Negron’s Impact: We Are Yankees, It’s What We Do!

Two weeks ago,  I was completing a movie called Stano. A film staring Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello and produced by Chartoff productions, which brought us The Rocky series and last year gave us the wonderful film Creed.

To say that we were having the time of our lives in making this film would be an understatement. To say that the cast and crew became family would be right on. We were working 12 to 15 hour days sometimes and we didn’t mind because we were living a dream.  Then a natural disaster happened.

Hurricane Irma hit Florida. With a week to go in production one of our other producers, Robert Molloy, told me that he had to go back to Florida because he needed to help. I told him that he should wait until the film was finished, because I knew he was having a blast and some of the other crew members had really become dependent on him. He looked me in the eye and said, “This is something that I must do.”

This hit me like a crazy dream because just about thirty years earlier I had questioned his grandfather, George
Steinbrenner, about Hurricane Andrew and driving a truck to South Florida and he said the same thing, “It’s something that I must do.”  Robert asked me why I looked so puzzled and I told him that I understood.

Yesterday, I was in the Bronx loading a truck with supplies, water and food for the Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.  I was at the TM Baseball Academy, the home of Hank’s Yanks. When I got there Dom Scala,  the former Yankees bullpen catcher and head coach at Adelphi University, was there packing and loading supplies. Dom just finished his first acting job on Stano.

Disco Dom as he was affectionately  known to the Yankees, actually kept the morale of everyone on Stano and at TM Academy  by showing off some of his famous dance steps. Tony and Jessy Melendez, the heads of Bronx Hank’s Yanks and TM Academy,  were going crazy making sure we had enough water to put on the plane that would be taking our supplies to Puerto Rico. Willie Randolph, Former Yankee captain and great second baseman, was putting more boxes on the truck and all of a sudden when I looked at the door Julia and George Michael Steinbrenner IV, two of the Boss’s grand children and the children of Hank and  Joan Steinbrenner, walked in
They got there and went right to work, not afraid to get their hands dirty. One of the TV networks was there and I asked Julia to make a plea to all people to help. She said she just wanted to be like everyone else and I told her that I understood because she is very modest but this one time it was important for her to make the plea for more people to help.  She understood  and did a great job. She did give me that crazy Stienbrenner glare that I use to get from her grandfather for 37 years every time he got mad at me. However, because of the cause it was worth it.
I have to thank Xavier Evans, co star of Stano, who played the role of a Willie Randolph type of player and a true up and coming star, and everyone else that showed up to help. I must add that with the Yankee wild card victory from the night before everyone had more incentive to do all that they could.
Even Lenny Caro, Chairman of the NYPD Shields, showed up even though he just had surgery on one of his arms– I guess one arm is better than none.
Let’s not forget what the Boss always said in times like this–“We are Yankees. It’s what we do!”
Weekends Belong To Ray on 1050 ESPN Deportes, Saturdays and Sundays from 12-2 pm. Read Ray on Newsmax.

Rob Manfred Is On ESPN Impact This Weekend

On the hollowed grounds of Yankee Stadium I got to talk to the Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred. The thing that was most important to me were his true feelings for my parents homeland Puerto Rico.

After speaking to him, I was very happy to hear that he wants to do as much as he can for the enchanted island.

He told me that he has Roberto Alomar working for him and that Robbie will be reporting to him. Mr Manfred also said that baseball will return to Puerto Rico and evidently he is on to of it.

I am happy to report to my Puerto Rican followers that I feel very confident with what ever Major League Baseball and the commissioners office will do to help Puerto Rico at this very difficult time.

If you would like to hear my interview with Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred , we will be playing both on Saturday and Sunday on ESPN Impact 1050. 12-2pm.

Weekends Belong To Ray on 1050 ESPN Deportes, Saturdays and Sundays from 12-2 pm. Read Ray on Newsmax. 

Negron’s Impact: Want To learn About Stadia And Fandom? There Is A New Book for That

Stadia And Fandom

I interviewed a great author last weekend on my radio show ESPN Impact on 1050 AM.

His name is Rafi Kohan and he has written a book called The Arena.  It was a very interesting interview and I think you would all love this book!

