Tampa Bay Rays
Rays season preview: Sternberg Q&A
Q: Who was your favorite baseball player? A: Sandy Koufax. I saw him pitch twice at Shea Stadium, in '65 and '66. I know the first game I fell asleep for half of it, but the second one I remember very much. The thing I liked about him was the long stretch to the plate that just seemed so different than anything else. Q: Growing up in the land of Mickey Mantle and Tom Seaver, why Koufax? A: I had next-door neighbors, older guys, teenagers at the time, and they were huge Sandy Koufax fans. I guess I was probably 2 years old or something, and they just sort of drummed it into me. Like anything else you got people who were very instrumental in your life who take care of you, who you look up to a lot. By the time I could actually read or knew what was going on, Koufax was an incredible star and the "K" and the "X" stood out a little bit. He was a guy from Brooklyn, and all that resonated with them and by the time I was 4 it was an indoctrination of Sandy Koufax.Q: You met Koufax twice. What was that like? A: Real stately presence. Enormous hands. As fine a gentleman as I could have expected. Really nice, incredible guy. … He's got a presence there. You know he's around. Q: When was the last time you bought a pack of baseball cards? A: I try to buy one each year, at least a pack a year. Usually my wife will get one first and buy a pack for me and each of the boys. Q: Do you still receive the same thrill when you open them now as when you were a kid? A: Absolutely. I miss the gum smell. I always like to see if any of our players are there. That's exciting. And then it's, "Who'd you get," right? Q: Wiffle ball or stickball? A: Definitely more stickball growing up, but Wiffle the last 20 years. Q: Is it true you own a stickball bat? A: I own two stickball bats. Q: If you could go back in time and attend one baseball game, which game would it be? A: I would say clearly when the Dodgers won the '55 World Series, Game 7. I would have loved to have been in the streets of Brooklyn, even if not at the game. I think being at the game first and then just being on the streets of Brooklyn after they had won, because everybody I have spoken to who was there, they talk about it. I remember as a 10-year-old (in 1969) when they landed on the moon and going to the ticker-tape parade, everyone was just beside themselves. I remember talking to people over the years and they said that was nothing compared to (the Dodgers winning). It was 10 times that. I'm sure they're exaggerating about life on the streets of Brooklyn when the Dodgers won the World Series. Q: Since you've already met Koufax, is there another player living or deceased that you would like to meet or wish you had met? A: I probably would have liked to have met (Don) Drysdale. He got dragged along in my love of Koufax because it was always Koufax and Drysdale. Everything I heard about him over the years says he was a pretty special guy. Q: Do you have a favorite baseball book? A: "Boys of Summer," and then "Lords of the Realm." It's about baseball ownership. I read it years before I'd even become an owner. It's an incredible book. Q: Do you have a favorite baseball movie? A: This is going to sound crazy, but the things that get impressed upon you as a kid, "The (Monty) Stratton Story." Q: Have you ever visited the Baseball Hall of Fame? A: Oh, yeah, half a dozen times as a kid. The first time I went I was probably 11 and then 13. They changed it a bunch. As a kid you were able to touch stuff. Now they have everything behind glass. Perfectly understandable, but it was just a different time. Q: After baseball, what is your favorite sport? A: To watch, I would say college basketball, and then after that there is a significant drop-off. Q: What is your favorite moment as owner of the Rays? A: It was when Aki (Iwamura) caught the ball at second base against the Red Sox in Game 7 (of the 2008 ALCS). I can still see that ball almost taking a hop and shooting over his glove, but it didn't. When I see the replay of it I'm sort of shocked that he caught it each time and the ball didn't take a spin over his glove. It's sort of like when you look at the Red Sox-Mets (in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series), I'm still amazed the ball went through (Bill) Buckner's legs.