Batboy’s Courage Would Make the Boss and Gehrig Proud

When George Steinbrenner walked into the “swanky” restaurant, La Club, everyone runs around trying to please the man known as “the Boss” as if he owned the place. That was the kind of respect that he demanded and received without even saying a word. His look would be strong and he would dress impeccable, nothing out of place including his very neatly combed hair. All the “high rollers” there can’t get to Mr. Steinbrenner fast enough to say hello. The restaurant bigwigs can’t help but to drool over the Boss.

The Boss naturally plays up to all the attention until he notices that the busboy near his table dropped some plates. The maitre’d gets very upset and says some words to the kid that even the Boss didn’t like. After the maitre’d walked away Mr. Steinbrenner called the busboy over and asked him his name. The kid said his name was Neil Herbst. The Boss said, “I guess you know who I am?” Neil said. “I do because my brother Seth was a batboy for you in 1974.”  Mr. Steinbrenner asked Neil if he would like to come work for him. Naturally Neil said that he would love it. The Boss told Neil to write his name and number on a piece of paper and trust that I will have one of my people call you.

A little while later Neil received a phone call from a Yankee official and later during that 1978 baseball season, Neil Herbst was a Yankee batboy. It basically happened because an adult was belittling a youngster and that never went well with George Steinbrenner. That mean maitre’d probably did Neil a big favor without even realizing it. Neil went on to watch and work for the 1978 Yankees. That summer the Bronx Bombers would come back from 14 1/2 games in July to become World Champions with the greatest comeback in sports history. Neil Herbst had the best seat in “the house that Ruth built.”  After that year Neil, like his brother Seth did four years earlier, went on to college, graduated with honors and built a beautiful career in the finance industry. Seth became a great doctor. It’s incredible how their love for the Yankees gave them and so many other young people the motivation to be possibly even more successful than they would have otherwise been. I have always maintained contact with many former batboys throughout the years. Recently, Seth Herbst asked me to talk to his brother Neil because he was battling A. L. S. (Lou Gehrig disease). Like Lou Gehrig, Neil spoke to me with the same courage and passion that I imagined that Lou Gehrig would have displayed.

Rather than me writing about Neil’s feelings with his battle, I asked Neil to put his feelings into his own words.

These are Neil’s words…..

As a child, baseball and the New York Yankees were synonymous with family, fun and magic to a young boy especially to one who dreamed about being a professional baseball player or a doctor.  They were bigger than life and me and my friends thought about them every second of every day that we weren’t in school.  It took everything that was bad in life away—to be a baseball player

In 1978, I was a bat boy for the New York Yankees.  Being a bat boy for the Yankees it was such a high honor to see the amount of hard work the players needed to have—I got to see firsthand what had to be done and especially their work in the community and with diversity.  How special this time really was.  It was also a large part of my development of the adult I would become—hard working, business owner, parent and husband.

One of the most famous Yankees players—Lou Gehrig (called Baseball’s Iron Man)-was diagnosed with ALS at the height of his career.  In fact, many people call ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  His diagnosis in 1939 brought awareness of ALS to the public.  One of his most notable quotes and one that helped change the views of communities throughout this country was:  “There is no room in baseball for discrimination.  It is our national pastime and a game for all.”   At his final appearance at Yankee Stadium he delivered his “luckiest man speech” and the part I remember the most is his saying he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Even though I have been recently diagnosed with ALS, I too feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  I know I’ve been preparing for this all my life and the Yankees helped me get here.  My time as a bat boy and the lessons I learned, being a successful business owner, having a loving family, and being involved in the community.

The last years of my life I want to be like the Yankees—continue to work hard, but work on healing.  The healing of our country and a cure for ALS are my top priorities.  Today when I think of the Yankees I still have those same feelings I had as a boy.  They are about fun, love and family and it brings a sense of peace to watch the Yankees and to know how this organization has remained dedicated to its values over all of these years.  I also know that they can be influential again in helping with ALS.  It’s been too long since Lou Gehrig passed and a cure has not been found!

As we approach 2021, I would like to ask every baseball team around the world, but particularly in the U.S., to have an ALS patient throw the opening day first pitch of the season.  It’s time for everyone to rally to find a cure.    —-Neil Herbst.

