Sportsbeat “Piazza Opens Up”

It will be interesting to whether Mike Piazza’s just-published autobiography, Long Shot (Simon & Schuster) will sway some of the crotchety members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who did not vote for him for the Hall of Fame to do so next year.

Mike states that he did indeed take supplements but they were completely legal at the time. It is hard to criticize an athlete who wants to perform better for purchasing products at the local GNC that anyone else can. He categorically states that he has never taken an illegal performance enhancing drug.

While his detractors will dismiss his denials, Mike has always had a keen knowledge of how everything that you put into your body has either a harmful or beneficial impact in the long run based on my conversations with him over the years. I learned about the benefits of wheat grass from him and he discusses health foods in his book.

Piazza admits that he is still tortured about not slugging it out with Roger Clemens after getting beaned by him in a regular season game and then famously having a broken bat tossed at him in the 2000 World Series. In a bit of self-deprecating humor, Mike writes “Roger is a big guy and I did not want to have my ass kicked in by him.” Mike, of course, is a pretty big guy in his own right but what I think what he was getting at is that he did not want to risk a career threatening injury in a fight.

He nicely pokes fun at the baseless rumors about his sexuality by saying that if he were gay, he’d be gay all the way and not hiding behind Baywatch babes and Playboy playmates.

While Clemens, steroids, and of course, the gay rumors are what will fascinate lazy sports talk show hosts and sportswriters, Piazza  peels back the curtain on life in the big leagues probably as well as any former player since Jim Bouton wrote Ball Four and Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally.

He gives fascinating insight into the  O’Malley family’s final days, and the Fox Corporation’s earliest, as owners of the Dodgers and how that coincided with his demands for a new contract which got him dealt to the Marlins and a week later to the Mets. He also writes about how Lenny Dykstra and other members of the Phillies were willing to cave into the owners’ demand for a salary cap during the 1994 baseball strike.

On a lighter note, Mike talks about a bizarre breakfast he had with Fabio during his Dodgers days as well as how a girl named Christina broke his heart when he first came up to the big leagues.

I get the feeling that even if the Mets could have signed centerfielder Michael Bourn without forfeiting a first round pick in the 2013 draft they still wouldn’t have done it.

The NHL season really is underway now that the Islanders are back to their losing ways.

Toy Fair, the annual four-day Javits Center trade show of all things play, had a nice retro feel in a lot of ways. In a high tech world we’re everyone is on a computer or some mobile device seemingly 24/7, old school toys and games as Slinky, Etch-A-Sketch, Booby Trap, Fiki Football, and Monopoly were attracting a lot of attention from retail buyers and the media.

Techno-Source and Fremont Die were showcasing competing board games, NFL Rush and NFL Game Day.  Poof was exhibiting its Pro Gold Football which while made of foam closer resembles the traditional pigskin than it does a Nerf product.

Mets fans who want to kick something in frustration may want to order the oversized waste paper basket with their favorite team’s logo from Fremont Die.

Mattel is getting ready for Wrestlemania at MetLife Stadium with its latest line of action figures of World Wrestling Entertainment stars as CM Punk, John Cena, Paul “Big Show” Whyte, and The Miz as well as past WWE greats as Shawn Michaels and the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

Two fun board games introduced at Toy Fair were Cover Your Assets (a tongue-in-cheek nudge at one per centers) and a tough trivia game, Kwizniac.

A San Diego company, Wow Wee, came up with the clever idea of turning an iPad into an easel with the cleverly named Artsee that allows you to unleash your inner Picasso.

Kate Upton once again graces the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. For some reason, SI editors decided that they had to send her to Antarctica for a bikini shoot. It’s good to see my Time Warner stock dollars at work.

Two weeks ago SI held their annual New York launch so that the models could appear on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman and meet with members of the media.

Katherine Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama, who achieved greater fame when ESPN announcer Brent Musburger seemed to pay more attention to her than to her boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, during the 2013 BCS Championship Game.

Webb told me that she was upset that Musburger diverted attention from the Crimson Tide’s back-to-back championships but clearly she was a beneficiary of his obsession. Webb refused to answer my query as to whether Musburger spoke to her after the brouhaha. A flak whisked her away when I followed up with her thoughts about whether good looks run counter to the American fantasy of egalitarianism where ability, and not genetics, should determine success.

Jessica Perez, who received a degree in psychology from Hunter College and worked in a Biopsychology research lab, was clearly the most educated swimsuit model. She would like to pursue an acting career but admits that her dad wants her to go to grad school.

Alyssa Miller was a high school soccer player in the LA suburbs and told me that she was a tomboy growing up. Alyssa got off the best quip of the night. “I always thought that I would appear in Sports Illustrated as a player, not a swimsuit model.”

New Orleans’ next big event following the Super Bowl will be the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival scheduled for the first week of May. MSG Entertainment/Cablevision CEO James Dolan and his band, JD and the Straight Shot are among the headliners.

Fashion Week Recap

   New York Fashion Week is starting to resemble Super Bowl week. Just as football is almost an afterthought during the week leading up to the NFL’s big game, so it is that designers showing off their latest wares for the marketplace are a minuscule part of the NYFW proceedings.

It was not so long ago that IMG and their chief corporate sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, were synonymous with Fashion Week, particularly when Bryant Park was the epicenter of the action. Since IMG moved their tent uptown to Lincoln Center, they have lost some of their mojo.

IMG and Mercedes-Benz used to give out vouchers for sizable goody bags to journalists when they would pick up their credentials. That perk ended over a year ago. The end result is that a lot of writers  who used to refer to the semi-annual seven-day celebration of New York couture as Mercedes-Benz Week now call it New York Fashion Week. Frankly, I can’t blame them.

This has certainly delighted a bevy of corporations who want to be identified with the latest in style but did not want to pay IMG’s asking price for the honor of showing their goods at Lincoln Center.

Not that anyone has to hold a fund-raiser for IMG. They were still able to hold onto such long-time sponsors as DHL, Fiber One snack bars, Maybelline, TREsemme, Fiber One, and American Express. The credit card/financial services company nicely offered complimentary organic juices and bags of dried fruit to visitors to the big tent at Lincoln Center.

Whitestone-based Glaceau cut a deal with IMG to have Smartwater replace Diet Pepsi as the official beverage. Among the other new exhibitors on 62nd and Columbus were creative greeting card manufacturer, Papyrus, electronics giant Samsung, and cable’s Style Network.

The Daily Front Row is the oversized glossy that is printed just for Fashion Week. The DFR, which to its immense credit covers Fashion Week with a much needed sense of humor, celebrated its tenth anniversary with both a bash at the Hudson Hotel and by hosting the two-day Daily Style Sessions at the chic Stone Rose Lounge at Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center.

The Daily Style Session had a more varied mix of corporate exhibitors than IMG had at Lincoln Center. Former Bravo reality star Jill Zarin showcased her line of jewelry, while Flutter, an optical company, was displaying its line of fashionable reading glasses. It was one of the rare times at Fashion Week where an older demographic was recognized.

Food and drink were a big part of the Daily Style Sessions. Yoplait Yogurt smartly used the event as a way of launching its 100- calorie Greek yogurt line, while Lyfe Kitchen, an L.A.-based high quality frozen meals purveyor gave out samples of its soups and entrees.

Coconut water has become a popular drink because it’s not very caloric and yet is very tasty. Vita Coco is the Coca-Cola of the industry and it wants to say that way. That’s why they are a New York Fashion Week fixture as the company freely gave out sample containers of its various flavors.

Robyn Youkilis, whose first cousin is new Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis, is a well-known nutritionist and she was promoting her Bella Nutripro juicer by letting guests try vegetable tonics she prepared using it.

For those wanting a little alcohol, Disaronno-based cocktails were served.

The Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hired a pair of massage therapists to give complimentary ten-minute sessions for attendees. The Miami CVB was smartly promoting the fact that many of its spas give great discounts during summer when tourism slows down there.

Nolcha, a company that promotes smaller designers, held its lounge at Yotel, the hip hotel just on the periphery of Times Square at 42nd Street and 10th Avenue. Among the brands who were present were Kind snack bars, Foco coconut water (it seems like every week there is a new coconut water company), and Rusk hair care products. HOH Watches, a company that makes high quality timepieces at affordable prices, and was founded by Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman, also had a booth at Nolcha.