The football season has brought lots of changes with regard to fandom, especially around football. From the opening of a new stadium in Atlanta, the Chargers move to LA, the Athletics announcing a new stadium, the Golden Knights ready to face off in Las Vegas and the Raiders constantly in flux between the Bay Area and Sin City. While new facilities are important, what makes a franchise go are not gleaming suites, but the people and the quirks that make them special.

A Brooklyn resident and lifelong sports fan, Kohan looks at the numbers of building these mammoth shrines, but then takes us deep inside the minds and hearts of fandom, from the lifelong workers to the passionate fans, and shows us what really makes America as a sports-crazed culture so unique.

THE ARENA goes into how stadium owners and architects evolve with the demands of ticket holders—respecting their nostalgia while offering greater creature comforts and modern amenities and where to the money to build, maintain, and improve these cities within cities has come and gone.

He touches on:

  • How tradition is maintained in Wrigley Field, where the vintage center-field scoreboard is still manually operated;
  • How ticket scalpers in places like Cleveland’s Progressive Field, skirt law enforcement while eking out a living on the fringes and fighting increased competition from StubHub;
  • How sod is farmed (in Alabama) and AstroTurf produced (in Georgia), and how unforgiving grounds keeping can be for the crews after a monster truck show;
  • How security keeps the peace and controls crowds at some of the most infamous rowdy fan sections (like the Raider Nation’s Black Hole in Oakland);
  • How mascots and halftime acts (like Amazing Sladek and Kansas City’s Sluggerrr) approach their jobs with the utmost professionalism;
  • How concessions are partnering with celebrity chefs, and the elaborate beer rooms, food warehouses, and prep kitchens involved in servicing tens of thousands of spectators (and how the consumption of food now outpaces that of alcohol in the stands);
  • How professional teams celebrate and exploit patriotism, while also being inclusive and progressive on social issues sensitive to the players and the fans.

All of that and more comes across in THE ARENA, a great read for both the casual and the die-hard sports fan.    It can be found at your local bookseller or online at Amazon.

Negron’s Impact: Hollywood Will Not Forget Gene “The Stick” Michael

Tonight marked the end of principle photography for the motion picture that has been in production in New York all summer called Stano. It is a wonderful story, so elegantly written by Bronx boy, Robert Bruzio and starring Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara. It is a story of redemption.

It is a story of what sports fans would say the Yankees have been all about ever since an Ohio ship builder bought the Yankees in 1973.

Besides winning championships, George Steinbrenner proved to the world that letting people, who were down on there luck for what ever the reason, can be helpful and positive influences in making the Yankees and New York winners again.

He had people like Gene Micheal help him understand baseball, who also supported the Boss in making very difficult life decisions. Examples being Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. Gene was there every step of the way and these two man learned from each other and many learned from them.

Gene Michael was the people’s guy. The Stick was truly color blind. That’s why so many African Americans and Hispanics loved him so much. When I was a kid and we were playing in the sandlots, if I couldn’t be Mickey Mantle in 1968, then I was always Gene “The Stick” Michael. Most Spanish kids were “The Stick” because a lot of us were built skinny like Gene was.

Oh and by the way, Gene was a very graceful dancer just like he played shortstop. Let’s not forget that he started in the Pittsburgh Pirate organization where they had so many black and Latin players that loved to dance. Roberto Clemente being one of them.

Ken Fagen and Ray Negron with Stick Michael

Gene Michael always wanted to write his book, but never did because he was afraid of offending anyone especially the Boss or any member of the Steinbrenner family. This past year I was pushing him into doing a children’s book because I thought the kids would of loved his story, which also included the fact that he was also a great basketball player.

As many of you know, Robert Molloy and I are associate producers on Stano. We were suppose to have Gene Michael do a cameo appearance as a scout. He was so excited to be asked to appear in a movie that he was beside himself. I was gonna have Ken Fagan – a gentleman who had become Gene’s closest confidant the last few years – act as his assistant scout sitting next to him.

However in life, things just don’t always go according to plan and as you know we lost our beloved Stick. On the last day of shooting, I went to our great cinematographer Barry Markowitz and our director Raymond De Felitta to talk about the situation and they decided that when we shot the scouts scene there would be an empty seat between the scouts to represent Gene “The Stick” Michael. De Felitta actually plays a scout who acknowledges the seat belonging to Stick.

