December 16, 2010

Not everything about this job revolves around meeting and hanging out with Yankees greats. Part of my training at Steiner includes learning about the auction side of our business. This past week, I conducted my first silent auction at the Knicks/Celtics game at Madison Square Garden.

For those who may not know, Steiner Sports has a partnership with MSG similar to the one with The New York Yankees. This allows our company to offer great game used equipment from the Knicks and Rangers, as well as unique pieces of Garden memorabilia. We have a Steiner Store location within the Garden, and for select Knicks and Rangers games, we conduct silent auctions with premiere pieces within the MSG-Steiner collection.

In conjunction with the auction this week, we were also hosting a free autograph signing with former Knick Anthony Mason. He and I actually entered the Garden at the same time, and when he heard me check in with the security guard by telling him that I was with Steiner Sports, Big Mase shouted out “I’m with that dude!”

We rode the elevator up to the 6th floor together, and Mase and I found ourselves at the door of the Steiner Sports Store. He was really laid back and easygoing, and chatted with our staff about basketball while he waited for the public to enter the building and for his signing to begin. While listening to him talk, I prepared my materials for the auction.

Like most auctions, Steiner Auctions are a great way to get valuable pieces of memorabilia at a tremendous savings. For our MSG event, there was a wide selection of game worn Knicks uniforms, signed basketballs, framed photos and artifacts from the Garden.

1973-74 Championship Court Piece

One of the most unique pieces that we brought was this piece of actual court floor from the 1973-74  Championship season. Its hand signed by many of the superstars of that team including Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe as well as Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Red Holzman. It is truly a one of a kind piece and was a tremendous value (and great early Christmas present) for the winning bidder.

In addition to silent auctions, Steiner hosts more traditional “cyber” auctions on our own website. Within those auctions, you will find rare pieces, classic vintage items and value filled “bundles” of memorabilia. Many of the items are exclusive to our auction and simply can’t be bought anywhere else. Remember the signed Bleacher bench Reggie Jackson and I were holding in a previous blog?  That is a future auction item, awaiting it’s posting for the next round of bidding.

Our auction site is also where you will find rare, vintage items. Oftentimes our auction department will work out consignment deals with other autograph dealers/vendors for these hard to find pieces and offer them to our customer base. As with any item you purchase from Steiner, each item is certified authentic so you can rest assured that you are bidding on a legitimate product.

I’ll assume that most of you are familiar with one of the cardinal rules of auction shopping: wait until the auction is almost over before you bid, so you don’t needlessly drive the price higher. I would be remiss if I didn’t alert my readers to the next great lot of Yankees memorabilia that is closing soon. Here you will find some incredible deals on game used items (jerseys, hats, bases, baseballs, line up cards) as well as Original Stadium artifacts.

Wear what the pro's wear....literally

One of the best value packages includes this incredible selection of game issued jerseys (Mariano, Joba, Robertson and Hughes). It’s a package valued at over $2,000 but currently only has one bid at just $900 (and it ends this Sunday!). For a collector or huge fan, this is an incredible deal on some very hard to get items from the inaugural season at the new Yankee Stadium. You can take a look at all of the items available in this auction lot here

For the New Year, I encourage any Jets/Giants fans to keep an eye on our site for some unique packages. The auction department is working hard on creating a new promotion containing many artifacts from the old Meadowlands including seats, signage and memorabilia.

As always, if you have any questions regarding the auction process, items or how to bid, please feel free to contact me directly:

914-307-1047 or vmilano@steinersports.com

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Meeting and Greeting

December 8, 2010

It’s been a busy few weeks over here at Steiner Sports. In addition to my blogging duties, I’m still in the midst of learning the ropes here and getting myself comfortable in my new sales role. Part of my responsibilities includes an education in the autograph signing aspect of our business, and fortunately for me, it’s allowed me to meet some of my heroes.

As most of you know, Steiner Sports has built an ironclad reputation during the last 20 years as a leading provider of sports marketing services and authentic, hand signed, memorabilia. Their unique relationships with athletes in almost every sport allow the company to offer collectibles that you simply can’t find anywhere else. The Steiner Sports authenticity guarantee is rooted in the fact that there are several witnesses to the product being signed (including an official MLB representative) and this past week, one of those witnesses was me.

