The Field of Dreams gala was a homerun
for the Cobble Hill Health Center, for gala chairman Keith Hernandez
and not least of all, for a roomful of Mets fans.
The Nov. 6 dinner and auction at the New York Hilton in Manhattan raised $600,000 for the center’s planned Alzheimer’s Assisted Living Center, and brought together members of the ’86 Mets, who signed cards, gloves and bats for anyone who asked - and always with a smile.
Master of ceremonies, WCBS-TV’s diminutive Warner Wolf emceed the evening, which honored all-star Mets and Yankees pitcher David Cone and chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange Vincent Viola.
Cone, who pitched for the Mets from 1987 to 1992, told the crowd that he "grew up" as a Met. "It’s a wonderful organization. I learned to play in New York," he said and thanked fellow Mets great Rusty Staub, saying, "You showed us how to love New York City."
Hernandez said the ’86 Mets, who famously won the World Series in seven games after a miracle comeback in Game 6 against the Red Sox, were a "great draw" for the event, the third gala he’s helmed, helping to raise important funds for the Alzheimer’s center.
Last year’s gala was cancelled after 9-11, Hernandez told GO Brooklyn. "The economy has been tough, but people are always giving," he said. "Wall Street’s been great, too."
Hernandez told the crowd, "I wanted to give back to the community of New York that’s been so wonderful to me. The Cobble Hill Health Center does absolutely fantastic work. Tonight, with the three dinners, we are close to $1 million. We have our eyes on a property two blocks from Cobble Hill and we’ll be able to service another 70 to 100 patients."
Cobble Hill’s Jacqueline Hernandez Adult Day Health Center, for people with Alzheimer’s, is named in memory of the former first baseman’s mother, who died of the disease in 1989, at age 59.
Hernandez attended the event with his girlfriend of one year, Kai Thompson, who praised his dedication. "We’re happy there’s such a turnout," she said.
The room murmured with excitement when former "Gong Show" host Chuck Barris, attending with his wife, Mary, was introduced. Barris told GO Brooklyn he has been friends with Hernandez, whom he met through Staub, for 10 years.
Part of the Barris buzz is that he’s the subject of an upcoming George Clooney biopic, based on Barris’ autobiography, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."
"I love it all," Barris said of the flick. "There are all sorts of good people in it like Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore." Barris said the film will be released Dec. 27.
Fashion designer Nicole Miller, whose ’92 collection incorporated baseball motifs, said she was most thrilled to see Dwight "Doc" Gooden, who has appeared in some of her fashion shows. (For the record, Gooden arrived in pin-striped suit and red crocodile shoes he picked up at Freeman’s in Atlanta.)
New York Giants football legends Phil McConkey and Mark Bavaro sat together at another table.
McConkey said that he and Hernandez have been friends since 1985. "This is a wonderful organization and cause," McConkey said. "So many people are affected by it."
Bavaro told GO Brooklyn that although he now lives in Naples, Fla., he and McConkey work in New York at an equity trading firm. "We work in the same office, so it’s like being on the team. We like that," said Bavaro.
Brooklyn Cyclones manager, and ’86 Met Howard Johnson, was cornered by a gaggle of fans at the VIP reception along with Kevin Mitchell and Tim Teufel. Johnson, who lives in Florida, said, "Anything Keith wants, it’s easy to give to him."
Cobble Hill Health Center CEO Olga Lipschitz said the event, with music by the huge Mark Stevens Starlight Orchestra, and real baseball and mitt centerpieces, was just as important as a public relations vehicle as it was from a fundraising point of view for the center, located at 380 Henry St. between Congress and Warren streets.
"We still don’t have a total accounting, from both the silent and public auction, but all in all we are anticipating $600,000 or a bit over," Lipschitz told GO Brooklyn.
"We had a great crowd, tremendous," she said. "A lovely, lovely affair, not only counting the money, but the people’s interest was piqued. Now John McEnroe and David Cone want to come out to see the center, so we will have a little thank you luncheon or breakfast. They’ll look first-hand and see Cobble Hill for what it is. In that area the event was most successful."
Lipschitz said the center still needs "a good couple of million in hand" before they can open the doors on the planned $16 million Alzheimer’s facility. "The board itself is dedicated, it’s not impossible," she said. "The one problem is calculation of how viable it will be and at what scale."
Additional gala attendees included tennis great John McEnroe; recently axed Mets manager, and 2000 Field of Dreams honoree, Bobby Valentine; ’86 Met Barry Lyons; former Mets and Yankees pitcher Mike Torres; New York Ranger legend Rod Gilbert; artist LeRoy Neiman and actor Kevin "Knots Landing" Dobson.
For more information on how to support the Cobble Hill Health Center, call Anthony at (718) 855-6789.