Negron: An Interview With Dwight Gooden, ‘I Forgive Straw’

When I went to see Doc Gooden today, I didn’t know what I was going to find. This was going to be the first time I was going to see him since his so-called disappearance last week. I was pleasantly surprised that he actually looked decent. Not the Doc Gooden we all have seen in the past but also not the skeletal figure we have seen in the last couple of weeks. It’s difficult to write this column, because as most fans know, I sincerely love Dwight Gooden as a brother and always will.

Ray Negron: Doc, I have seen more love for you with this situation, than I have seen in 15 or 20 years. How do you feel about that?

Dwight Gooden: It’s a great feeling and it’s very touching. You are not talking about Doc Gooden the baseball player. You are talking about Doc Gooden the person. It is very touching. It’s a great feeling to have and I appreciate it very much.

RN: Dwight, will you use this to keep going forward in your battle for recovery?

DG: I do that every day. I went through almost everything in life. I lost my mom. I lost my dad. I lost George Steinbrenner.  Now with the speedbumps in the roadway with people saying things I didn’t do. I am thankful for all the support I can get. And I appreciate the fans for it.

RN: Dwight, when you go through the 12-step program, one of the most important things is anonymity. How do you feel about what Darryl Strawberry said?

DG: That’s the tough part. Even when go to Out for Cure, there’s always someone there who is not as well as they should be with anonymity. But what you talk about is yourself, so you know there might be something that might get out. But what I have to stress is anonymity because when it’s someone you care about and they go back and talk about it. That’s the issue.

RN: Will you eventually forgive Strawberry and the others, we are talking about?

DG: I have forgiven them already. I learned to forgive and it’s really for me to move on. I have too much going on. I have seven kids. I have two grandkids. I have my brother with me right now. I have a lot on my plate. I have my own recovery. So I have to forgive those people. I know they make mistakes. They are not perfect. I forgive them.

RN: Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Yankees President Randy Levine have both extended hands out. How do you feel about that?

DG: That’s great. I was once a Met and once a Yankee and I appreciate to be remembered when my career was over. They appreciate me, not as a player, but me and my family as people. That means a lot to me.

RN: New York, Major League Baseball and people in general all want to love Dwight Gooden and are in Dwight Gooden’s corner. That means you have a responsibility to them all the time and  in essence, you and these fans will always be together. Do you agree?

DG: My responsibility to them is always being honest. If I do something, I go out and admit it. I don’t want to hide from anything. I am not perfect and I am going to make mistakes. But it’s what you do with those mistakes – help myself and help others – is what really counts.

RN: They are talking about you getting involved with productions and film making. This is something that you wanted to do, since I have known you. How do you feel about that?

DG: I am finally going to do things, I wanted to do. I always did things for others and now all my kids are grown, except two. I am going to do things with my life I enjoy. I never had a true hobby. One thing about filmmaking is it always has been a hobby. Working with you Ray, I learned things of what you did with your movies. I fulfilled my baseball dreams, but I want to live my other dream and it’s always been production.

RN: New York, America, and the world loves Dwight Gooden. Don’t give up on them.

DG: I will never give up on them. I never gave up on myself, number one. I always had them in my heart and they have been in my corner.

RN: Dr. K, Dwight Gooden. Thank you.

This interview can be heard during Impact on WPAT 930 AM tomorrow from 6 to 7 PM.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” He also writes for NEWSMAX. He is also the host of Impact on 930 AM WPAT every Wednesday from 6 to 7 pm.

Negron: Nobody Does it Better – A Typical Weekend at Yankee Stadium

If I were to throw a big time party, I would have to ask Debbie Tymon to plan it. I’m sure many of you are asking, “Who is Debbie Tymon?” Debbie is the Yankees’ Senior Vice President of Marketing – our own in-house party planner. Any event that takes place on the field is planned and overseen by Debbie.

This was a classic weekend for her at Yankee Stadium. Friday was the Alex Rodriguez on field farewell ceremony. Debbie did such a fabulous job that I can honestly say I saw so many people who had never liked A-Rod, with tears in their eyes, as every sentimental and orchestrated moment took place. His little girl’s coming on the field with Mariano Rivera and his mom being led by none other than Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, was right on because of the respect that A-Rod and Reggie have for each other and the love that A-Rod has for Mo. The only thing I will not give Debbie Tymon credit for was the “God like” thunder heard when Hal Steinbrenner gave Alex the framed uniform.

