Hank Steinbrenner was the oldest son of Yankees’ principal owner George Steinbrenner. Hank was truly the Yankee that most people didn’t get to know.
He was essentially a very quiet humble man. However, if he really knew you he could let his hair down.
He didn’t have a lot of what I would call super close friends, but of the ones that he did have, he really adored them.
One of those guys was a retired police officer named Aris Sakellaridis.
Aris was the type of friend that you can tell was proud to be Hanks’s friend. Aris genuinely liked Hank for being Hank. Aris couldn’t give a rat’s ass that Hank was the Yanks Co-owner. Aris was probably one of the only pals that he had that would not let Hank always pick up the check when we went to a restaurant. That was always a fight. Many times Aris would give his credit card to the waitress before we would even sit down.
When Aris retired from the police force he decided that he would continue to play on several amateurs and semi-pro teams and today at the age of 61 is the oldest player in New York and Florida that plays in the 18 and over unlimited age baseball leagues.
Hank used to love to go to watch Aris play and then critique him on his hitting. I use to love watching Hank give Aris hitting lessons. It was a thing of beauty because Hank actually knew his baseball.
At one point Hank and Aris talked about possibly playing a game together but unfortunately, Hanks’s health would not permit this to happen.
One year Hank talked about actually signing Aris to a Yank’s contract the way his father had signed The actor Billy Crystal to a one-day contract but as luck would have it Hank’s health took a turn for the worse and the dream would die with Hank.
I had known Hank since we were teenagers and could honestly say that we became closer because of the friendship that Aris had with him. It was a thing of beauty. It was truly like watching a great television comedy.
This year I had the opportunity to help the Staten Island FERRYHAWKS of the Atlantic independent baseball league in a few minor ways.
This past weekend they were playing the Long Island Ducks in the last game of the season. Both teams were out of contention so I came up with the idea that they sign Aris for this last game. I talked to the former Met Edgardo Alfonzo who is the FERRYHAWKS manager about it. He asked me if he had to play him. I said if your winning or losing big throw him a pinch-hit at bat. Edgardo got it because being a player that has always given his heart to the game he understood my love of the game and the fact that this was a beautiful thing between Aris and Hank.
Unfortunately, the powers that be just didn’t understand my romantic implications about what this story was all about.
I envision Edgardo yelling out … Aris grab a bat. I also imagined the baseball Gods helping Aris line a single up the middle and as he smiled standing on first base he would look up into the heavens and say Thanks, Hank.
I’m lucky because I got to work for George Steinbrenner. The Boss always believed in these types of dreams. I’m lucky because my friend, the Boss’s son also understood that those dreams can be beautiful.
I’m sorry Aris that I could not help complete Hank’s mission for your dream.