To say that there wasn’t a dry eye on the movie set would be an understatement.

Thank you George Steinbrenner for realizing the potential genius of “The Stick” in 1976. Also I speak for so many of us when I say we miss you and love you so much.

Let me add that Stick and Thurman Munson were by far the best card players ever. At least that’s what the Stick would say and then he would give you that famous laugh of his.

Weekends belong to Ray Negron on 1050 ESPN Deportes. Read Ray on Newsmax. 

Negron: Gene “The Stick” Michael Was Always a Hero!

Ray Negron with Gene Michael

To say that Gene Michael was a hero would be an understatement.  Gene was part of the era that when the Yankees were not playing well, in his graceful way he made them look so good.  He took that same work ethic and charisma to help George Steinbrenner build that wonderful winning era of the nineties and beyond.  He was a dear friend who loved the fact that in my book, Yankee Miracles, a Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx during the era of Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin would say. “Gene Michael Your my hero!”  And he would always respond by saying, “You should set your sights higher.”  And laugh…

I am on the committee for the Ted Williams Hall of Fame and I was so happy to have inducted Gene Michael into the museum.  I know how happy that made him.  I spoke to him yesterday and he sounded fine.  He agreed to play the part of a scout in the motion picture, “Stano” that I am currently working on.  I will miss you forever my friend, my hero!

One of the very first Yankees that I met my first day in the Yankee clubhouse was Gene “The Stick” Michael. I idolized Gene Michael because like me, he was a shortstop, and he was skinny.  He was the most graceful infielder that I had ever seen.

When Mr. Steinbrenner ordered Pete Sheehy, the clubhouse manager, to get me a uniform so that I could be a bat boy that night in order to work off damages for my graffiti antics, the first players to come over and introduce themselves to me were Ron Bloomberg, baseballs very first designated hitter and Gene Michael.

It was so cool meeting him because I used to tag all around the city. “The Stick” – that’s how much I idolized this man.

I will never forget when he first extended his hand to me and said, “Hi, I’m Gene Michael.” He reminded me of the great actor Gary Cooper who played Lou Gehrig in “The Pride of the Yankees.” He was just a very cool guy and very generous on the field. When he found out that I could play a little bit, he gave me a lot of advice about playing shortstop.

You could tell that he was a true student of the game because he studied everything when it came to baseball. Sometimes I would just stare at Gene sitting in the dugout in between at bats and he would be studying every player from the opposition.

Sometimes some of our players would sit next to him and ask his opinion about different situations. We used to have a player on the team by the name of Walt “No Neck” Williams who loved talking all facets of the game with Gene. I would love to just sit and listen to them. It actually made me a better player because I would practice what they talked about.

Gene MichaelGene helped me with my fielding and Walt “No Neck” Williams helped me with my hitting. It was no coincidence that that following year I would be drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It would not have happened without the baseball tutelage from these two guys.

I will never forget taking ground balls with Gene Michael. There used to be a game where we would play for a Coke. We would take ground balls and the guy that made the most errors had to get the winner a cup of Coke with ice after batting practice and put it on the stool in his locker. As you could imagine, I don’t remember ever winning.

Gene was also the best card player I had ever seen. At that time, I think the big card game in the clubhouse was whisk and some guys played spade. I remember that Gene and Thurman Munson were always a team and they beat everybody.

In the winter, some of the players had a basketball team and the two best players were Gene Michael and Walt Williams. They used to play at different high schools and colleges in order to raise money for the school athletic programs. Late in the game, they always gave me a couple of minutes playing time and once they realized that I could play, I became the extra player who gave the starters a breather. Dick Barnett, the great Knick guard, even played with us. Barnett had once played for George Steinbrenner when the Boss owned the Cleveland Pipers of the old ABA.

The fans always loved “the Stick” because he had been with the Yankees for almost 10 years and had a strong personal relationship with them. In those days, the players had to come out of the stadium and cross the street in order to get their cars in the parking lot. Gene always took the time to stop, sign autographs and talk to the fans. People used to feel like they personally knew him.

