Al Marchfeld headed to bed on the evening of Oct. 29 at his home in Oceanside, Long Island, not realizing how destructive Hurricane Sandy would be.
Then, early in the morning of Oct. 30, Marchfeld, who has been employed by the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden for 63 straight years, woke up to his wife, Annette's, shocking discovery.
"She said, 'You're not going to believe it. There's three feet of water downstairs in the basement,'" Marchfeld, 79, told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday. "I had a pair of sneakers from Shaquille O'Neal. I had one upstairs and the other one got washed away."
Marchfeld also lost a signed photo from Dr. J, autographed baseballs from Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson, among other prized sports items. But most of the missing or ruined were Knicks memorabilia collected throughout his legendary career as the second-oldest employee ever in the NBA.
Marchfeld couldn't bear to see the damage. "I had to go out of my house," he said. "My neighbor took me away for eight hours because I would've had a breakdown or cried to see what (Annette) was doing. I didn't want to know what she threw out."
Fortunately, he was able to salvage a Knicks jersey with his last name and No. 60 on the back, when the team in 2009 celebrated his 60th year under the MSG roof.
Marchfeld had never missed a Knicks' season opener until this year -- because the Long Island Rail Road shut down after the storm. On top of that, Marchfeld had to deal with a 14-day power outage, which complicated his health. He's on dialysis for kidney failure and needs supplemental oxygen because of his weakening heart, but because of no electricity, he needed to go back and forth to the local hospital.
While he felt compassion for those who lost their homes or loved ones, he called his own situation "hell."
"I’m heartbroken because I missed my first Knick opener in 63 years due to the disaster," said Marchfeld, who's been listening to Knicks games on his portable radio. "Also, my health has been going downhill. I miss all my friends at the Garden."
If the LIRR is back to full service this weekend, and Marchfeld is feeling up to it, he'll be at MSG on Sunday for the Knicks-Pacers game. He's looking forward to catching up with old buddies Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, and said those guys have helped the team develop "a good nucleus."
As for work, he'll return to his most recent post as press-box attendant in charge of managing media seating, but he's calling it a "dry run" because of the uncertainty of his health. Marchfeld said he hopes to be back full-time, but if he can't, he knows he's had a great run.
"I'm going to be 80 years old next month, and I'm not bitter about anything," he said. "If I don't get back, I had 63 years of good friendship and health."
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