New York Yankee stars Alex Rodriguez and Joba Chamberlain along with their manager, Joe Girardi, greeted fans and signed autographs at an illegal, for-profit event held at a beach club in New Rochelle, NY. More than 1,500 fans paid up to $475 a piece for the chance to take pictures and collect autographs from the celebrity athletes. The six-hour event netted event-organizer Steiner Sports Marketing hundreds of thousands of dollars, money then shared between the company and the players. Also on hand were former Yankees David Wells, David Cone and Don Larsen.
The event was held on Saturday November 14th at the Greentree Country Club on Davenport Neck. Like all of the beach clubs in the area, the Greentree is prohibited from holding non-member, for-profit events. Despite news accounts of the event beforehand in the Journal News and Westchester magazine the City appears not to have taken any steps to force the club to cancel the event. The Journal News is the official paper of record for the City of New Rochelle. City officials did not return emails requesting comment.
The club has been cited for similar violations in the past. In the past year the Greentree was cited after local wrestling promoter Paul Sarachelli sold tickets and ran a for-profit "Oldies Night" event. Residents of the neighborhood around the beach clubs have been complaining for years about these and other similar for-profit events. City Council member Albert Tarantino has announced plan to place the beach club issue on the City Council agenda for January.
Some residents believe Greentree Country Club is getting special treatment because Charles Strome, New Rochelle's City Manager is among the club's more prominent members. The City of New Rochelle has a weak-mayor form of government under which the City Council appoints a City Manager who runs the day-to-day business of the City. All city departments including those that might enforce event violations -- police, fire department and the buildings bureau -- report to Mr. Strome.
Revenue from events at the club help defray the cost of membership dues and member assessments which directly lower Strome's cost to belong to the club. This is more than the "appearance" of a conflict of interest as Strome directly benefits from the revenue generated by these events in the form of lower dues and assessments. Strome declined to comment for this article.
The Yankee event was sponsored by Last Licks Ice Cream which bills itself as “The Sports Bar For Kids". Last Licks is owned by Brandon Steiner, founder and chairman of Steiner Sports Marketing which is headquartered in downtown New Rochelle. The company is the largest sports memorabilia company in the United States.
The event became widely known on November 12th, based on a story by Gary Stern appeared in the Journal News: At $250 to $475 apiece, A-Rod autograph tickets are sold out. Stern learned of the event from a sign at the Last Licks store in Rye Brook, NY.
Fresh off their World Series win, Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain and skipper Joe Girardi will come to the Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle on Saturday to sign autographs and pose for pictures for free-spending fans. A-Rod's 90-minute appearance from noon to 1:30 p.m. is already sold out. Close to 400 ticket-holders are putting down between $250 and $475 for A-Rod's John Hancock.
The story was picked up on the news web sites and blog including Westchester magazine and this site.
The event generated a large amount of revenue, none of which, according to the Journal News, was going to charity. The Journal News estimated that Alex Rodriguez would be paid between $100,000 and $200,000 for his 90 minute appearance. The paper reported that an autograph on a photo or paper cost $250, on a jersey $350, $400 for items used during a game or a "500th home run item. Tack on another $75 for a personalized autograph and $10 for Steiner to certify the signature as genuine.
Joba Chamberlain's autographs were $90 to $130; Girardi $60 to $130; David Cone $75 to $130; David Wells $75 to $140 and Larsen $50 to $135. Of course, Steiner was also selling memorabilia at the event which could then be signed by the current and former Yankee stars.
There is no indication that anyone at Steiner Sports Marketing or the New York Yankees knew that the event was illegal.
Stephen Costello, a corporate vice president at Steiner Sports Marketing who runs the Last Licks Ice Cream business for Steiner, told Talk of the Sound his company was unaware of any legal issues surrounding the event but thought residents concerns were misplaced.
"New Rochelle is not exactly the most burgeoning town" Costello said. "In this economy they should want them to have events like ours."
Alex Rodroguez photo courtesy of Keith Allison