Even technology companies capitalized on New York Fashion Week. Both Dell and Hewlett-Packard took over suites at Lincoln Center’s Empire Hotel to show visitors their latest line of laptops whose screens could be detached and used as tablets. H-P also threw a party honoring the cast of Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” whose designers use their laptops.

Duracell’s Powermat is a flat charging device that can refresh batteries for numerous “smart phones” at once. A company spokesman said that it will have a new Powermat in April that will be able to charge Apple’s iPhone 5.

In this age of full-service Internet shopping websites such as Amazon and Ideeli.com, it makes sense that there should be a site dedicated to selling luxury goods at prices well below most brick and mortar retailers. LXR.com executives were at the Empire Hotel to explain how they are able to sell slightly used or imperfect upscale products at bargain prices.

Posted under Baseball Writers Association Of America, Baywatch Babes, Beneficial Impact, Benefits Of Wheat Grass, Clemens Steroids, Fox Corporation, Gay Rumors, Gnc, Jim Bouton, Keen Knowledge, Malley Family, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, O Malley, Playboy Playmates, Self Deprecating Humor, Show Hosts, Sports Talk Show, Top Story

Sports Beat “Dickey deserved it”

Mets pitcher RA Dickey was a 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 chances winning the Cy Young Award, the honored bestowed by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to the best pitcher in the National and American Leagues.

Despite winning 20 games, Dickey faced formidable obstacles with respect to receiving baseball’s highest pitching honor. The BBWAA is a conservative body and they traditionally give out their season-ending prizes to personnel from winning teams. In addition, no  knuckleball pitcher had ever won the Cy Young Award. Too many sportswriters in the past believed that the knuckleball was a gimmick and that only traditional pitchers should be recipients of the Cy Young trophy.

It’s a credit to the BBWAA that they were able to overcome those old biases and come to the realization that RA Dickey winning 20 games for the Mets was the equivalent of a pitcher winning 30 games on a decent team.

RA 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 co-author, New York Daily News sportswriter Wayne Coffey, chatting by the Gil Hodges entrance of Citi Field. Dickey told me that they were discussing additional material for the paperback release slated for this coming March. Dickey’s 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 he 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 Pacers locker room before the game.

Is it my imagination or does it seem as if Linsanity took place a decade ago? The Knicks 7-1 start certainly has quelled the consternation among the Knicks’ faithful about 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 Lance 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.

On a smaller yet still significant effort, the New York Islanders opened up the Nassau Coliseum and allowed fans to skate on the ice if they donated cash and/or food and supplies. The Islanders also held online auctions of memorabilia and fan experience packages (assuming the National Hockey League lockout gets resolved). Former Knicks public relations director Sammy Steinlight, who now his own PR firm in Manalapan, New Jersey, has started a website, www.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 their annual fund-rasing 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.

“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,” onetime Mets pitcher and Dartmouth alum Mike Remlinger told me.

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 that 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 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, Connecticut for Weeden & Company after having 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, New Jersey located just a stone’s throw from the Jets training facilities. Seminara went to work for Smith Barney after getting released by 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 Irene. 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 star Selena Gomez. Kmart is still using one of the first actresses to lend her name to 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 Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays last week as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, decided to dump every big contract that he could after the Marlins’ 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 on Madison Avenue & 29th Street, has just renovated a number of their suites to attract high rollers. Its penthouse suite has a Texas-sized biggest 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 television providers, DIRECTV and DISH Network, were competing for the business of lodging chains. The former was promoting its NFL Sunday Ticket package that allows a viewer to see every out-of-market game while the latter was playing up its extensive movie library.

Posted under Abraham Lincoln, Baseball Writers Association Of America, Bbwaa, Best Sellers List, Contract Negotiations, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Decent Team, Dream Season, Gil Hodges, Indiana Pacers, Knuckleball Pitcher, Lance Stephenson, Lloyd Carroll, Madison Square Garden, Mets Fans, New York Mets, New York Times Best Sellers, New York Times Best Sellers List, Paperback Release, Ra Dickey, Top Story