I will never forget that one time in 1974, we were playing a Saturday afternoon game at Shea Stadium. After the game, I was leaving with my girlfriend and her sister and the car broke down. I ran inside to get help and when I got back to the car Gene was under the hood getting the car going! By that time, the gesture didn’t surprise me because that’s who Gene Michael was. Always helping.

That year Gene was our utility infielder. My very first road trip with the team was in August and we were in Chicago. It was a Saturday night and our manager, Bill Virdon, decided to start Gene at shortstop in place of Jim Mason. I was the happiest guy on the bench and I’m sure Gene knew it. That day he went five for five and I was feeling like I had also gone five for five.

Ray Negron talking to Gene MichaelThurman Munson was very close to Gene Michael. Thurman thought of Gene like a big brother. He knew how much I admired “The Stick” and I think that opened the door to the great friendship that I would have with Thurman and his family. To this day, I consider the Munson family just that, family. Just as Bobby and Kay Murcer and their kids will always be my family also.

It is no coincidence that it all started with Gene “The Stick” Michael, a man with one of the greatest baseball minds ever. He was extremely respected and loved by the Boss, George Steinbrenner. For me and a lot of kids like me of that era, Gene “The Stick” Michael would always be our hero!

PS: The first time I knew that Gene Michael was truly a baseball genius was October 18 of 1977. Reggie Jackson has just completed the greatest batting practice exhibition that I had ever seen since Mickey Mantle in 1968. Reggie probably hit 35 out of 50 balls Way- Way out of Yankee Stadium. Reggie then went to a telephone and called Gene Michael, who was our advance scout and would sit in the press box with a walkie-talkie and send info to Billy Martin. Reggie asked Gene, “What do I look for today?” Gene Michael said, “Fastball in. Move back in the batter’s box a few inches.” Reggie followed his orders perfectly and the rest is history. Three pitches and three home runs and the birth of “Mr. October!”

Gene Michael would go on to manage, become a general manager, Vice President of Baseball Operations. But more importantly, one of The Boss’s very best friends.

Negron’s Impact: Hank’s Yanks Are The Angels With Dirty Faces in Stano

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If your an old movie buff, you might remember the great movie Angels with Dirty Faces, which was done in 1939 with the great James Cagney. Then there was the great film, They Made Me Criminal. That film starred John Garfield a wonderful actor who got caught up in the communist hearings of the 1950s and basically got blacklisted.

Both of these films were critically acclaimed by a very tough media at the time. Both of these films co-starred The Dead End Kids. They were a gang of kids that came from New York. A big producer spotted these kids tested them and took a shot with them in a film and the rest is history. They would go on to great fame doing their own movies, also known as the Eastside Kids and later The Bowery Boys.

James Cagney and the Dead End Kids.

The latest film project that I’m working on is called Stano.  It’s a great story about a kid from Arthur Ave in the Bronx who because of his natural baseball ability has the world at his feet until he makes a tragic mistake and must pay the price.

This film Stars Joe Manganiello as Sonny Stano and Sofia Vergara as the love he left behind.

The film also has a group of kids that were originally taken from the tough streets of New York over ten years ago by Hank Steinbrenner to form the first Hank’s Yanks baseball team. Many of these kids went from street gangs to go on and get college educations and a few of them went on to play professional baseball.

This past week I got to see Manganiello do a scene with Brandon Martinez, an original Hank’s Yank and to say that it brought tears to my eyes would be an understatement .

Brandon just finished his final year of college and expected to be drafted in the Major League Baseball draft. For what ever reason it didn’t happen. It broke his heart and it broke my heart even more because as their manager these kids become your sons. I could only tell Brandon and his dad Angelo that everything happens for a reason.

Well, that reason has become Stano. Brandon’s other love interest was the arts and it’s become story book the way this has happened for him.

My other player on the film is Bryan Dromerhauser a catcher on Hank’s Yanks who also should be playing pro ball, but just didn’t get the break. Bryan was studying acting in California when I call him about Stano. No one gave Bryan anything. He went to the audition and just took the part. Another bad boy on the film is Anthony Rossati. A terrific pitcher that reaches 95 on the radar gun but just didn’t get the chance.

In all, there are about eight Hank’s Yanks players involved in the film and they are having the time of their lives.

