"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

I Believe in Baseball

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories is now in bookstores.

To celebrated its publication, dig this piece about Todd Drew from one of his dearest friends:

By Peter Zanardi

We never talked but then Todd Drew didn’t reveal a bit of himself. We never parted without making some kind of future plan. I’m totally convinced that would have continued if he lived to be 100.

The last time we met, Todd talked mostly about his own blog, Yankees For Justice, and his contributions to Bronx Banter. He also expressed his admiration for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. An unabashed liberal, Todd called Sanders “my favorite Senator.” Because I have Vermont connections, and because Sanders (who is actually Brooklyn born) is so approachable, I made a mental note to see about getting a personalized item for Todd.

My wife Jane and I would give it to him when we returned to New York for a weekend that would definitely include Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Todd’s mind had many, many rooms, and I’ll be forever thankful that I got to visit a few of them. There was, of course, baseball in general and the Yankees in particular. In the last years of his all-too-short stay, that was the warmest, coziest, most comforting of the rooms. He kept the cleanest scorebook I’ve ever seen, and I’m guessing the room was equally tidy.There were also spaces for ballet, jazz, history, politics, and especially the written word. The love between Todd and his wife Marsha was in every room. You couldn’t escape it.

I often marveled at what this son of a Syracuse bartender had become. He was a damn good writer, as evidenced by his Yankees For Justice and Bronx Banter contributions. I loved his style of driving home points with short, jab-like sentences.

Writing this, I now marvel at what I became just knowing him.

Considering the company, Todd’s joy in being one of the contributors to this effort would have been immeasurable. He was more than aware of all the others. His bookshelves rivaled some small town libraries. He loved to discuss particular books, stories, and opinions.

He read. He read a lot because he was convinced that was the route to becoming a better writer. The passion was always there—a divine gift perhaps. His sense of right and wrong, received from his parents Richard and Linda, was evident very early. He recalled, with pride, walking a picket line at age five or six with his Dad, then a Carrier employee in Syracuse.

The writing skills were not so easy to come by.

Auto racing brought us together. He was working for NASCAR handling media for a northern series. He had gone south to work for Dale Earnhardt. Among the things he brought back north was Marsha. I was involved in racetrack publicity at the time and delighted in listening to Marsha’s drawl.

Soon we wound up at the same auto racing weekly outside of Boston. I was sort of a “Dutch Uncle” at first—not more talented but a generation older. I watched Todd labor over columns. He’d spend an hour finding the right three-or-four word phrase. He’d ask so many questions.

He read living writers and dead writers, and he would experiment. “Where did you get that?” I’d ask. “Furman Bisher, Red Smith, Joe Falls,” he would answer. He’d write in the first person, in the second, in the third. He’d play with quotes, change paragraphs around. Sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t, but he battled on.

He moved to a magazine. He started winning some acclaim including an honorable mention in a Best American Sports Stories collection. Bones Bourcier, the award-winning auto-racing writer, and I would kind of talk behind his back about how badly he wanted to be a great writer.

Bones and I were both in Oklahoma when we heard of Todd’s passing. We talked of his desire again, wishing, praying even, that this time he heard us.

The auto-racing run ended. Todd took Marsha back to Syracuse where his folks ran Poor Richard’s Pub. Times were not always good, the truth is he struggled, but the love he had for his native city showed through. He loved its baseball team, its fairgrounds, its place in New York State history, and its people. He wrote for some small newspapers.

I recall sitting in a diner in Baldwinsville outside of Syracuse talking about the Erie Canal. We drove to Rochester to see a ball game because Syracuse was away. The next day we were at the famed Oswego Speedway.

Then I heard Todd and Marsha were moving to New York City. He was taking that passion and that sense of right and wrong to the American Civil Liberties Union. “How perfect is that?” my wife, Jane, asked.

Soon they were living on the Upper West Side, going to Yankee games, to the New York City Ballet, to Birdland and Lincoln Center. He was an active member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

When we visited we took good shoes because we were going to walk. That, he said, was the way to appreciate his new home. He and Marsha would walk up to Harlem to jazz joints. When the subway workers went out, he walked the many blocks to work. He got to the Stadium as early as he could. He often left as late as possible.

Todd loved showing off his new home to his old friend. He taught Jane and me not to be afraid of the city, to enjoy its multitude of possibilities. His writing reflected the same love of New York’s people.

My wife was born in Brooklyn. She still had memories of the house her grandfather, an immigrant from Sweden, had built there. Her maternal grandfather, an English immigrant, was one of the founders of a church a few blocks away. Todd, Marsha, and I decided we would take Jane to those places that are in an area of Brooklyn now largely populated by minorities.

After a long subway ride, we walked many blocks before stopping in front of the house where Jane’s father was brought up. Then we walked on to the church. We couldn’t get in at first. A church elder, an immigrant himself, happened along and, hearing the story, invited us in.

Jane asked about the baptismal font that was dedicated in her grandfather’s memory some 50 years earlier. Sure enough, it was there, still being used. The plaque memorializing her grandfather was intact.

My wife’s eyes filled up. I’m almost sure Todd’s eyes did as well. He appreciated grandfathers and heritage. It was an incredible, very human moment. The fact that Todd Drew, who refused to dwell on differences—be they religion, color, income, education, whatever—was there made it more special.

I’ve was blessed to traveled a lot of miles with Todd Drew. I watched many races with him, went to Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium with him. We talked and argued, always gently, about many things including the designated hitter (I dislike it) and modern versus traditional ballet. I truly not only loved Todd Drew, I loved being with him.

My lasting memory of Todd is that moment in that church in Brooklyn.

Todd and I went to the Stadium that night, Marsha graciously giving up her ticket. The next day, she took it back, and Jane and I enjoyed New York by ourselves.

“I believe in baseball and an equally free, open, just society for everyone,” Todd wrote. He hit that right on the nose.


1 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 5, 2010 6:03 pm

He was quite a guy. I remember how excited you were about him coming to Banter; like a favorite cousin who had done well and was coming to live next door. To me, he seemed like a guy I could probably laugh over the same obscure joke in a cartoon with. Whatta mensch. >;)

2 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 5, 2010 8:50 pm

The book was great Alex...a very fitting memorial. Would love to check out your reading Thursday, but I have some errands that bring me right up until the Yankee game. Any chance of changing it to Friday! I am sure the turnout would be bigger on a non-Yankee playoff night.

3 thelarmis   ~  Oct 5, 2010 9:50 pm

hi todd. i miss you. i recently recorded my percussion piece entitled "Shadow Games", for you. i hope you love it. it's got linear funk, latin-jazz, latin and a jazz solo (waltz-like). it's good obtuse avant-garde melodies and a straight ahead pop/rock memorable melodies. i started it off with a big double bass fill i call "the stampede," 'coz i'm still angry you were taken from us waaaay too soon. i worked really really hard on it. thanks for the inspiration. here's hoping our pinstriped heroes can deliver #28 to you...

4 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 6, 2010 7:55 pm

2) I wish I could! Maybe we can plan some sort of Banter gathering at some kind of watering hole this off season...you know, just cause.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 6, 2010 7:56 pm

just cuz

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver