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!”

 

Negron: My Son, A Cop’s Life Matters

My son, Jon Erik is a great person. He cares about his community and his country like no other.

His mother is of African-American and German descent. We have been divorced for more than 25 years and I will say that she is one of the more terrific people that I have known in all of my life. She is remarried to Jerry, a white gentleman, who has become one of my best friends. Jerry was a NYPD police officer and if I have had the opportunity to pick a stepfather for my son, it would have been Jerry. He was always there for my son when I couldn’t be. My son Jon Erik is a much better person in this world because he has had a person like Jerry in his life.

As most of you know, I have been involved in baseball for most of my life and my son followed in my passion for the game. I worked for the great George Steinbrenner and hoped that someday Jon Erik would be a great left-handed pitcher. Jon Erik attended college and received a partial baseball scholarship from Dowling College on Long Island. In a perfect world, my dream for Jon Erik was that he would have had a great college career, he would have gotten drafted by a major league team, and lived happily ever after. One day I remember Jon Erik sitting in Mr. Steinbrenner’s office listening to the Boss talking to one of his best friends Jim Fuchs, the great Olympian, about the Silver Shield Foundation. The Boss and Jim Fuchs started the organization to make sure that the families of police offices that are killed in the line of duty are taken care of. He listened to the heroic stories of the fallen officers and this had a huge effect on his life, in that moment he realized that baseball wasn’t as important anymore.

Jon Erik’s stepfather had been a police officer for over 25 years. Jerry wasn’t just a police officer, he was a damn good cop. Jon Erik decided to follow in Jerry’s footsteps and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He tells me of some of his stories from the job and I listen with great pride. Jon Erik knows that he is making a difference every day. He loves his job and he loves the people that he works for and works with. As a parent, I worry for my son’s safety. I know that he is making a difference, he is helping to make things better for his community.

Jon Erik choose to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather because of the great respect that he has for what he did each and every day. We should all respect the job that police officers do, but somewhere along the way our respect of officers and others was lost.

Five police officers were shot and killed in Dallas, three officers were killed in Louisiana. God knows how many more will follow. It is very scary to me when I get a call from Reggie Jackson, the baseball Hall of Famer, and Jon Erik’s Godfather, wanting me to tell Jon Erik to be more careful.

It is a shame that the ignorance of some people is causing families to lose their loved ones, kids losing their parents and communities to suffer in the aftermath of such tragedy. I am begging all people to please wake up to the reality of what’s happening to our world. I am begging you to understand that “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch.” These officers are protecting our families and our community. Their lives matter!

My son is a police officer. My son’s life matters!

Ray Negron is a Yankees executive and has worked for the team for over 40 years. 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.”

Negron: Happy Birthday! George Steinbrenner Would Have Been 86

For me, July 4th will always represent the birthday of George Steinbrenner. Since his death, I celebrate the life of a man that gave so much to the sports world. When I first started with the Yankees in 1973, you could count on one hand how many people worked for the team.

When the Boss took control of the team there was nothing that he wouldn’t do to make the organization better. It was important that the Bronx bombers were the best in every way. The first thing that he did was go from one athletic trainer to two, so that the players could be attended to quicker and be better prepared for the games. He brought a video machine in the clubhouse for the players to analyze their pitching and hitting mechanics. He took a storage room and made it into a gym with all the latest exercise machines and weights. He would eventually hire a fitness coach to oversee the players in the gym.

The Boss brought massage therapy to the sport. Many people in baseball laughed at these innovations. I remember some saying, “who is this mad man.” He wouldn’t stop there. He was the first to have a bench coach, a bullpen coach and a coach that would sit in the press box and let the manager know the best place to position the defense. A lot of these things the Boss learned from his days as a football coach.

He created so many jobs in the front office that St. John’s University and many other schools around the country created a major called “sports management.” Today it is probably one of the biggest majors in college across America.

He has done a lot for sports, but he has done a lot more for the young people who have always had the dream of being involved in professional sports but athletically were not good enough. In those days, most general managers were former players. If it weren’t for the Boss, we would not have the “Brian Cashman’s” and the “Theo Epstein’s” — guys that love the sport but professionally were not good enough to play it, however they are brilliant enough to run it.

George Steinbrenner was the toughest strongest most powerful person I’ve ever known in baseball. However when he came to kids he was truly the sweetest.

I remember sneaking some kids from the neighborhood into Yankee Stadium because they couldn’t afford to pay. One time, I was caught by a security supervisor who ran right to the Boss to try to score brownie points with him. He said to the Boss, “Negron is sneaking a bunch of Spanish kids into the park.” The Boss said, “Leave me alone with Ray and I will straighten him out.” The security person gave the Boss a wink as if he did something great. The Boss gave him a thumbs up. As the guy walked out, I heard the Boss whisper “asshole.” Mr. Steinbrenner turned to me and asked me how many kids. When I said 13, he pulled out a $100 bill and told me to buy them hotdogs, peanuts and cokes. He would later go up to the grandstands where I had them seated to say hello. By the way, he had the same security guard that complained about me escort him to see the kids.