When I watch Manganiello doing his scenes with these kids it reminds me of those two great films and it makes me wonder if that’s the way it was working with Cagney and Garfield.

I asked Brandon what did he get out of working with Joe and he said how natural and yet intense he was in such a strong scene.

The players love how such an established actor like Manganiello can be so generous in making them feel like they belong.

Kudos to a wonderful script written by Robert Bruzio a true Bronx boy from Arthur Ave .  Filming will continue all throughout New York City until the end of September and the film is directed by the terrific Raymond Defelitta.

Weekends Belong To Ray on 1050 ESPN Deportes. Read him on Newsmax.

Negron’s Impact: Tim Tebow Visits George M Steinbrenner Field

Tebow

TAMPA – One of my favorite people in all of baseball happens to be New York Mets Public Relations director Jay Horwitz. The reason being is that Jay has always been a true friend of all baseball players. Someone that really cares about the person. Someone that when the player is out of the game, Jay stays in touch with them to make sure they are okay and always tries to extend a hand.

I have seen this time and time again with players like Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Roberto Alomar and countless others– players that I have dealt with on personal levels.

This week Tim Tebow is visiting the George M Steinbrenner Field with the Mets, St Lucie A  Ball team playing against the Tampa Yankees. I called Jay to ask about the protocol for the day in regards to an interview. He told me to see their Minor league PR director that was traveling with the team. When I got there, the gentleman told me that there would not be any one-on-one interviews so unfortunately I was not able to speak with him.

I enjoyed the electricity that Tebow was creating with his visit to Steinbrenner Field. The people in the stands were literally having a great time just with the anticipation. This really reminded me of a George Steinbrenner type situation. I couldn’t help but to think that if the Boss was alive this would have been “right up his ally.” The only difference being that with the Boss’s great knack for public relations we may have had to rent out the Raymond James Stadium across the street.

I was happy to have seen a couple of the young Met players that I personally know and they told me what a great teammate Tebow is and that his work ethic is “through the roof.” They say that he is an inspiration to so many of his teammates.

One player said that the fact that Tebow came from another sport and has been able to show this type of ability in what is probably a more complex sport has driven him to be better. Being a Latino, I was curious how the Hispanics felt on the team. The Latino players are totally aware of Tebow’s celebrity “status” and realize that he is a man of good will. Sitting in the stands the first night, there were many disappointed fans because Tebow didn’t play however, many said they were coming back the next night to see him play.

The next day I happened to be at the Hines Minor League Complex watching my son Ricky, who is an infielder for the GCL Dunedin Blue Jays, playing against the Yankees gulf coast league team. After that game, I went back to Steinbrenner Field and took care of a couple of errands. When my friend Aris and I were walking out of the park we ran right into the guest of honor, Tim Tebow.

Our eyes met, I extended my hand. I told him who I was and told him that I admired his journey. I told him that I admire the fact that he understands that he is here on earth as a messenger of a higher power. I could tell that he appreciated these words. With all of his celebrity, his journey can sometimes be very, very lonely. Many of the fans don’t understand this because they get caught up with what they think is more important to them, the fanfare. The bottom line is, I wish him well and hope that he can be all that and more. I feel that many people in need will benefit from it.

I know for a fact, the Boss would have gone out of his way to meet Tebow.  He would have liked what he saw and would have sent Tebow one of his famous hand written letters to show his appreciation and good luck. (Many people aren’t aware that the Boss did this with Doc Gooden when he was a Met.) Cudos to Vance Smith and the Yankees minor league staff for running a good show for the fans. Not an easy task when you go from hosting five hundred people to five thousand people over night.

Negron’s Impact: Murcer, Daulton, Baylor…Cancer Doesn’t Care But We Do

Today we lost three time all star catcher from the Philadelphia Phillies, Darren Daulton from brain cancer. He had been dealing with the decease for about five years. Even though I did not personally know Dutch as he was affectionately known in Philadelphia, his death hit home because it’s the same disease that took the life of our beloved Bobby Murcer.

Ironically, today also marked the day that we came back from Thurman Munson’s funeral and Bobby thru emotional and physical exhaustion some how found the strength to drive in all five runs to help beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4. To this day that game is known as the Thurman Munson game.