All in all, Friday was a great start to an incredible weekend which was followed on Saturday with the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1996 Yankees that brought back almost every member of that team. If Don Zimmer had been there, then I would have given Debbie credit for the lightning the night before. However she did have a beautiful video of Don Zimmer shown on the scoreboard, which made it perfect. How she gathers up all these players from years gone by is a miracle – a Yankee miracle!

Sunday came with another celebration planned by Debbie. This one for the great Yankee closer, Mariano Rivera. The “Core Four” was there along with David Cone, Tino Martinez and their manager Joe Torre. Also present was Pitching Coach Mel Stottlemyre and the wonderful and very talented, underrated trainer, Gene Monahan. I say underrated because during the 40 years that I have been in baseball, I have never seen a more hard-working trainer on any sports team, and God knows I have seen a lot of them.

Also at the presentation was Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal, The Boss’s eldest daughter.

Mariano gave a very nice, humble and to the point speech. Hal Steinbrenner making the on the field presentation was the perfect touch because having the Steinbrenner presence is always special. It would have been nice to have Hank and Hal, the two Steinbrenner boys, present that day but as Doris Day once said, “Que sera sera.”

Debbie Tymon, you have been doing this for a very long time in a very beautiful way. I congratulate you and your hard-working staff. One of George Steinbrenner’s favorite songs of the 1970s was Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better.” The last four words to the song are, “Baby, you’re the best.” The Boss would have agreed that Marvin Hamlisch – who penned the tune – wrote it for you, Debbie!

Congratulations we still have not seen your best and I’m glad about that.

Negron: 1996 Yankees Were Great But Let’s Not Forget 1976

No one will ever forget 1996.

It was the year that we were introduced to the greatness of Derek Jeter, the gracefulness of Bernie Williams, the power of Tino Martinez, King Leyritz’s homerun, Doc’s no-hitter, Strawberry being saved from the minors by the Boss to get some very timely hits, and of course Girardi’s leadership. And who could forget Cone’s strength, Wetteland at the end of every game teaching a young Mariano Rivera the way a closer does the job, Cecil Fielder’s power, Charlie Hayes’s grit, Wade Boggs’ desire, Pat Kelly always ready and yes it just wouldn’t work without the warrior Paul O’Neill.

It was a great team put together by Gene Michael, Brian Cashman, Bob Watson, Mark Newman, Billy Connors and Joe Torre and his staff led by Don Zimmer, Jose Cardenal, Mel Stottlemyre and Tony Cloninger.

Ray Negron with Mickey Rivers

However, two other coaches stood out for me, Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss. Both unsung heroes of that staff, but two coaches who more than anybody on that staff, knew how to win the George Steinbrenner way. They understood the Boss’ mentality and were able to make the players understand that there was a method to his madness. In a very dignified way they did more than their job without stepping on any of the other coaches, and more importantly the manager’s toes. Egos can be touchy in baseball and they understood that. People forget that these two great guys were a very big part of the Boss’ first AL championship team of 1976.

As a rookie in 1976, Willie helped to hold the infield together and was a natural leader that the great Yankee manager Billy Martin would love. Chris Chambliss would save the season by hitting perhaps the biggest home run in Yankee history. They lead, as players in 1976, to make the manager’s job that much easier, just as they would in 1996 as coaches. Two guys that understood the Boss and Billy Martin and the true will to win in 1976 and were able to teach this new group of young Yankees in 1996 that very thing. Every day they were teaching and instilling the Yankee way. They did a great job. It takes a whole organization and a lot of money to run any big business but it also takes the bloodlines of being a Yankee to help become a winner. Randolph and Chambliss were winners and were able to pass it on the Steinbrenner way.

This weekend New York honors the 1996 Yankees for their great championship season. I will be there to cheer them on and be very proud that in a small way I was a part of that. I will also walk across the street to where the old stadium was to honor Catfish, Thurman, Billy, Bucky, Mick the Quick, Roy White, Bloomberg, Oscar, Nettles, Sweet Lou, Dock Ellis, Chicken, Dirt, and all the 1976 Yankees.

