at home or travelling. You hear from me enough, so I am dispensing with my usual annual holiday card.
Before I get to the blog, however, I have some other news to relay. After 20 + years at my firm, I (along with my legal team) will be joining a new organization for the 2014 season and beyond. As of January 6, 2014, we will be members of Raines Feldman located at 9720 Wilshire Boulevard, Fifth Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212; Tel. No. 310-440-4100; Email address rdecker@raineslaw.com. Feel free to email me if you want in the interim either at my current email address or at r7decker@me.com. I will be taking a short hiatus from the blog until I get settled in, but expect to have the blog up and running again by February 1 at the latest (so if you are a fan don’t worry). My colleagues and I are very excited about our new beginning.

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#67 - (Al Leiter)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
Although left handed starting pitcher Al Leiter began and ended his career with the New York Yankees in 1987 and 2005, respectively, his real major league accomplishments occurred in between. His career didn’t really take off until 1993 with the Toronto Blue Jays because of blisters and other injuries, but that year he appeared in 5 post season games and earned a win in Game 1 of the World Series in which the Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies for their and his second consecutive World Championship. After two more solid seasons in Toronto, Al left for the Florida Marlins in 1996 and it was there that his career really took off. In 1996, he won 16 games with a 2.93 ERA and 200 strikeouts, made the All Star team and pitched the Marlins first ever no hitter against the Colorado Rockies. In 1997, he started the Marlins Game 7 World Series victory and earned his third World Championship ring. Almost immediately thereafter, he was traded to the New York Mets as part of the infamous Marlins first fire sale, where he went on to have what arguably were

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#66 - (Glenn Hoffman)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
Probably more well known for being the older brother of San Diego Padres star reliever Trevor Hoffman, Glenn Hoffman played shortstop in the majors for 9 years and has coached for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Padres for close to double that. Glenn played for the Boston Red Sox from 1980-1987, the Dodgers for part of 1987 and for the Angels in 1989. He was known more for his defensive abilities than his offense, ending his career with a .242 batting average and 23 home runs. Glenn was named the interim manager of the Dodgers for the second half of the 1998 season (replacing Bill Russell). In 1999, Glenn was a coach for the Dodgers under new manager Davey Johnson and he continued as a coach for the Dodgers through the 2005 season. In 2006, he moved to the Padres where he has coached since. Here is his Opening Day memory.

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#65 - (Dan Mattingly)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
As my all time favorite player along with Mickey Mantle, it is painful for me to see Don Mattingly–also known as “Donnie Baseball” and the “Hit Man”–in anything but the Pinstripes and more so not in the Hall of Fame (but I will try not to lament further here). From 1984-1989, Don arguably was the best player in the game and on the fast track to Cooperstown. I made the friend, who I came with, leave a New York Giants game at half time when they were down 27-14 so I could go watch Don battle Dave Winfield for the 1984 batting title, which Don won on the last day of the season .343 to .340 by going 4-5. By the way, the Giants came back and won 28-27, and I told my angry friend to be thankful we didn’t stay or his team would have lost. Don followed up his 1984 batting title (he also hit 23 HRs, had 110 RBIs, 44 2Bs and led the AL with 207 hits) with the MVP in 1985 with this hitting line–35 HR 145 RBI .323 AVG and 48 2Bs. He got robbed by the sportswriters and Roger Clemens (the Cy Young award was enough) in the MVP voting in 1986 when he hit .352 with 31 HRs, 113 RBIs and an AL leading 238 hits and 53 2Bs (both Yankee records) and might have won the batting title again if Wade Boggs didn’t sit out the last game of the season to preserve his lead. In 1987, Don hit .327 with 30 HRs and 115 RBIs including 8 consecutive HRs and 6 grand slams, both of which tied major league records.