Most fans are probably used to “public signings”. In this type of event, a customer would typically purchase a ticket ahead of time, wait on a line at one of our retail locations, and get their memento signed personally (and hopefully snatch a quick picture in the process). Public signings tend to be crowded, somewhat hectic and usually pretty loud. Private signings, however, are the complete opposite.

My first private signing was with Yankees First Baseman Mark Teixeira. He was due into our office on a Tuesday afternoon, and prior to his arrival, it was necessary to get the signing room ready for his appearance. Cases upon cases of baseballs were opened and “readied” for his signature (and by readied, I mean that each baseball is spun within the box to its correct position, of sweet side up). Batting helmets are arranged in neat rows, and shiny black Teixeira model bats are gently leaning upon the wall. There was a pile of jerseys, as well as several stacks of photos. Finally, there was a station for “send in” items, which are pieces that customers have sent out of their personal collections to be signed.

The room is located in our warehouse, away from the hustle and bustle of our main office floor. The staff that works a private signing takes great care to be sure the athlete is comfortable, and that the signing goes as smoothly as possible. For Teix, he is a pretty self sufficient and low maintenance guy. He came in alone (no agent or entourage) and made quick work of his signing commitment. He blazed through case after case of baseballs, switching from a simple sweet spot signature to more limited edition “inscription” balls.

The Teixecutioner and Bald Vinny

While Teix was busy signing away, the staff was working just as hard. As each ball was signed, for example, a staffer would take the ball and re-rotate it within the box for authentication by MLB. Their hologram logo is affixed in a particular location, and serial numbers on the holograms are recorded via barcode in a hand-held scanner. As the baseballs received their MLB authentication, they were then handed to me to be affixed with a Steiner Sports hologram. After tagging and bagging the baseballs, I was sent to the bat station, where I repeated the process of affixing Steiner holograms.

The whole signing took just about an hour, and included an interview with our talented web team (you can read about it here ). Mark was a blast to work with, and was very easy to be around. He chatted about baseball and football, and how he is adjusting to life in New York. He made everyone in the room comfortable, and was kind enough to pose for pictures with all of us who helped out.

Two days later, and not announced within the office as a private signing, we were joined by Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. He was in town to add his signature to several pieces, including many that were being signed by members of the 77-78 Yankees during a customer meet and greet that following weekend. Prior commitments kept Reggie from attending the customer event, but it was crucial to get him added to the team signed pieces. In this particular case, forethought was needed to ensure that the remaining signatures needed on the pieces had room to fit. Signed balls, seat backs, bats and photos were on the docket for the day, and it was interesting to note the difference in signing styles between Mark and Reggie.

Mr. October, signing away

While Mark was very businesslike, making quick work of his commitment, Reggie was more diligent. He took frequent breaks during the signing, either to talk baseball or chomp on a light lunch (turkey and lettuce on whole wheat). My role during this signing was different than that of the Teixeira’s in that I was only there for a photo op and to get a bleacher bench signed. While I patiently waited for a few moments of Reggie’s time, I got to listen to him talk baseball with the others in the room. He commented on a photo of Mariano that we have hanging up in the room, and gave a long dissertation on why Mo is one of the best pitchers he has ever seen.

It was incredibly interesting to me because Reggie was a part of a different generation of baseball superstars. The game, as well as the athletes that played them, was different in Reggie’s time. There were no “specialists” that came out of the bullpen to face lefties only. Pitchers frequently threw 8+ innings an outing, and often threw three times per week. It was fascinating to hear him talk about the differences compared to the modern game, and I gained a tremendous amount of respect for a man that I already admired greatly.

The guy from the bleachers and the guy who HIT them to the bleachers

I was only two years old when Reggie belted those three home runs on a chilly October night in the Bronx, but like most fans around my age, I was properly schooled on his place in Yankees history. Think what you would like about the man, but I found him to be incredibly personable and even a bit chatty. He makes no bones about who he is or what his reputation says about him, and he is brutally honest when it comes to the game we all love. It truly was an honor to spend a few hours with him during his time here.

My final event this week was the biggest. On Saturday, the Steiner Sports office played host to 250 guests as we welcomed various members of the 1977-78 Yankees Championship teams. This event was quite different than the appearances above in that it included both a private signing as well as “meet and greet” opportunities for our clients. It was organized chaos at its finest, and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had here so far (and that is saying a LOT, especially if you read my last blog).

