Last night was the first showing of ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30 documentary “Four Days in October”. The short film chronicles the back-end of the 2004 American League Championship Series. That was the time everything changed for Boston and New York. Obviously until then the Yankees had dominated the Red Sox. While they had played countless classic games and series the bombers always inevitably wound up on the winning side. Then, with their backs totally against the wall-down 0 games to 3 in October 2004, the Sox won 4 of the most magical games ever played. We all know the particulars as they have been detailed over and over again- David Ortiz‘s heroics, Schilling’s bloody sock, more of David’s clutchness and Johnny Damon’s two home-runs. I won’t bring up those horrific memories that have haunted Yankees fans too often in this post as I thought it would be as good a time as any to talk about how 2004 impacted this industry.
After the ALCS the Red Sox went on to demolish the Cardinals in an incredibly lopsided 4 game sweep. We had talked after the ALCS that there may be some real business possibilities in the Boston market if they were to win it all. With that in mind the right people made the right calls and , before you could say choke, I was loading fifteen cases of 2004 World Series baseballs into my Mercury Sable. I hung tight for a few hours and waited for the green light to begin the drive to Massachusetts….more specifically to see Manny Ramirez. Once I got it I drove as fast as legally possible…which isn’t that fast when weighed down by 405 pounds of baseballs. I finally made it to Manny’s. It didn’t matter because he wasn’t there. To no avail I rang the bell for awhile but eventually gave up and went to my hotel to regroup. Thankfully all got worked out and the next morning I was at Ramirez’s apartment where he signed and signed and signed. Not only was Manny autographing balls with his new patented inscription – “2004 WS MVP” but he was also becoming the first name on our team project. While the team project has become one of our staples since then, it was a fairly new concept to me. After Ramirez signed I set up camp at a hotel conference room. Over the course of several days not only did the entire team walk through those doors but even the General Manager Theo Epstein came to sign the pieces. It was an absolute whirlwind. Many of those players became our exclusives and I would end up linked to them for many years. Over and above the team pieces it seemed that practically everyone had their own individual moment that needed to be capitalized on. Ortiz had photos of all his ALCS achievements. Schilling had images from Game 6 with the vaunted bloody sock on. Doug Mientkiewicz had the last out photograph. Dave Robert had “The Steal”.. Bronson Arroyo had the Arod one…the list goes on and on. Johnny Damon signed so many of the grand slam photo that he even personalized one “To Steiner Sports, thanks for hurting my hand”. Before we knew it, an empire was built…no pun intended. We came out of it with as comprehensive a Red Sox collection as anyone in the business had. Unfortunately though the team pieces were not completed until November 14th. Pedro Martinez left town quickly after the parade and he became the one name missing from the project. We got him on the pieces over two days in a Times Square hotel. It was during that marathon signing that I convinced Pedro to come to the Mets. It sounds funny but I was definitely the first person to discuss the possibility with him….looks like I sold him on it!
Anyway, as I said earlier some of these relationships ended up lasting years. The Sports Illustrated 2005 Baseball Preview issue had both Damon and Derek Jeter on the cover. That, blown up to 16×20, became our first project of the season. Then the following year Johnny ended up on the Yankees and played a huge role the past few years..culminating in the 2009 championship. Also in 2005 we continued to work with Pedro as we had a few private signings and one amazing public in Scarsdale. (not to forget the no-show public slated for Huntington) In between 2006 and 2009 there was, of course, the 2007 run. As soon as the Red Sox disposed of the Rockies (again in a sweep) I was on way back to Boston. It was total deja-vu. This time was a little different as we had a lot of players in place already. I actually knocked it out myself for the most part but it did end up taking much longer than 2004. Most of the players signed within a few days but there were a few lingering names that wouldn’t go a away. David Ortiz added his signature to the project the day prior to Thanksgiving 2007. It took me over eight hours to drive back in that holiday traffic! (in a rental mini-van). It made me reflect on the time I foolishly drove home for Thanksgiving from Maryland that night before, which took me over ten hours. Unbelievably David wasn’t even the last name to get. Josh Beckett had flown home to Texas shortly after the parade with no return trip in the foreseeable future. Early that December we bit the bullet and I flew down to San Antonio with the items. This was a bit of a pain. The business had changed dramatically since 2004 and all of a sudden game used was at the forefront of it all. Not only was I rolling with baseballs, photos, jerseys and bats but now there were bases, home plates, pitching rubbers and even locker room champagne bottles (which look great when first signed but the signature can come right off from condensation if touched!). These items are a nightmare to ship, unpack and repack. This was never more evident than at the hotel in Texas where it took hours to pack it all up the right way. Even with the hellish schlep to San Antonio it was extremely gratifying to finally be done with it. Again the pieces came out amazing and even further solidified ourselves as the industry leader in Red Sox memorabilia and collectibles.
Just as in 2004 we developed some great new player relationships with the 2007 team. None more important than with Dustin Pedroia. Dustin, with winning both the AL Rookie of the Year and the World Series in ’07, started his career in a similar fashion to another one of our exclusives (pretty good company to be in when compared early to Derek Jeter). We have been going strong with Dustin since then having enjoyed quite a run with the 2008 AL MVP. We did a signing about two weeks ago in New York and, even with all the time missed this season, it’s obvious by the demand that he is the Red Sox most popular player. Personally I have always enjoyed the Pedroia signings as he loves talking baseball. It still amazes me that Red Sox and Yankees player tend to greet me with “What’s up with the Mets?”. Anyway we are obviously thrilled that Dustin is part of the Steiner family.
During our last signing Pedroia signed quite a bit of game used items (the same type of product that was such a hassle to ship to San Antonio!). Through our partnership with the Red Sox we get bases, balls, lineup cards, bats and jerseys from the team. It is very similar to our Yankees-Steiner relationship. After home stands we get the items from those games. Just as with the Yankees we also have great inexpensive Red Sox sports gifts like the dirt-key chains and plaques. Check out the rest of this site for more on these incredible items. Everyone thinks of us as a Yankees company, and rightfully so, but we really are very much a part of the fabric of Fenway and Red Sox Nation (we even have a few salespeople stationed in Boston now).
Having said all that, Red Sox fans don’t fret as you have had a great run since 2003 and will undoubtedly be right back towards the top in 2011. I am sure I’ll see some of you around in Ft. Myers…spring training is right around the corner!
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