Brandon Steiner was a 15-year-old sports fanatic when his mother took him to see his beloved Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Having talked his way into great seats three rows behind the dugout, he spent the game screaming at his idols. Back at the hotel where the Yankees were staying, Steiner was searching for his heroes when one of them tapped him on the shoulder. It was Thurman Munson.
“What the hell do you want?” Munson growled. “Calling my name for two hours?”
The star-struck Steiner summoned the courage to ask the notoriously surly Yankee captain to put his John Hancock on the program. It’s one of the few pieces of baseball memorabilia a person can’t buy from Steiner Sports, a company with more than 100 employees, regarded as the leader in sports memorabilia.
“My whole goal was: How do I get the fans closer to the players?” says Steiner, a pioneer in authenticating sports memorabilia who made a market for things that were once thrown away or ignored (think lineup cards, or grass and dirt from playing fields). Steiner has a signing room in his warehouse and corporate headquarters in New Rochelle, New York, and his forte is getting sports stars to write away, often adding more than just a signature. A photo of Jackie Robinson stealing home in the 1955 World Series is signed by Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who added “He was out!”(Despite Yogi’s claim to the contrary, the call, game and series went in favor of Robinson’s Dodgers.)
There’s more than just baseball. You can own a seat from Texas Stadium signed by Roger Staubach ($300); a signed photo of Michael Jordan dunking two-handed ($1,000); or a golf ball autographed by Jack Nicklaus ($540). There are also eclectic items, such as the pitching rubber from Wrigley Field ($350 to $2,000), skates worn on the ice by NHL players ($300) or for those with quite a bit of room, a 36-foot-long length of the old Yankee Stadium façade, which weighs 20,000 pounds and costs $50,000.
“Our stuff is very similar to cigars,” says Steiner, a casual cigar smoker. “You have to ask permission to bring it in the house.”
Those old stadium seats from your favorite team? “They’ve been outside for 50 years—you don’t want them in your house,” says Steiner. He advises you put them on the deck instead.