I will never forget Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant sitting in the Boss’ suite acting like excited little boys as Chambliss’s home run cleared the right-field wall. Of all of the celebrations, 1976 was the one championship that I thought made the Boss the happiest, probably because it was the first championship and how dramatic that home run would be. One championship is not better than another, it’s like saying which kid do you like best. Please enjoy what happened in 1996 but let’s not ever forget the Boss’ first championship team and the people that helped get us there.

A special thanks to “Teenager” (Willie Randolph) and “Snatcher” (Chris Chambliss) for connecting the bloodlines and, of course, to Billy and the Boss – the two guys who loved the Yankees the most.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” He also writes for NEWSMAX. He is also the host of Impact on 930 am WPAT every Wednesday from 6 to 7 pm. To read Ray’s archive, Go Here Now.


Negron: A-Rod, My Go To Guy

Alex Rodriguez will always be my go to guy. For 10 years, when kids were in trouble, I was always able to go to Alex and he would help. I would say that a group of kid’s needed “x” amount of money to play Little League, or I needed him for a school outing, etc. He never questioned it. He just went into his pocket and helped out or visited the kids.

Sometimes, I would tell Alex that a visit at the ballfield, hospital or school would have a bigger impact than money and he would make many an unannounced visit to the kids. I will never forget one day when we set up a visit at a ballfield in the Bronx after a Yankee game, and there were over 3000 kids and parents waiting for him. A negative person – who probably was not an Alex fan – said that there was no way that A-Rod would show up because he had just struck out five times in the game.

The kids were very disappointed to hear that, but all of a sudden a loud screeching cheer was heard and you could see the people open up like the parting of the Red Sea to let Alex Rodriguez through the crowd. He spoke to all of the kids and parents about love and the fact that like so many others, he had come from a broken home. He spoke about how his mom had been his everything and how mentors in his life helped him to be where he is today. He spoke beautifully and with dignity and told the kids about how reading was so important in his life. He spoke about how the head of the Boys and Girls Club had picked up the slack in his life when his father was not there. He told them how Lou Piniella, his manager in Seattle, was more a father figure than a manager. I listened with tears in my eyes because I know Piniella and I know of the incredible person that he is. To know Alex Rodriguez is to love him.

I know that I am loved in different parts of the Bronx because Alex has never let me down when it came to going to different areas and events and quietly helping a lot of people out. I will never forget a couple of times when the field was wet at Yankee Stadium and batting practice was called off. One time, Alex and I went to an empty lot on River Avenue and played stickball with the kids. Only kids were allowed in the lot. Adults watched from the outside part of the chain-link fence. When we got there, there were about 10 kids, word spread and we finished with about 300 kids on the lot. After we finished playing, we took the kids to Billy’s Sports Lounge for hot dogs and soda.

Billy Martin once told me, after I said to him that I had been a bad person before George Steinbrenner and the Yankees gave me a second chance in life, “Show me a person that says he’s never messed up and I’ll show you a liar.” Everyone deserves a second chance- A-Rod was no exception. Can he have an attitude? Yes he can. But, can’t we all sometimes? I am proud to know Alex Rodriguez but I am even prouder of how Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees organization has dealt with the A-Rod situation and let him go out very much the way George Steinbrenner would have, with his pride and his dignity.


Negron: A Special Thanks To The New York Mets

Another Subway Series has come and now is pretty much gone, but I don’t want to forget the fact that the New York Mets – especially  Mets PR  heads Jay Horwitz, Harold Kaufman, and Ethan Wilson –  welcomed Yankee people into Citi Field and they always make us feel like royalty. The class they always display, not only to the Yankee brass, but to the Yankee fans that go there at this time of year, I find incredible and all stadiums, around the league, can learn from these people.

I know we do a good job at Yankee Stadium, but I love that a great job is also done at Citi Field.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” He also writes for NEWSMAX. To read Ray’s archive, Go Here Now.

Negron: There is Crying in Baseball, Thurman Munson Still Missed

August 2, 2016 is the 37th anniversary since the great Yankee catcher and team captain – even though he would not permit you to call him that because he wanted to be like everybody else – died in a tragic airplane crash.