Athletes started to arrive at our offices as early as 10am. Private signings were held downstairs, with legends like Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent and Chris Chambliss working their way through the team items. One by one, another former stars would arrive: Graig Nettles. Lou Piniella. Mike Torrez. Sparky Lyle. Each was whisked away to the signing room to complete their allotment of autographs while our main office location began to fill with Yankee fans.

The most unique aspect of this event was the interaction between players and fans. Stations were set up in conference rooms and cubicles to host the athletes and the attendees. Sessions started off with brief Q&A sessions, followed by the fans posing for photos with some of their heroes. While most of this was going on, I found myself back in the signing room, acting as the “handler” for Yankee Outfielder, and eight time Gold Glove winner, Paul Blair.

Paul Blair, during his Q&A session with fans

It was my responsibility to move him from station to station, making sure he was comfortable and that he had the proper (new) pens/markers for each task. I also had to set up each signed item for him, and then get it ready for the next person to sign. While going through his materials, other legends were making their way into the signing room. It was clear that these guys don’t get to see each other all that often, because as each guy entered the room, everything was put on pause to allow time for the obligatory handshakes, hugs and chit chat.

It was like being right in the middle of an old high school reunion. A DVD from the 1978 World Series was popped in, and the flat screens in the signing room came alive with images from Game 3 of the Fall Classic. Almost on cue, that evenings starting pitcher, Ron Guidry walked into the signing room accompanied by recently retired skipper Lou Piniella. Sweet Lou’s eyes lit up upon seeing the screens, and the two Yankee greats traded stories from the evening as they watched the events unfold before them.

Seeing the look of joy on Piniella’s face, I couldn’t help but ask him the last time he watched this game. “Oh, sometime in the 80’s, I think” was his reply. He commented that he was always too busy to actually sit down and enjoy it, but that it was something he was looking forward to doing now that he was retired (His actual comment was “I hope they replay this on the YES Network soon, I really want to see it.”)

Pitch by pitch, inning by inning, he and Guidry would trade stories about people, players and events that they were reminded of during the broadcast. The Yanks rallied in the 7th inning, and when Thurman Munson stepped to the plate and delivered an RBI, and the two men howled with laughter. It was easy to see that they loved Big Thurm, and conversation quickly turned to stories about the former Captain.

Bald Vinny and Louisiana Lightning

My favorite of the anecdotes came from Guidry, who recalled a sequence of pitches from the very game we were watching. Munson put down a signal, and Guidry shook him off. Munson called for another pitch, and once again Guidry shook him off. Finally, Munson dropped a signal for a pitch Guidry didn’t even throw and Gator requested the Captain join him on the mound for a conference. “What the *bleep* are you doing back there, Cap?” Guidry said. “I don’t even throw a changeup!” Munson replied “I know Gator…you just looked a little tense out there. I figured I’d give you a break!”.

Back on the main floor, I joined in on several Q&A sessions that had already begun. Prior to the event starting, I had posed an inquiry on FaceBook and Twitter soliciting questions from some of my readers. It was at this time that I got to ask my favorite questions from those that were sent in.

The first person I had a chance to speak to was Sparky Lyle. There were a lot of things I wanted to ask about, but the first question that came out of my mouth was about his reputation for sitting (naked) on top of birthday cakes that were brought in for players. I asked him who got the most upset over that prank, and he said it was former Pitching Coach Art Fowler. When pressed why it bothered Fowler so much, Sparky replied “I think he just loved eating cake!”

Thankfully, my desk was clear of birthday cake

I also asked him a question I received via Twitter, from user @Merle211 (and winner of my first autographed ball giveaway), about what it felt like to be traded to the Yankees from the Red Sox during Spring Training of 1972. Sparky said that contrary to what was custom at the time, he actually knew he was going to be traded. He said that at the end of the 71 season Ralph Houk had mentioned to him that they were going to go after him and try to put a trade together. Sparky recalls that he didn’t think much of it, but when it actually went through, he said he was surprised that Houk was able to pull it off! It turned out to be a great move for the Yanks, as Lyle became the Yankees’ bullpen ace, establishing himself as one of the best relief pitchers of the 1970s.

The next question I chose to ask was one that I had always been curious to know the answer to. Dave Cohen, of FaceBook fame (and also winner of my second autographed ball give away), had asked of Lou Piniella:

” In the one-game playoff at Fenway in 1978, when he made the defensive play that saved the game, pretending he had a fly ball the entire time when he couldn’t see the ball, freezing the runners, at what point did he actually see the ball for the first time?”