I remember a time in Florida during spring training when the Boss got so mad at me because he needed me to do an errand for him, but I was doing something for Billy Martin. When he finally found me he asked me, “Who signs your check Billy Martin or me?” I said, “You do.” He said, “Your fired-get back to New York.” When I got to the airport I was paged on the white courtesy phone. I answered the phone and his voice was on the other end. He told me to get my ass back to the ball park, report to him– not Billy Martin–HIM. When I got back he said, “Welcome back.” I told him that I thought I was fired and he told me that he couldn’t fire me today, his little guy (son) Harold was coming to the game and he needed me to help him to take care of him. We both laughed!

That’s the man that I know as “The Boss.” As much as he loved the Yankees, nothing was more important than his kids and later his grandchildren.

Happy birthday Boss! You are missed every day.

Ray Negron is a Yankees executive and has worked for the team for over 40 years. 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.”

Negron: The Boss’s Week Of Hope

To the Boss it was always Hope Week

For the New York Yankees, this week represents Hope Week.  During Hope Week the players spread hope and goodwill throughout the community.  As Hope Week comes to a close today I thought of the Boss and how since I met George Steinbrenner in 1973 it has seemed like every day was a day of hope.

For me, his best work was always helping the less privileged.  The day that he gave me an opportunity to work for the NY Yankees, I asked him why he was doing this for me, and he replied, “Someday you will know why.”

Giving to the less fortunate always seemed to be a reality check for the Boss.  I will never forget the day in 1978—he was having a knock down, dragged out screaming match with Billy Martin in the manager’s office. Every four letter word that you can think of was thrown at each other back and forth—not to mention the smashing of objects heard bouncing off the walls—Goose Gossage and myself had our ears to the door listening, laughing, and reporting what was going on to the other players.  All of a sudden the Boss opens the door, Goose and I standing there in shock—caught.  After calling us bleeping idiots, the Boss grabbed me by the collar, as he used to do a lot in those days, and dragged me off for a walk.  We went to the parking lot where he made his driver, a retired NY City Police Officer, get in the backseat—The Boss was driving and I was in the passenger seat.  We proceeded to drive around the South Bronx, then a war zone, and as the popular phrase of the era, “The Bronx was burning.” During the first five minutes of the drive all he did was banter about Reggie and Billy and their total dislike for each other.

As we headed deeper into the Bronx, he started to compose himself and realized that we were headed into “the real world” and turned to me and said, “Do you realize how lucky we really are?”  I waited a moment and then said, “Boss do you understand that this is where I come home to every night.”  With that, he pulled the car over and said, “Are you doing OK pal?”  “We do great out here Boss, this is all that we know.”  He jumped out of the car, grabbed me in Steinbrenner fashion, and started to talk to the Hispanic people outside the neighborhood Bodega. Some recognized him, some didn’t.  One particular man with his family beside him started to give advice to the Boss as to how things could be better at Yankee Stadium.  He laughed, thanked them and told them he would take their advice.  He always carried tickets for future games and he pulled them out and gave them to the family along with a fifty dollar bill, which was a lot in 1978 especially for a poor Bronx family.  They could not stop thanking him and hugging him, typical George Steinbrenner fashion that reminded you of Santa Claus.  He made this family feel special-like they were somebody and throughout the years I would always notice how he made less mean more.

We got back into the car and headed back to the stadium, he didn’t say another word but the look on his face told me that this experience brought him back to reality about what really mattered in life. For me, that was true “Hope Week” that started without the Boss even realizing it.

Ray Negron is a Yankees executive and has worked for the team for over 40 years. 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.”

Remembering Audrey Fagan

This past Memorial Day we lost another of our American heroes.

Audrey Fagan, a 78 year old Air Force Airman 2nd Class passed away with her family by her side. Audrey was married for 57 years to Ken Fagan, a technical sergeant and 20-year war veteran.

He spent seven years in Vietnam earning many medal of honors for his service in combat, all the while Audrey at home with their three children and always by his side during good times and bad.

Audrey is survived by her husband, a son, two daughters, three grandsons, and many relatives and friends.

The New York Yankees have employed Ken Fagan for the past 10 years as part of their security force during spring training. This year Ken decided to spend the spring at home with Audrey, not realizing that it would be their last together. Ken would say after her passing, “I am grateful for the true quality time that we spent together to reflect on our true love for each other.”

The New York Yankees sent flowers and were represented by team Vice President, Howard Grosswirth. I can’t thank the Yankees enough in the George Steinbrenner way for always being there for Ken and Audrey and for people like them.

You could only imagine what it means.

People always said that Ken was a real life American hero. The fact of the matter is that the true hero was Audrey.

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.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

New Radio Show Probes Sports, Life

Felix DeJesus, a longtime boxing analyst and translator at Showtime, Kevin Cabral, Ralph Romeo and I have been around the New York City radio market and have developed a following over the years hosting or producing sports talk radio.

We are proud to say that starting this Thursday evening, ESPN Deportes New York is our new home as we host 1050 Impact, the only English-speaking show on Deportes.

“We’ve assembled a great team of professionals who are experts in their respective fields to impart their knowledge on 1050 Impact,” said DeJesus at a press conference luncheon Monday afternoon at Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in midtown, Manhattan to officially launch the new program.