I will never forget that when Bobby hit the three run homer, when he got to the dugout and all the players mobbed him, when his eyes met Reggie’s, Bobby said, ‘Can you believe I hit a Reggie shot.’ That was very nice of Bobby. Very humbling. I know Reggie appreciated it.

I will never forget how Lou Piniella waited for things to settle down after the home-run so that he could go over to Bobby and give him a hug and tell Bobby that he loved him and Bobby told him that he loved him to. I will never forget how red Lou’s eyes were from crying.

Today, I called Todd Murcer, Bobby’s son. I asked him if he remembered what today was and he said yes I do. I have always been very close to Todd because to know him is to love him. It’s no coincidence that his parents are Bobby and Kaye Murcer. Two of the greatest people you could ever be fortunate enough to know. Todds sister Tori is wonderful also and pretty damn cute. Just like mom.

Today, I got to interview Jackson Murcer. No he is not named after Reggie. Jackson has the Murcer eyes and that Oklahoma twang to his voice and as all Murcer’s are, very good looking. He is 13 years old and knows the game of baseball. He knows that his Grandfather was a very special Yankee but more importantly he knows that he was a very special man. I told Jackson that when his dad was his age and I was the Yankee batboy we were running buddies.
Mickey Mantle was my hero growing up and when the Mick retired naturally Bobby became my hero. When I became a Yankee batboy and got to know these guys they became big brothers. Bobby, Thurman, Reggie, Bucky, Willie. They were my big brothers and I loved them all.

Someone once said that you should never know your heroes because they might disappoint you. Well these guys never did.

I use to talk to Bobby a lot especially when he got sick. Two days before Bobby died I missed a call from him. It went to my answering machine. I was so disappointed that I wasn’t home to receive it because he was in the hospital and to reach him was impossible. The message was almost as if he was saying goodbye. He said that he knew that Todd and me talk a lot. He said don’t ever change that. He thanked me for a song that my friend,Joey Gian wrote and sang for him on a cassette. He said that the message to from the song was great. He said see you pal and that was it. Two day later Todd called me and told me that Bobby was gone.

I asked Jackson Murcer if he ever watches old games of his Grandfather and he told me yes he does. He also told me that he catches himself rooting for Bobby as if the game is happening now.

I may be poor in wealth but am a billionaire in the love that I received from Bobby,Thurman,the Boss ,Billy Catfish and continue to receive from their wonderful families and the Yankee family.

As Chico Escuella (played by Garret Morris) from Saturday Night live Fame once said. Baseball has been very, very good to me.

As I was putting this story to bed I received news that former all star Don Baylor had just died of cancer. Don was 67 years old and among the teams he played for one of them included the Yankees. Don was a a terrific hitter who usually was the designated hitter where ever he played. He was a leader and he was a great guy. He will be missed.

Weekends Belong To Ray on 1050 ESPN Desportes. Read Ray On Newsmax.

Negron’s Impact: Ricky Signs With The Blue Jays

Ricky Negron yesterday signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.

As I reported before, he had been drafted in the 34th round of the 2017 MLB. Draft by the Atlanta Braves. It was truly a wonderful moment for Ricky and his family and friends.

Ricky signed a contract with the Braves, however he never heard from Atlanta again. Ultimately, he ended up getting his release and went to a tryout with the Blue Jays and as faith would have it, he made the team.

Ricky holds no animosity towards the Braves.

I’m sure they had their reasons and I must respect that. When Ricky sent his thanks to the Blue Jays organization Their response was…The best decision we make,the players make for us. That came from Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro. Extremely classy. The Blue Jays gave Ricky a two week tryout and he had to earn the job. That was very important to Ricky. He did have an offer from another organization but he would not except a flat out favor, however he is very grateful to them for their concern.

Ricky graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in criminal justice and hopes to follow his big brother Jon-Erik in law enforcement. Jon-Erik is a police officer in New York and also one of the youngest Union delegates New York ever had. His brother Joe was Golden Gloves and New York State Light Heavyweight Champion last year. A broken hand kept Joe from competing this year, however he is back in the gym and will be back in the ring later on this year. Ricky’s sister Toni is a renowned make up artist.

