The navy blue Lincoln Continental limousine with the New York Yankee logo on the front passenger door was approaching the parking lot at Giants Stadium in the Jersey Meadowlands when Stanley Kreitman discovered the terrible mistake.
"Say, George," Kreitman said, addressing the broad shoulders of the man who was sitting up front with the driver, "I think Neil gave us the wrong tickets. These are for the Dolphin game on Sept. 11, not the Buffalo game tonight. Take a look."
George Steinbrenner examined the tickets. The limo's driver, John Lydon, glanced apprehensively at him, anticipating the sort of outburst a wrong turn or an abrupt stop can elicit from the principal owner of the Yankees. Tickets to the wrong football game might well send him through the roof of his expensive auto. But Steinbrenner seemed merely amused. "Neil's done it again," he said, smiling in resignation.
"What we can do is buy tickets at the gate and then go on up to the box," said another passenger, New York furrier Mike Forrest.
"We'll see," said Steinbrenner. "John, take us to the office gate."
The big car stopped directly in front of the Giants office, and the three fans, holding tickets for the wrong game, approached the gateman. "We've got a problem here," Steinbrenner began in hopeful tones. But the gateman apparently recognized his distinguished guest and, without saying a word, waved the party through. There were no further questions from guards, ushers or anyone else as Steinbrenner and friends made their way to an enclosed air-conditioned box high above the floor of the shimmering new stadium. There they joked about what essentially had been a gate-crashing. "I guess we know who has the clout around here," said Kreitman, who is a bank president and the treasurer of the New York City Public Development Corporation.
But Steinbrenner was angry now. "That would never happen in my place," he grumbled.
His place is Yankee Stadium, and two days later he called a meeting in his office there. A Worried-looking group of administrators settled into chairs around the owner's circular desk. Steinbrenner's office has a fine view of the field. It has rich blue carpeting with the white interlocked NY logo in the middle and walls decorated with photographs of memorable moments in the stadium's 54-year history—the farewell appearances of Ruth and Gehrig; DiMaggio, Mantle and Stengel in solemn tableau, caps held over hearts; Maris hitting his 61st homer. Steinbrenner nodded as each employee took his seat. He is a large, athletic-looking man, exquisitely tailored on this day in a tropical suit with blue shirt and blue and red striped tie. At 47 he seems boyish, a fraternity president gaveling the rowdies into submission at a house meeting. He is too excitable to be dignified. He says "super" and "unreal" too often to be taken completely seriously.
He tapped a pencil nervously as the various staffers recited their reports, and he offered brisk suggestions that everyone recognized as commands. "We'll want plenty of radio coverage for the Toronto series. For Boston, we should have lots of pageantry—drums, bugles, that sort of thing." Then he turned to stadium manager Pat Kelly and unburdened himself of something that had been troubling him since the Meadowlands caper. Poor Kelly was lectured as if he were a scrub halfback.
"These people [the stadium ushers] are not checking the boxes," Steinbrenner said. "I want security up there like nobody's business. People are walking through unchecked. I'm warning you, Pat, this better not happen again or it'll be your head."