This past Old Timers Day, I  walking through the suite section of Yankee Stadium when about 100 feet in front of me I saw two recognizable figures.  The woman was definitely Diana Munson and all of a sudden I got the chills because the man next to her had a striking resemblance to Thurman Munson. By the time we were face to face my eyes were filled with tears. The man was Thurman’s son, Michael. Without saying a word the three of us hugged and Diane said, “He looks like his dad doesn’t he?” I quickly nodded “yes” because I couldn’t speak. She asked me if I still think of Thurman and I responded, “Every day!”

I was recently watching Bob Costas interviewing Reggie Jackson on the MLB network.  Reggie was asked if he regrets not being friends with Thurman Munson. Knowing Mr. October the way that I do, I knew that the question really bothered Reggie. Just like Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Reggie was ready to respond. “There is a guy still with the Yankees today by the name of Ray Negron. He set up a lunch for Thurman and me so that we could settle our differences,” Reggie responded. After that lunch, I can honestly say that Reggie and Thurman became very good friends. I remember the two of them talking during that lunch about life in general and about how they grew up.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

When Thurman started to fly he brought Reggie along on a flight or two. When the Yankees went on the road and I was escorting the team, Reggie would have me put Thurman’s car in his personal garage. When we won the 1978 World Series, Thurman went out of his way to find Reggie in the crowded clubhouse in Los Angeles, to be able to have a toast. The clubhouse was crowded and public but when their eyes met you could tell that the toast was very private, personal and more importantly, happy.

Exactly one year earlier, Reggie would hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series and at the end of the night, Thurman went by Reggie’s locker and said to him, “You sure put on one hell of a show Mr. October.” They both laughed and Reggie said, “Mr. October… wow I like that nickname and Thurman with a big grin responded, “You can keep the name, no charge.” That had to be Thurman’s best gift to Reggie. The name Mr. October and a true and honest friendship that I know Reggie cherishes to this day.

Tom Hanks once said in the baseball movie A League of their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball.” If Tom Hanks had known Thurman Munson, even he would have cried. When Thurman died we had a team meeting the next day.  I was sitting on the floor in the clubhouse and witnessed George Steinbrenner, who loved Thurman like a son, tell the team how Thurman had died and he started hysterically crying. I saw Bobby Murcer try to take over for the Boss, but the pain was too much and he also broke down in tears.  At that point, Reggie stood up and quoted some strong words from the Bible and I looked over at Billy Martin, who was silent with his glasses on to hide his swollen tear-filled eyes, and my other heroes and realized that it was okay to cry. That day there was crying in baseball.

Thurman Munson we still love you and miss you so much.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” He also writes for NEWSMAX. To read Ray’s archive, Go Here Now.

Negron: Frankie Valli Is Our Sinatra and Back on Broadway

If you have ever read my book, “Yankee Miracles,” then you would know that there is a chapter in the book about the great Yankee manager, Billy Martin.   Billy was a very fierce competitor with a heart of gold. In the book, I talk about a time when Billy took me to the historic New York Italian restaurant, Patsy’s, where we had dinner with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.

At this time, I was young and had a giant “Afro.” I felt like I didn’t belong which was why Billy wanted me along with him.  He had always told me that if I was made to feel like I didn’t belong someplace, I shouldn’t want to be there in the first place.  Billy taught me to always be confident in myself regardless of what you feel others might have thought of you. A lesson that I would learn many times from George Steinbrenner—but that is a story for another day.

Mr. Sinatra took the notion out of my head very quickly, he made me feel like I did belong. Towards the end of the evening, Mr. Sinatra asked me who my favorite singer was, and before I could answer he said, “Let me guess, Michael Jackson.” Jackson was a big star at this time and I am sure he thought Michael was my favorite because of my “Afro” and the fact that I was skinny like him. I laughed and said, “No, it’s Frankie Valli.” I remember him saying, “You’ve got good taste kid. Frankie Valli is a terrific talent.”  I told Mr. Sinatra that in my neighborhood, Frankie Valli is our Frank Sinatra. Mr. Sinatra turned to Billy and said, “This is a good kid,” and Billy responded by saying, “You don’t have to tell me.”

I have been very lucky to have known Frankie Valli for many years. He has been a good friend and has always made me feel like a special person. The last time that he was on Broadway, he asked me where I got my tickets and I told him that I bought them at Ticketmaster.  I told him that I wanted to support him on Broadway. He said that he did not like me paying for the tickets and that I should have asked him instead. I was very touched by this gesture, however, I also know that when the Newark Native is in New York, family and friends come from all over and he could fill up the theater with them alone.