Like all kids that love baseball, Ricky just wanted the chance to play professional baseball and be a small part of the greatest game in the world. When I asked Ricky if he had any last thoughts, his response was, “I just want to thank the people that wouldn’t let me give up my dream.” Even Braves scout T-Bone Giordano wouldn’t hear of it. He was great. They all were and they know who they are.

Today Ricky Negron played his first professional baseball game for the Gulf Coast League Dunedin Blue Jays. He went one for three with a walk and two runs scored.

The irony of the day was that the game was played in Pirate City Bradenton, Florida. Forty two years earlier I played my first game at this park for the Bradenton Pirates. I guess with the power of prayer, things do happen for a reason.

Negron’s Impact: Thurman Munson…What if?

This past week marked the 38th anniversary of the death of our beloved Yankee captain -even though he hated to be called that – and for me, someone whom I considered a big brother.

Thurman Lee Munson was, as we would say in the Bronx and Brooklyn, a very bad dude.

In those days, saying someone was bad was the highest form of flattery for someone from the streets. Thurman was your quintessential don’t judge a book by its cover type of guy because you will only get your ass kicked.

In other words, he was a man’s man. For me, being around Thurman as much – as I was – made me a stronger person today. Thurman along with Reggie, Sweet Lou, Bucky, Mick the Quick, Chicken, Gator, Goose, Catfish, Monahan, Stick, Willie, Chambliss, and of course, Disco Dom. We can’t leave out the Boss and Billy.

These were my big brothers in the great decade of the ’70s.

I looked out for them and they sure as hell looked out for me.

I must emphasize that our leader by far was Thurman. It’s something that just happened because of who he was. He feared no one and how people respected him was crazy.

I was lucky because I use to drive him to Teterboro airport in New Jersey so that he could get to his private plane to hurry home to his family. Those drives for me were the greatest because he use to talk to me about the team music his family his favorite guys on the team. Why he thought I was crazy and of course he loved talking about the Boss and how he loved driving him crazy but how much he loved him. As much as I loved driving Thurman to the airport, I loved the fact that while the team would be on the road that week, I had a brand new Cadillac to use. When Thurman would get back from the road trip the first thing he would do is check the odometer to see how many miles I put on the car. Sometimes he would come back from the trip with his wife Diane and I would love to listen to them get all over each other. They were so very funny. They were truly the Yankees Barbie and Ken.

I remember driving back from Boston to New Jersey with Thurman and Batboy Hector Pagan. Hector was driving and Thurman was on the passenger seat feeding hector French Fries from McDonald’s. For what ever the reason I asked Thurman why he didn’t name his son (Michael) Thurman. He said he didn’t want to do that to him. We all started to laugh out loud. Then Thurman said but I sure as hell didn’t name him Hector either. (More laughter.)

I was lucky because I literally lived in that Yankee clubhouse and feel so blessed to of known him the way I got to.
I was recently watching an interview about Reggie Jackson with Bob Costas, who asked Reggie if he felt bad that him and Munson weren’t really friends. I could tell that the question really bothered Reggie. All of a sudden he told Costas that there was a person that works with the Yankees to this day that had me and Thurman get together over dinner and talk things out and after that they were the best of friends. Reggie said that person was Ray Negron.

When I heard Reggie talk about about that story it was one of the proudest moments of my life. People don’t have any idea how close Thurman and Reggie had become . Most people don’t know that Thurman gave Reggie the name Mr October.

Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer were Thurman’s best friends on the team. God they loved each other so much. However I must add that I was so very proud of just how close Thurman and Reggie got to be. Only Diane can truly verify this.

This past week, I spoke with Piniella, Reggie and beautiful Diane …. I asked them what if Thurman had lived? Sweet Lou said that Thurman would of ended up managing the Yankees and been a very fine manager and he would of been his hitting coach. Reggie said that Thurman would of been the Yankees manager, Lou would of been his hitting coach and he would of been the advisor between Thurman and the Boss (in other words referee)/ Diane through her laughter said that Thurman would of managed the Yankees and of been fired more times than Billy because of the father-son relationship that the Boss and Thurman had.

It’s incredible how 38 years later we are still talking about this incredible person.

People ask me all the time,was he all that?

Yes he was and much much more.

We miss you!!!