The concept involves having top personalities in the sports world on the air. And with my long standing relationships in the sports and entertainment industry, I hope to invite notable guests to join us on 1050 Impact and complement the show.

ESPN gives me a vehicle to really look at people in the sports and entertainment world and to collaborate on the beauty of what I learned from people like George Steinbrenner, Frank Sinatra, Jose Feliciano, Donald Trump Tony Orlando, and others. You will learn how sports, especially baseball, has had a big impact on their lives.

I know that Mr. Steinbrenner would have been proud that one of his students has taken it to the next step and is making an impact.

Renowned actor and producer Danny Aiello is scheduled to be the first guest of the show which debuts Thursday evening from 7-9 p.m., on 1050-AM radio and on the web.

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.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Ted Williams Museum Honors Top Players

The first Saturday of February each year is known as Induction Day at the Ted Williams Museum. Founded in 1993, now located at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

This year marked the 23rd annual induction.

Inductees for 2016  included New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Colorado Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette, two time Cy Young winner and eight-time all-star Roy Halliday, Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, and Billy Wagner with the Pitching Wall of Great Achievement.

This year’s event was a huge success thanks to Executive Director David McCarthy and Claudia Williams, daughter of Ted Williams.

The first person to be honored next year with the Lifetime Achievement Induction will be Tom Giordano, also known as T-Bone in baseball circles. At 90, the senior active scout and special assistant to Atlanta Braves President John Hart, will be the second scout to be inducted since Gene Michael in 2015.

Giordano like Gene Michael has worked very closely with owners and general managers throughout the years and has made each organization that he has been with that much better.

Braves President John Hart was the first to be informed about Giordano and will be presenting the award next year to honor Giordano and to make what will be a very popular event.

What this Museum is all about is best described in Ted’s own words, “Through the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, we hope to build a lasting monument, an architectural tribute to what I think is the single most difficult thing in all of sports: hitting a baseball. We hope the museum will become a place millions of baseball fans will visit and enjoy for generations to come. I hope you’ll join us as we transform our dreams into reality.”

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.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Severino Gets His Own Topps Card

The New York Yankees’ top rookie last year was pitching sensation Luis Severino. Born in the Dominican Republic, the question regarding Severino had always been how soon before he got to the big leagues.

Last year he went to AA Trenton and AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre and just mowed all minor league hitters away. At the major league level he was a very impressive 5-3 with outstanding 2.89 earned run average in eleven starts.

If there was any sign of intimidation, it only came from the hitters that faced him. Topps is celebrating 65 years of Topps baseball and this past week, Topps Baseball cards rewarded Severino with his new 2016 rookie baseball card as part of their Series 1 release available in hobby shops and your local retailer on Wednesday.

Severino looked at his card with the enthusiasm of a kid during my era opening up a pack of baseball cards, eating the gum and finding a Mickey Mantle card inside.

Severino said,” I can’t wait to get back to the Dominican Republic to hand out the cards to the area kids. The adults will be just as excited so I had better have enough for them also.”

Being a part of the Yankee family for over parts of 40 years, it is so nice to be able to see the young rookies that are just starting out have that initial innocence that they are willing to share with the world. In the case of Luis Severino, let’s hope it lasts a long time.

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.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Steve Van Zandt Spreads Cheer at Policeman’s Ball

This year I was fortunate to meet Steven and Maureen Van Zandt.

I have always been a fan but was especially impressed by their giant hearts and willingness to help so many in need. Steven helped the policeman’s ball raise $200,000 for the Detectives’ Endowment Associations’ Widows and Children’s Fund.

Van Zandt had a couple of his “Sopranos” cast mates in attendance; performances by the Max Weinberg Orchestra and singer Darlene Love were also featured.

“The police have had a particularly difficult year,” Van Zandt had told those in attendance, “and I believe a bold statement of support is appropriate right now.”

A week earlier, Steven and Maureen Van Zandt joined forces with my good friend and business associate, Alfred Zaccagnino from the Samarian Group, to bring holiday cheer and gifts to over 500 kids at the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club in the South Bronx.

This was the ninth year that Zaccagnino has helped out and with the big presence of the Van Zandt’s, this was the best Christmas these kids have had. “Knowing the history of the Yankees and the things that George Steinbrenner had done for so many children has influenced me to always do the right thing especially during the holidays.” Said Zaccagnino.

“And to see what Steven and Maureen give of themselves reminds me of how George Steinbrenner used to help everyone.” Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club President, Daniel Quintero was quick to state that he has never had to ask Zaccagnino for anything. “He knows we need him and he is always there.”

 Also present at the event was “Tio Papi” star and good friend Joey Dedio who spoke to the kids about his upcoming television series and signed autographs for the kids.

Former Phantom of the Opera star Ciaran Sheehan was there to sing some songs adding holiday cheer to the party. Said Sheehan, “When I see the Van Zandt’s and Alfred giving their time for the less fortunate like they do, I know that I must also help.”

It makes me feel good to see so many people helping the less fortunate just like the Boss used to do.

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.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.