Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dr. Serafin, Rudy Riska, Bob Feller and Me

One of Dr. Serafin's most famous customers was Rudy Riska, Executive Director of the Heisman Trophy Foundation for 44 years, and a minor league pitcher for the NY Yankees. When Rudy was growing up, he lived on Madison Street. The back of his building was one of the buildings in the back of the parking lot I owned at 31-35 Monroe Street. Whenever Rudy went to see Dr. Serafin, he'd call me and we'd have lunch together. Rudy was one of the true nice guys in sports.
When you walked into Rudy's office on the 19th floor of the Downtown AC, you were shocked at the pictures he had on the walls of him and famous athletes. Everyone loved Rudy. His brother Steve was a minor league pitcher for the Reds, and later an assistant warden at Riker's Island.
One night Rudy invited me out to dinner on a Friday night at the DAC at 19 West Street. (Tony Gomez, from Knickerbocker Village, was the front desk manager of the DAC.) Rudy's other dinner guest was Bob Feller, former Hall of Fame pitching great for the Cleveland Indians. Rapid Robert they called him for his 100 mile an hour fastball. At dinner, I mentioned to Feller than I owned a parking lot.
On the next Sunday morning, I was at my father apartment at JF12 in KV, when the phone rang. My father answered the phone. My father was born in Sicily and didn't know a baseball from a meatball. My father yelled to me, "Hey Joey, there's some fella on the phone. He wants to talk to you."
I said, "What fella. What's his name?"
My father said, "I don't know. Just some fella."
I grabbed the phone from my father. It was Bob Feller. Rudy had given him my phone number, and my father's phone number. It seems Feller had parked his rented car in an indoor parking lot next to the DAC and the parking lot was closed on Sunday. He figured since I owned a parking lot, I might know someone in the parking lot business he could contact to get his car, so he could drive to the airport.
I didn't, and that was the last time I spoke to Bob Feller. He's now in his 90's and still alive and kicking.
below, Rudy Riska's minor league record followed by his bio

Rudy James Riska Jr
Bats: Both , Throws: Right
Height: 6' 2" , Weight: 165 lb.
Born: 1936
Rudy Riska, former Executive Director of The Heisman Memorial Trophy and former athletic director of The Downtown Athletic Club of NYC Inc., joined the Frank McGuire Foundation Board in 2007. He retired from the Downtown Athletic Club after 44 years of service following the conclusion of the 2004 Heisman Presentation.
Following a tour of duty with the US Army Riska went on to play with The New York Yankees organization for four years and then began his career within the athletic department at The Downtown Athletic Club. He eventually went on to serve as Athletic Director of The Downtown Athletic Club. Riska also served as The Executive Director of the National Association of Club Athletic Directors of America.
Riska maintains a strong and constant rapport with several leading organizations within the community, athletic and educational fields, including the Amateur Athletic Union, The National Collegiate Athletic Directors, The Football Writers of America, The College Sports Information Directors of America, The West Point Athletic Association, and Notre Dame University Touchdown Club. Riska remains Director Emeritus to The Heisman Foundation and its many charitable youth programs