I guess somewhere in in the early 80s, to the best of my recollection, I was attracted to baseball. Looking back, I’m not sure if the attraction was to the sport or the guys who played it. In reality there were some really ugly ballplayers, but as soon as they put on a uniform and grabbed a glove, they were instantaneous hunks, ready for battle, similar to Vikings who put on those masculine Malmström, Doeplers and titanium chest protectors, butt ugly but so ready for battle they made the shield-women drool.
I think the Bronx pinstripes did me in, and after watching one game on PIX 11, it was all over. I dragged my friends into the Yankee milky way with me, and the X chromosome section of Yankee Stadium was born. My friend Annette and I used to drag her very, very patient and unaware father to all these games, and we ran around the stadium eating, drinking Pepsi, (no soda allowed in my house), and learning the sport we thought would land us baseball husbands. Needless to say neither of us scored a star athlete, and as the years went by, although my love for the Bronx Bombers has never wavered, I got a more adult glimpse into what it’s probably like to be married to a professional athlete, and well, I think I’m waaaaay better off.
Somewhere between say, 1984 and 2017 I had the privilege of working with the Yankees in a few capacities and made a few connections along the way. Some, I was honored to meet like the Scooter, Phil Rizzutto, and my baseball sweetie and Montclair, NJ heartthrob, Yogi Berra, and some were just such stuffed shirts they probably wear the same suit to bed and cut deals in their dreams. But, God always has a plan, and in the mix, somehow, I had the privilege of meeting the classiest guy in baseball, (next to Yogi), former Yankees manager, Joe Girardi.
Joe and his wife, Kim unbeknownst to me took a Perillo tour in 1995, before they became parents. When I met Joe for the first time in Toronto about ten years ago, the first thing he said to me was that he took a trip with us. I was so impressed that he humbled himself as Yankee skipper at that moment to approach me. Since then, I have done a few vacations for Joe and Kim, making arrangements for the Girardi family with simple, demand-free plans. Joe and Kim are easier to work with than the every day no celebrity client.
Whether we were in the throes of planning a trip or not, I would text Joe here and there to say “great game, way to go, etc…,” and he always responded, even to little old me. I was impressed with each and every response, because it was just that, a response. I have nothing to offer from a sports perspective, a gazillion dollar contract laced with endorsements, or a huge, money making appearance. He responded because I reached out to him, and as important, unimportant, impressive or unimpressive my text was at that moment, he took the 20 seconds to acknowledge it. (And, of course, we are paesani). This speaks volumes of a man who cares about those around him, and who acknowledges the “little people,” the same as if his agent were calling.
Was I caught off guard when the Yanks and Joe parted ways? I can’t say I was shocked because the Yankees didn’t win, and Joe’s contract was petering out. The Yanks need to win, even when they aren’t winning, and I guess this didn’t sit well with the higher ups. I always felt a manager really was about morale, and not a babysitter for MLB players who get paid a million dollars an at bat to produce. But whatever, I’m not on the innards of a billion dollar team. I’m just a thirty five year boy crazy observer.
Maybe Joe was finished with the Yankees. Maybe the Yankees were finished with Joe. Maybe we just won’t know. But what I do know is that underneath the shroud of “celebrity,” which can effect those who have been laureled with this dubious distinction in sometimes the most egotistical way, there is Joe Girardi, the guy who has embodied all a Yankee should be, or all they perceive to be, or, rather, all they want you think they are: clean shaven, handsome, classy, suit donned winners. Joe, wherever you go, you are a winner. Thanks for always being, well, a nice guy. And in the end, that’s what gets you to heaven.