When asked, Piniella responded with a hearty belly laugh. “Officially and on the record?”, he replied, “I saw it come off the bat…..off the record, I didn’t see it until it landed right in front of me” He went on to tell the story, and recalled that the inning prior (the 8th), he had come back to the dugout and mentioned to Yankee Skipper Dick Howser how difficult it was to see in the outfield. “If anything is hit on the screws, Skip, it’s gonna be a tough one to track down” Piniella recalled. The very next inning, Red Sox Second Basemen Jerry Remy hit a towering fly ball that Piniella lost in the sun. His defensive play caused the runner on first to only advance one base, thus preventing him from scoring the tying run when Red Sox legend Jim Rice followed with his own fly ball to the outfield.

Newly Retired Lou Piniella

When the event wrapped up, I had a hard time believing what I had just been a part of. Not only was I in the room with several Yankee legends, I was able to listen to their stories and relive their memories. As a Yankee fan, it was a week that I won’t ever forget. As a Steiner employee, it was an excellent hands on training experience, and one that I hope to do a lot more of in the future.

To reserve your own piece of memorabilia from the signings I was involved with last week, you can contact me directly at 914-307-1047 or at vmilano@steinersports.com

And for your chance to win additional prizes, please don’t forget to Follow me on Twitter or on Facebook

My Trip to the Clubhouse

November 30, 2010

Hey Fans;

This week, as promised, I will take you on an inside tour as I travel to the Yankee Stadium clubhouse to retrieve game used items from the 2010 Post Season.

It was only my second day on the job here at Steiner Sports, so you could imagine my enthusiasm when I was asked if I would like to take a trip to the Stadium. I wasn’t even sure what was expected of me when I got there, I just knew that after 5 weeks of no baseball, I was dying to get to the Bronx. Since I am still quite new here, I was in the midst of warehouse training when I was retrieved by Kaitlin and Kim (Steiner Interns) for our mid-afternoon field trip.

If you’ve never been up to the Stadium in the off-season, you might be surprised at how different the neighborhood is. The majority of the bars, shops and restaurants on River Ave are closed up for the winter. The normal hustle and bustle of Yankee fans is replaced by the slow sauntering of neighborhood residents as they go about their daily lives. The air is filled with the laughter of school children on lunch recess instead of chants of “let’s go Yankees” by the Pinstripe faithful. The entire area seems to take on a very mellow, somewhat sleepy feeling.

We found our way to the one open parking lot, and then proceeded to the main office entrance by Gate 2. It was my second time in this reception area and the gleaming floors, larger-than-life Yankee photos and the imposing statue of George M. Steinbrenner III all lend an air of opulence and luxury. If you thought the amenities within the Stadium are breathtaking, the “corporate” areas are equally beautiful.

Outter wall of the clubhouse, right outside the office of the Clubhouse Manager

After meeting our contact, we were whisked away (by golf cart) through an underground labyrinth of tunnels until we arrived at the clubhouse door. It was there that we met clubhouse manager Lou Cucuzza Jr , who brought us into the hallowed locker room. Unfortunately, restrictions prohibit me from posting pictures of the interior, but I can tell you that it is much larger than it appears in post game interviews. This photo is of the wall immediately outside the door, and as you can see, has been signed by numerous Yankee players and coaches.

We were instructed as to what we were taking, and began to get to work. My first task was to remove all of the clubhouse chairs and load them onto flatbeds for transport to our awaiting truck. One by one I mentally announced the names each player (in my best Paul Olden voice) as I removed each chair from the locker room. Of course, I heard Mr. Sheppards voice when I loaded Derek Jeter’s chair onto the truck, and for some reason I really started to miss baseball immensely at that point.

The Captain's Road Playoff Jersey

Next up were several bags full of uniforms. There was a separate bag for both home and away jerseys and pants, and I made quick work of shuttling them onto the truck. Later that day, I would find myself going through each pile of jerseys, cataloging them by player/number/size and MLB Hologram number. As a Yankee fan, it was surreal to be handling the same uniforms worn by so many of my heroes. I felt like each jersey was a piece of glass, and I handled each one gingerly as I placed it on a hangar and wrote down the necessary information.

