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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

SSTN Interviews Tony Morante

by Paul Semendinger

November 19, 2022


SSTN: Today we are here with Tony Morante. Tony has worked with the New York Yankees in many capacities, first as an usher, then as a tour guide, Tony, in fact, founded the Yankee Stadium tours program. Tony is also an educator. He designed a program to understand American history through baseball and served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University. Tony was inducted into the New York Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022. He wrote Baseball the New York Game: How The National Pastime Parallels US History.

Welcome to Start Spreading the News. It is great to have this discussion with you.

You are welcome, Paul. I am glad we have this opportunity to talk.

To begin, please tell us how you became a baseball fan.

I became a fan in 1949. My dad was an usher at Yankee Stadium. I'll never forget when he first took me to the stadium - what an experience that was! We only had a small black and white TV. To see Yankee Stadium as a real place, with the puffy white clouds and the green grass and the players. I was smitten and I was hooked.

What is your first great baseball memory?

I went to quite a few games with my dad. Soon I was watching batting practice in the right field stands and the balls started flying around. I gathered the balls and shared them with my little league teammates and friends. My dad eventually told me to that there was no such thing as a free lunch and once I was old enough, I begin my work as an usher in 1958.

I'll never forget being at the NFL Championship game: Giants vs Colts in 1958. That was the greatest football game ever played. It was a heartbreaking crushing loss. It's funny, one of my first memory of a major event there was a football game.

In 1960, I was part of the suicide squad. Mickey Mantle had a huge fan base, of course. Back then when the games were over, the fans would come on the field after the game and many would leave that way. Some would go after Mickey. We'd rush out there ahead of the fans and surround Mickey to protect him and escort him to the dugout. What a thrill that was! Of course I got to know Mickey Mantle over the years.

As a young fan, what did you do to keep your interest in the game? (Did you play ball, collect cards, etc...?)

I did have some great baseball cards. But, when I went into the Navy, they all disappeared.

Please recall a great Yankee Stadium event.

Mickey Mantle Day in 1969. It was a sellout crowd. When Mickey came out, they went wild. He received a 9-minute standing ovation. I was working that day as an usher on Millionaire's Row, but I stopped when Mel Allen made the speech introducing the Mick. He was so beloved. Tears went down my face as well as the people in "millionaire's row." I'll never forget how Mickey was so gracious in accepting the honors, presented by Joe DiMaggio. Mantle's humility was great and real.

Who are some of your favorite players over the years?

There are so so many. Of course, Mickey Mantle.

Roy White

Lou Piniella

Frtiz Peterson

Mark Teixeira

Some of the players and I would hang out from time to time. It was all in good spirits and everything. We had fun.

Bernie Williams. As a matter of fact, Bernie wrote a testimonial in my book. Oh my goodness, it was fabulous.

Mariano Rivera. He called me from time to time and we'd do some tours together.

What do you feel is the biggest difference between the old and the new Yankee Stadium?

In the first remodel, the stadium that opened in 1976, they took down the obstructed view barriers, and anchored the upper deck through cables. They also made other changes like changing the seats from wood to plastic and the colors from green to blue.

The monuments taken from the field and placed in the new Monument Park. That was the background of what I built the tours around. It was such a special place.

The dimensions also came in quite a bit. Death Valley was no more, but as some fences came in, the foul lines went out.

They also added some luxury suites. Forerunner to these was "millionaire's row." The big companies paid big money to get that exclusivity.

One of my greatest days was the last day of the old stadium. The Yankees acknowledged some of the old greats before the game and I got to represent Allie Reynolds. They gave us period uniforms, shoes, uniforms\, the whole works, to wear. I'll tell you what, it was one of the great moments of my lifetime.

The Yankees mean a lot to me.

The new stadium has no resemblance to the old stadium. It's just not the same.

In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?

Allie Reynolds

In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, "There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was." Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?

Well, I would have to say Mickey Mantle. He had it all. Talent. Charisma.

Here's a great story... The Mick came close to hitting the ball out of the stadium a few times, but the most famous was a blast he hit of Bill Fisher of Kansas City. Years later I saw Bill when he was coaching with Tampa Bay. I asked him about it... "the hardest shot Mickey Mantle ever hit." Bill responded, "If that ball was hit that hard, it had to be coming in pretty fast." What a great reaction!

Our final question is really just a collection of short answers...

What is your most prized collectible?

My original stadium seat.

Who is your favorite musical group or artist?

I'm a do-wop guy. I also love smooth jazz. That being said Jay Z and Alica Keys' "Empire State of Mind" is so great. As is Khatia Buniatishvili's rendition on the piano of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?

Pizza... A few years agi I worked my way through Manhattan and eventually tried all the wood fired pizzas. This was great. Thank you so much Tony. Please keep in touch.


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Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

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