At the end of Hank Steinbrenner’s life, it became tough to get together with him because of the Corona Virus situation. We had to be careful not to spread the virus around.
The last time we got together, I knew that me and Aris Sakalaridis, who was also very close to Hank, would not be seeing him again. Aris and I were there with a very heavy heart. We were there with the intentions of spending ten minutes with him but we ended staying for 4 hours.
Hank wanted to have fun and laugh so we decided to watch a Richard Pryor concert. I laughed more at Hank laughing then I did at Richard Pryor. I laughed so hard that tears came down my face. I have to admit that half those tears were because of my sadness, so I guess it was a good camouflage.
In between the horsing around, as we usually did in our visit, Aris was screaming at Hank to get up so that they could go to the front yard to play catch one more time as was their routine. I could tell that Hank was having a great time. I could also tell that he was getting very tired. At that point we told him that we were going to leave so that he could rest. Hank at that moment ordered us to stay and watch one more movie. Aris screamed out in his standard sarcastic manner, “I don’t work for you! But I’ll stay ‘cause I like Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider,” which was a Hank favorite. We all laughed because that was classic Aris.
Aris used to love to tell Hank that when he tried to “boss” him around, they would always laugh like crazy. Hank knew me very well and asked me when I would be running into the fire. He was referring to the Corona Virus situation in New York. He knew how serious and personal I took my city and the people there. He always used to tell me that I couldn’t save the world but he loved the fact that I thought I could.
For several years Hank actually became a regular visitor to the Bronx and got to know the people there. On several occasions he actually visited schools and never got to visit Yankee Stadium. That’s how serious he felt about the people there. I have to add that the kids loved him.
Just about halfway through the film, he fell asleep. I looked at Aris and I said “Let’s go.” As we were leaving, Hank woke up. He asked us if we were coming tomorrow and I said yes. I knew we weren’t but I didn’t want to disappoint him. He told me not to leave for New York without letting him know and if l left to tell Max, his assistant.
As we walked out, Aris said that he really would’ve liked to have given Hank his cross that he wore around his neck. I said, “Then go back in the room and give it to him.” Aris said that Hank wouldn’t take it. So I said then force it on him. Well Aris walked in and said Hank this is for you. Hank saw it and said no that’s yours. Aris said but I want you to accept this. So Hank lowered his head and Aris put it on him. Hank always had the greatest smile and with that he warmly said thanks, pal! We knew when we got into my car that we had seen Hank for the last time. Not a word was spoken as we drove from Hank’s home in Clearwater to St. Petersburg, Florida.
Today I’m in New York trying to help as many people as possible in anyway possible during this pandemic. I have two sons who are police officers on the front lines and I worry about them every day. There are many people that are hungry so we help them and the doctors and nurses need all the help they can get. It’s an everyday thing in New York. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for this city and all the great people that I met here.
One of the great things that happened at one point this week was that I got calls from Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela asking if there was anything they could do. I thought that was a beautiful thing. I told them that when things got back to normal I would love for them to just do what they always do, visit the kids at the schools.
I think of Hank every day and I miss him something awful. He was a beautiful person with a crazy, yet wonderful soul. I wish you would’ve known him the way Aris and I knew him. To us he was just Henry.
I produced an animated film a few years ago called “Henry & Me” and Hank did the voice of his father, George. Hank was quite proud of his work in that film. Kidding around he used to say that he didn’t want to show up Richard Gere or Chazz Palminteri.
Hank was a different kind of guy. He was special and he will be missed. Just ask a bunch of kids in New York known as “Hanks Yanks,” but that’s a story for another day.