Back in the clubhouse, I began to carry box after box of Bases to the truck. For those of you that don’t know, the bases are changed three times a game. They are “attached” to the ground via a metal pole that protrudes from the bottom. On top of being very dirty, the “base” of the bases makes them very clunky and cumbersome. I used as much care as possible (and all of the skills I have learned from Tetris) to carefully load them onto the flatbed without too much bumping/falling.

After that, there were only four or five cases of game used baseballs (including Mariano’s save baseballs from ALDS and ALCS game 1) that had to be loaded before I could tackle the large assortment of game used bats. To say there were a few would be an understatement. In my estimation there had to be close to 200 bats, many cracked (or broken in two) and all showing lots of usage. We made quick work of the bats by towing them from behind a golf cart as they laid in one of the clubhouse bins.

Anyone need a bat?

Once back at the Steiner warehouse, I began to catalog the bat selection (marking down player, color of the bat, and condition). It became evident that this was going to be a messy task, as most bats were covered in pine tar (I’m looking at you, Jorge Posada). It took three washings before I got all of the tar removed from my hands, but it was incredible to handle these bats and imagine the Yankee memories they created.

It’s been two weeks since our trip to the stadium, and we are still going through all of the equipment, logging them into our system, assigning SKU’s and affixing Steiner Sports Holograms.

To be the first to know when new pieces get added to our inventory, and how you can own your very own piece of Yankees history, you can:

Contact me directly at 914-307-1047 or at vmilano@steinersports.com

Follow me on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/baldvinny

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Welcome to the NEW Bald Vinny Blog!

November 22, 2010

Hey Yankees Fans!

Welcome to my new blog, only found here at SteinerSports.com.

For those of you that read my first blog, I’d like to say Thank You for your support and welcome to my new bloggosphere. I promise to keep delivering to you the same unique perspective you have come to expect from my posts including no-nonsense commentary, witty humor and unabashed self promotion.

To my new readers, allow me to take a moment to introduce myself. From April to October of every year, I can be found in Section 203 of the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium leading the raucous Bleacher Creatures in our nightly Roll Call. If that’s still not ringing any bells, check out the video below:

I can also be found before and after every game (yes, every game) outside of Billy’s Sports Bar on River Ave with the most unique collection of Yankee fan apparel available for purchase. Everything is all original, and tailored specifically to your “bigger-than-average” Yankees fan. The Bleachers are home of the Hardcore fans, and BaldVinny.com is their home for apparel.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s get down to the business at hand.

So, the next logical question is what am I doing here at Steiner? Well, that answer is pretty simple. There really isn’t a lot of action going on at Yankee Stadium in November and I have two little mouths at home to feed. They have been gracious enough to open their doors to me here and give me the opportunity to keep busy during these off-season months. My primary responsibility is sales, but I’ve agreed to keep writing my blog in order to give you, my dear reader, continued access to the Yankees all year long.

As I’m sure you are all aware, the Yankees and Steiner Sports are in a very unique partnership designed to offer incredible, one of a kind collectibles to the retail market. In addition to artifacts from the old Stadium, Steiner Sports is the only place to get game used equipment (jerseys, hats, bats, balls, bases) as well as exclusive access to Yankee autographs and” meet and greet” appearances. One of my goals with this blog is to offer you a behind the scenes look at how this end of the business works, while at the same time exposing you to some one-of-a-kind Yankee items you may not have had the chance to see up close.

In my next blog installment, I’ll take you into the Yankee Clubhouse (well, just outside of the Yankees Clubhouse) as we receive in our shipment of 2010 game used Yankee gear. I’ll give you exclusive access to our warehouse, and each week I will try to unearth rare items and bring them to you directly. I have high hopes for the usage of this space, and the more “successful” it becomes (tell your friends!) the more access/information I’ll be able to bring to you

As with my previous blog, I highly encourage interaction from my readers. If there is something you want to see, please let me know and I will do my best to track it down. If you have a question about anything related to the collectibles/memorabilia market, ask, and I will search out an answer. I am here to bring the Yankees to *you*.

As you (patiently) await my next blog, I’d like to offer my services to any of my readers looking for assistance with their Holiday shopping. We have amazing (and affordable) gifts for fans of any team or sport, and I’m happy to offer more information on any of the products we sell. Additionally, you can sign up for my email deals list, and be the first to know about exclusive game used items, autographs and Yankee appearances.

Please contact me directly at 914-307-1047 or at vmilano@steinersports.com

Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/baldvinny

Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/baldvinny