As many know, one of my best friends in the whole world is New York-born singer-songwriter Tony Orlando. He is a man who was big friends with Elvis and Frank Sinatra and yet his stardom did not let him forget little guys like me.
George Steinbrenner loved Tony not just for his talent but also because of his patriotic beliefs. When Tony delivered his gigantic hit … Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree… Mr. Steinbrenner loved it. He hummed it and every once in a while would try to sing it. The Boss loved whenever Tony would visit him at Yankee Stadium or during spring training in Florida. I use to love the look in Tony’s eyes when the Boss would shower Tony and his bandmates with Yankee attire.
Just recently I gave Tony a call just to check-in. We talked about his second favorite subject next to show business, The Yankees.
I happen to tell Tony about the fact that sports personality Russ Saltzberg, a man that has covered all sports in the biggest market in the country (New York) had just been a guest of Yanks President Randy Levine at the Stadium.
Tony immediately asked me if I understood the impact that Russ had through the years while covering the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon. He immediately told me that next to Jerry Lewis, Russ was tied for second place for having the biggest heart of all when it came to helping these poor kids with muscular dystrophy. When I asked Tony who was Russ tied with, he said me (Tony)! Naturally, we laughed. However, I knew that Tony was telling the truth.
Tony also told me that Russ always said it like it is. No nonsense… Extremely loyal!
I already knew that about Russ because I remembered how touched Mr. Steinbrenner was when Russ in his own ways backed the Boss during his suspension from baseball. I will never forget that the Boss felt he could tell Russ anything. The Boss always told me that the thing he liked the most about Russ was that he didn’t kiss any celebrity’s butt however always gave them their due respect.
I have been fortunate enough to know many of these athletes and celebrities and love the fact that my friend Russ Saltzberg has been a journalistic icon in their eyes. A true New York Legend.