The night of October 27, 1999 was a big night for me. It was Game 4 of the World Series, Yankees vs. Braves, at Yankee Stadium.
By the eighth inning, it was clear that the Bombers were going to sweep the Braves for their second title in a row; they were up 4-1, with Mariano Rivera, the eventual Series MVP, set to close it out. The stadium was rocking.
At the time, my memorabilia company was doing well, but we weren’t exactly a big success yet, and I knew it could all go up in smoke at any time. I had to capitalize on this important victory: two titles in a row, three titles out of four years.
So even though I bled Yankee blue, I couldn’t lose myself in the euphoria all around me. It was like an out-of-body experience; for me, this was more like an important night at the office.
I was tight with Derek Jeter, and I was tight with Mariano, but I needed to sign many more players on the team. I had a lot of work to do.
I left my seat, to walk around while I gathered my thoughts. No sooner did I reach the nearest concourse than I saw George Steinbrenner himself, heatedly giving directions to stadium employees; a dumpster on the concourse was overflowing, and the Boss was upset about the garbage, about the safety risk it posed.
I thought: “Wow, this guy is focused! The team he owns is about to go back-to-back, and he’s not even watching. He’s making sure this random dumpster is taken care of.”
It reminded me of my days managing the Hard Rock Café, when most of the employees were hung up on seeing celebs and partying, and I just wanted to make sure the people waiting in line outside had soup in the winter and iced tea in the summer. You know, finding the What Else in every situation.
Inspired by that image of George on the concourse, I knew I had to get to Mariano immediately. He would be the MVP of the Series. He was the launching pad for capturing the memories.
I knew where Mariano would exit the stadium, even though I didn’t know when he would leave. I waited for him in the parking lot.
It was really cold outside but I just waited and waited, watching most of the players leave - everyone, it seemed, except for Mariano. Pretty soon I was shivering, but I had to stick it out. People didn’t use cell phones and email very much yet; this might be the only way I could reach Mariano for a long time.
Since the beginning of Steiner Sports in 1987, I had spent a lot of time in parking lots - the Giants Stadium parking lot, the Yankees parking lot - trying to get new business.
I wanted everything Mariano was wearing; I wanted him to sign some stuff, I had appearances I wanted him to do. I was jotting things down so fast, trying to think of how much I was going to offer him, working it all out before he came out.
I waited and waited – over 2.5 hours - and finally Mariano came out. He didn’t want to discuss it all right then, though; he told me to follow him to the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel, in Manhattan. I followed him there, and they let me in.
So I was at the celebratory party with the whole team – maybe there were five other non-Yankees there, at most. We were drinking champagne, but again, I couldn’t just enjoy myself. I thought, “Who do I need to sign right now? Who am I not good with?”
Long story short, I worked the room and ended up signing everyone at the party. And those deals set us up for so many of our most important deals over the next decade – the Subway Series, Yankees-Steiner, buying the old Yankee Stadium, etc.
But it all started with waiting for Mariano in that freezing parking lot, instead of going off to celebrate and waiting until the next day’s “business hours” - back at the office - to get my work done.
What about you? Are you willing to put down the champagne to concentrate on the next deal?
Do you strike while the iron’s hot, and not just when it’s convenient?