Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has a hand in all facets of the Rays operations, from the boardroom to the ballpark. He sat down recently for his annual Q&A session with St. Petersburg Times baseball writer Marc Topkin and shared his views on everything from first job (it was dirty) to his top TV show (it's not sports) to his favorite subjects such as food (here come the Mallomars again) and music (Tom Waits, where are you?). And, of course, Springsteen came up. Here are excerpts:
How long ago does 2008 feel?
More than 16 months, and I measure 2008 by October as opposed to Dec. 31. Late October.
If you did not end up on Wall Street what would you be doing?
I would be making decorator pillows (in his late father's Brooklyn, N.Y., business, the Pillow Shop).
Cleaning airplanes, at JFK, for a cleaning company.
Did you ever find anything good?
I found out I didn't want to clean airplanes anymore. That was very good. Let me tell you, it made me work a bit harder.
How is life different with your oldest son, Sandy, off at college?
I'm outnumbered by the ladies (with his wife, two daughters, one son at home).
1968 Buick Electra 225 — a deuce and a quarter as they called it.
Gold. What else in the '70s?
What are you driving now?
Either a Honda minivan or a Mazda Miata.
A Miata? What color?
Drink of choice at a social event?
A dry Beefeater martini. That's for my father — that was his drink, so that's what I drink.
If you're at the mall with the family, where do you hang out? Brookstone? The music store?
With the family. I just follow them around.
So what if the girls say they'll meet you in an hour so they can go try on dresses?
They've never said that. I'm expected to go with them.
Last movie you saw?
Alice in Wonderland.
Last book you read?
Drive, by Daniel Pink.
Do you watch American Idol?
Favorite TV show?
Modern Family — it's excellent.
Favorite bad TV show?
Guilty pleasure, when it's one of those days?
Mallomars (a chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow cookie sold seasonally and regionally).
You always come back to the Mallomars, don't you?
I've got boxes stored away in my wine cellar.
My kids' names.
Favorite Web site?
Slice (slice.seriouseats.com) or A Hamburger Today (aht.seriouseats.com).
Okay, so how about a couple of food questions:
Favorite kind of pizza?
Coal oven with fresh mozzarella.
Totonno's on Coney Island
How do you like your burger?
With cheese and lettuce on a soft bun.
Best place for a burger?
JG Melon, followed by the Blazer Pub (both in New York).
Fried eggs or scrambled?
Corned beef or pastrami?
Soup or salad?
Soft-serve or scooped ice cream?
Soft-serve if it has a brown bonnet on it (chocolate dip).
Favorite New York deli?
Is there anything close in Florida?
The closest is Jo-El's (in St. Petersburg).
Last year you revealed the deep, personal secret of your new affection for chocolate-drizzled popcorn. Has something replaced that?
Dates? They sound very healthy.
Leno or Letterman?
Have you tweeted?
No, and I don't anticipate doing it.
Road city you've liked more than you would have thought going in?
Cleveland. The music scene, the (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) museum, the food.
Our annual tradition — the Springsteen song that best sums up last year?
I actually thought about this coming in, and I've had a few other suggestions, but without any commentary: It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City.
And for this coming season?
The Promised Land.
If you were picking the postgame concerts, who would be three acts you'd want?
I actually do pick the post-game concerts, but it's done by who would our fans like as opposed to who would Stu like. And unfortunately they don't seem to overlap — My Morning Jacket, the Decemberists and Tom Waits.
Favorite all-time baseball player?
Who will you root for when the Nets move to Brooklyn?
The Knicks. I have to stay with the Knicks.
Best non-baseball sports venue?
Madison Square Garden.
Of the old baseball stadiums that are out there, which is your favorite?
Wrigley, clearly Wrigley.
I figured it wasn't Fenway.
That notwithstanding, 10 years ago it was Wrigley.
And of the new stadiums?
I'm a tough critic on those. The Minnesota one looks like it's going to be real nice. I would have to say Cleveland. But I haven't been to most of the West Coast ones.
So in a perfect world, where are the Rays playing in 10 years?
Where you can see the blue sky and smell the open air and fresh grass.