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#64 - (Chris Chambliss)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
The two things I most remember about first baseman Chris Chambliss are that he is the first player I physically met and talked to in a major league clubhouse about Opening Day and his walk off pennant winning home run against the Kansas City Royals in the 1976 playoffs that put the New York Yankees back in the World Series for the first time since 1964 when I was five. It was quite the big deal to me as you might imagine. Chris began his major league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1971 and was included in what with hindsight was a lopsided multi-player trade to the Yankees in 1974 which I remember fondly. Chris starred with the Yankees through 1979 where he was a World Champion twice in 1977 and 1978, an All Star in 1976 and a Gold Glove recipient in 1978. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 1980 and he played for them in the National League until 1986. He returned to the Yankees for one at bat in 1988 in which he struck out. He finished his career with a respectable .279 average, 185 home runs and 972 RBIs. After retiring, he became a hitting coach for the Yankees and others. Chris and Willie Randolph are the only two men to have worn Yankee uniforms for all of the 6 Yankees World Championships immediately before their last in 2009 (1977 and 1978 as players and 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 as coaches). Here are his Opening Day memories.

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#63 - (Bud Harrelson)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
Bud Harrelson was one of my favorite New York Mets players. He was a slick and steady fielding shortstop for the Mets from 1965-1977 and an important cog on the 1969 Miracle Mets World Championship team. He was a switch but light hitter with only 7 career home runs and a very distinctive batting stance from both sides of the plate where he choked what seemed like almost halfway up the bat. It was one of my favorite batting stances to imitate growing up. He also was Tom Seaver’s roommate. Bud won a gold glove in 1971 and was an All Star in 1970 and 1971. I can remember like it was yesterday the fight at second base Bud had with Pete Rose in the NLCS in 1973 after Pete slid into him while he was covering second. After the Met fans at Shea pelted Pete with debris and Sparky Anderson pulled the Cincinnati Reds off the field, Seaver, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones and Willie Mays had to go to the bleachers to beg the fans to stop so the game could continue. They did, the game resumed and the Mets beat the mighty Reds (the beginning of the Big Red Machine era) in that game and upset them in the NLCS before losing to the Oakland A’s in the World Series. Bud (unfortunately for me) was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1978 season (where he played with Pete Rose and former teammate Tug McGraw) and he concluded his playing career with the Texas Rangers in 1980. Thereafter, Bud coached for the Mets including in their 1986 World Championship season and managed the Mets for parts of 1990 and 1991. He currently is a co-owner of the Long Island Ducks minor league franchise. I recently read and enjoyed his book entitled “Turning Two.” Here is his Opening Day memory–a short one.

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#62 - (Brett Butler)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
Brett Butler was arguably one of the game’s best lead off hitters in the 1980′s and 1990′s. He was well travelled in his 17 year career, playing for the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and the Dodgers again where he concluded his career. He made the All Star team in his first year with the Dodgers in 1991. He finished his career with a very respectable .290 average, 2375 hits and 558 stolen bases. He was an outspoken critic of the replacement players who the owners brought in during the 1994-1995 labor stoppage. Since retirement, he has managed and coached. Here is his Opening Day memory.

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#61 - (Bo Belinsky)

This week there is no legal section of the blog.
Now for the Opening Day memory:
Bo Belinsky unfortunately has passed away since I interviewed him, but I will always remember him as one of my more engaging and friendly subjects. Bo ultimately became more renowned for his off the field exploits rather than his baseball activities, but he did begin his major league career quite auspiciously. He won his first four starts of the 1962 season with the expansion Los Angeles Angels, the fourth being the Angels first ever no hitter (against the Baltimore Orioles). Thereafter, he became a Southern California celebrity and admitted womanizer and was linked romantically with, among others, Ann Margaret, Tina Louise, Connie Stevens and Mamie Van Doren, to whom he became engaged. He also got sued in his rookie year by a Hollywood nightclub cashier for alleged assault, which did not help his baseball career. He ended up winning only 10 games in 1962 despite the fast start and led the league in walks. He also was the victim of the first ever no hitter against the Angels by Earl Wilson of the Boston Red Sox. The next year, after a horrible 1-7 start, Bo got sent to the minors. In 1964, he had a good season winning 9 games with a 2.86 ERA. But he got in a highly publicized fight with a sportswriter and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He lasted there until 1966, and then had stints primarily as a long reliever with the Houston Astros in 1967, Pittsburgh Pirates in 1969 and Cincinnati Reds in 1970. He finished his career with a won loss record of 28-51. After his baseball career, he married and divorced a Playboy Playmate of the Year and an heiress. He overcame alcoholism and became a Born Again Christian in, of all places, Las Vegas, where I had the opportunity to meet him while he was working for a Kia dealership. Here are his Opening Day memories.

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