When Frankie Valli was in Florida in February I could not make the show but my youngest son Ricky went with my close friend, Aris. Frankie took the time to sit down with Ricky and Aris even though he had other guests backstage.  Like Frank Sinatra, he made them feel like they did belong.   Frankie is just a flat out good guy and I am very lucky and proud to say that I know him but more importantly, Frankie Valli is my friend.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons will be on Broadway October 21st thru October 29th at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City.   If you have never seen the true Jersey Boy, the Four Seasons of today and his great musical director and friend Robby Robinson (who is incredible on the keyboards) get your tickets now.   If you have already seen Frankie perform, then go again because as Barry White once said, “You just can’t get enough.”

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” He also writes for NEWSMAX. To read Ray’s archive, Go Here Now.

Negron: Sultan of Dubai Needed No Introduction to the Sultan of Swat

He is known as Sultan Abu Sultan.

Sultan is Chairman of Duro Felguera Middle East and Africa, former Chairman of Barclays Plc MENA. He oversees the strategic direction of the organization’s operations in the country ranging from Corporate and Investment Banking to Wealth and Investment Management along with Retail and Business Banking.

Sultan is also co-Founder and Managing Partner of W Motors, the first supercar originating from the Middle East. The manufacturing process of the prestigious car (known as the Lykan) was supervised and monitored by Sultan and his founding partner who ensured that global state of the art technologies were fully utilized to produce the first highly exclusive hypercar from the region.

How does a poor Bronx and Brooklyn boy, like myself, get the opportunity to sit down with such a powerful man? Well, in my case he just happened to have read my biography Yankee Miracles—he picked up at an airport.  Sultan Abu Sultan had heard about the great mystique of the fabled New York Yankees for years. One of the things that really peaked his interest was the great charity work done by the legendary Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner.

“I saw his great power in the sport that he gave off and such compassion and generosity for the common person,” said Sultan and was touched by this because he and his family are very involved in true charity work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and around the world.

Our meeting took place in the offices of Alfred Zaccagnino at the headquarters of Samarian Group located on Madison Avenue in NYC overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral.   Zaccagnino and me have been pals and business colleagues for many years, and he also knows the importance of philanthropy and giving back. Alfred and Samarian Group have sponsored the Christmas party for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club for over 10 years. Kips Bay is the club in the Bronx where many of my nieces and nephews had attended for years. It is also the club that nurtured the talent of Jennifer Lopez. It is one of the main charities that I support along with the Hanks Yanks Baseball program.

Through business dealings in the United Arab Emirates and Africa, Zaccagnino met Sultan many years ago while he was Chairman of Barclays Bank for the United Arab Emirates and Middle East. During Sultan’s last visit to New York for business discussions with Samarian Group, Sultan made Alfred aware of his reading of the book Yankee Miracles, and Alfred told him that not only did he know one of the authors, (Sally Cook is co-author with me)  but he was one of his best friends!

Thereafter, Sultan insisted on meeting me, and because of philanthropic discussions that were ongoing, he wanted to get together with the head of the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, Daniel Quintero. Before our meeting I “googled” Sultan to see what he looked like; what he wore, and things like that. Daniel and I wore suits and ties. When Sultan walked into the office he was wearing jeans, sneakers and a United Arab Emirates branded baseball cap. I was expecting him to be in his local Emirate attire that I had seen in photos on the internet. While I was adjusting to his smooth accent, I immediately found that he was a very down-to-earth individual, very charismatic, and I was very happy with how great the Sultan and Daniel were getting along. They were exchanging notes on how they could make the world better for the children both here in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Africa. Sultan and Daniel agreed to stay in touch with one another in order to make it happen.

Zaccagnino and I added that Samarian Group projects should formalize a plan where positive revenues from qualified projects have a carried interest in favor of philanthropy, to include the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club of the Bronx as a benefactor, and Daniel and Sultan of course agreed. I felt so lucky to witness the meeting between these two great men who were talking about together combining positive forces and changing the world.

At the end of the meeting I told Sultan Abu Sultan that the only other Sultan that I knew about was a great American sports hero known as “The Sultan of Swat”, Babe Ruth.   We all laughed, then Sultan  added: “Even in Dubai, we have heard of the Sultan known as Babe Ruth.”

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” He also writes for NEWSMAX. To read Ray’s archive, Go Here Now.

Negron: Cuban Missile Lands in Chi Town

The first big blockbuster trade of the season just happened and naturally it involved the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman. It was a trade that most Yankee fans didn’t want to see because of the electricity and the excitement that comes along with his 105 mph fastball.

The recipient of the very gifted pitcher is the Chicago Cubs, who for over 100 years have been looking to win another World Series. They see Chapman as an answer to their prayers. For their sake – and the fact that they gave the Yankees four very talented players – let’s hope so.

I had called Chapman twice on Monday afternoon after hearing that he had been traded to the Cubs, but he didn’t answer his phone. I really wanted to talk to him because we had spent a lot of time together since he has been with the Yankees. George Steinbrenner had always told me to try not to get too close to the players because you always try to find the good in them and sometimes they have a way of breaking your heart when they leave.

I also remember him saying, “Ray, a lot of times I’m guilty of that too so don’t feel so badly.” So, that night I sat with my father, who has been at Franklin General Hospital for a couple of weeks with a heart ailment. We watched the Yankees play the Houston Astros and I then heard the broadcasters Michael Kay and Ken Singleton say that Chapman had been waiting in the clubhouse before the game to say goodbye to his teammates. I thought that was a very classy thing for him to do and I knew that he would eventually reach out to me also.

At about 11:45 PM that night, my phone rang and it was Chapman calling. “I thought you forgot about me,” I said and then he said, “No I just wanted to call you when I got to Chicago because I knew this would be a long conversation.” I asked him how he was feeling and he told me that he had been upset but was getting used to the idea of being in Chicago. I then asked him if he had any regrets and he told me that he would have liked to have negotiated a deal to stay in New York with the Yankees but his agents never talk to him about that possibility.

He said, “The last thing that I wanted was to leave the Yankees. It was fun and it was a family.” He has come to understand the business of baseball and holds no grudges. “How can I be upset with people that have treated me as good as the Yankees have?” he said. “The Yankees gave me a second chance when some teams wouldn’t. Please tell them thank you and maybe our paths will cross again.”

It’s funny that in the world of Steinbrenner’s Yankees, they always seem to be giving someone a second chance.


Negron: With Yankees Chapman, It’s All In The Smile

100—103—105 mph

All fans are on their feet, as Aroldis Chapman rears back and fires a fastball.  It seems as if the Yankees are back in a pennant race.

All of a sudden my mind races back to 1978. The year of the miracle comeback.  Ron Guidry is on the pitcher’s mound and for one of the first times, the Yankees are using a radar gun. I am operating the gun directly behind the home plate part of the stands. Fans are surrounding me, because they want to see the little screen readings of 94- 95-96 mph.  With the evolution of time, the players are bigger and stronger but the anticipation of the fastball is the same. The excitement is still the same.  And the end result is still the strikeout.

My mind races back to present day and as Chapman strikes out the final San Francisco Giants player to save the game, I see the same smile that I’ve seen before.   Because I have spent so much time with Chapman, I have gotten to know him quite well. He has different degrees of smiles. He has an OK smile, a middle smile, and what I call for him, a very happy smile.

The very happy smile comes along with a strikeout to end the game or with a walk around the empty Yankee Stadium holding his baby daughter, as was the case during the Yankee players’ picnic the day before.  When Chapman handed his baby back to the baby’s mom, he started kicking a soccer ball around the field with the grace of the great soccer star Pele. I was sitting in the press box watching, while writing another story, but was distracted by the joy that this person was living. When the event ended, I told him I was watching him from the stands and I asked him if he was as happy as he looked. He responded by saying in Spanish, “absolutely.”

I asked Chapman what he thought of New York and he said, “It is the best city to play baseball and you can’t have it any better than being a Yankee.”  I asked him about the fact that baseball is a business and trades are always possible and he responded by saying, “I know that but I would love to play with the Yankees for the rest of my career.  I hope that something can be worked out, and I can re-sign here.  Since baseball is a business and I could possibly be traded, I would never forget the great times here.”

As a fan, I asked him, “We have seen 104 and 105 mph is there 106 in your arsenal?” He gave me his middle smile and said,” Anything is possible!”