Beautiful words from a kid who, in the summer of 1978, came of age and matured to become a credit to this great country.  Neil Herbst feels that his time with the Yankees had prepared him for everything in his life, both good and bad. Even with all the success that he has had in his life, he still says that the greatest job he has ever had was that of a Yankee batboy. Now with the fact that he has such a horrible decease like A.L.S .it’s incredible that the magic of the Yankees continue to give Neil the strength and courage to live life one day at a time and know that a cure could be somewhere in the horizon.  With the power of prayer, hopefully sooner than we think.

Whitey Ford , A great guy and Success.

Whitey Ford had his funeral yesterday. It was at St Mary’s Church in Manhasset Long Island not far from Where he lived in Lake Success.

Isn’t it ironic that the name of the town that he lived in would exemplify what he accomplished in life ….Success!

I know all his career statistics, like 236 career victories ,most all time in Yankee history etc, however I will leave all that for the sports writers. Sure those things are a mark of success but if you really know what the Yankee family is all about than you would realize that the way Whitey lived his life is what success is all about.

I knew Whitey for the 47 years that I have been around the World of the Yankees.
I can only say that this man was truly a wonderful guy. A fun guy. A loved guy. A caring and sharing guy.

I remember when I was a batboy I would see Whitey working out with his son Eddie. Eddie was a short stop that had just been drafted by the Red Sox. Whitey saw me standing on the side watching and he screamed out, grab your glove and take some grounders with Eddie. Whitey knew that I had aspirations of playing pro ball so he had me join in the fun. That was the kind of guy that he was. At the funeral Eddie reminded me of this all these years later.
Whitey was also a very funny guy. Just before I started my first movie for Warner Brothers , I was in the Yankee locker room picking up my equipment. Whitey came over and said I want you to give me your autograph. I said for what ? He said life is funny, maybe you will become the next Marlon Brando so I signed a cap for him. Every time I was about to do another film he would say ‘You never know ‘. The last time I saw Whitey was about five years ago I was walking with Doc Gooden and we ran into Whitey. We spoke some pleasantries. Doc and Whitey kidded about both wearing number 16. Whitey had always told Doc that he would of let him use the number 16 when Doc was a Yankee and Doc said that that number was sacred in Yankee lore. Whitey then turned to me and said … Marlon Brando my ass! Doc asked what was that about and I said that’s a private joke between me and Whitey.

Whitey was great at setting up a joke. The first time I met him I think was 1974. I remember that we were playing our home games at Shea Stadium because they were renovating Yankee Stadium. Whitey was our pitching coach that year. I was getting a coke at the soda machine that they had in the clubhouse. Whitey walked over and grabbed a cup , at that moment I would say…Hi Whitey … so he turned to me and said , hey are you prejudice? This shocked me … then I saw all the players laughing. I had been set up for a clubhouse joke. I was being initiated by the prankster loving Mr Ford.

I must add that to see Whitey with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin really showed me what true friendship was really all about. Like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis jr. Whiteys crew was baseball’s Ray Pack, and Whitey was the Chairman of the board.

The funeral itself was a very nice dignified affair. It was attended by his very close family and friends. Jeff Idelson from the Baseball hall of Fame assisted the family with the funeral and Whiteys long time teammate The great Bobby Richardson delivered a beautiful eulogy with the most important line being that now Whitey gets to enter Gods hall of Fame. I know that Mickey and Billy are at baseball heaven right now saying… hey Slick what took you so long.

Special thanks to Joan and Eddie and the whole family for really making everyone feel so comfortable and being so warm to everyone, especially at this difficult time.

I guess it’s just the Yankee way.

New York Yankees Consultant and BRONXNET Launch Reach Out

By Steven Vaccaro

Over the last few days Yankee Universe was hit with two devastating blows. Several hours before  their game five, ALDS play-off loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the entire world learned of the passing of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford.” The combination of their 2020 playoff elimination and the death of “The Chairman of the Board” has left the Yankee family mourning with a significant feeling of loss. In addition, this emotionally charged moment in time has been at an all-time high due to the ongoing global pandemic which has created a historical unemployment rate and havoc in the educational system…….leaving the Bronx community reeling.

Despite these unsettling times, The New York Yankees continue to provide support, love and guidance for the Bronx each and every day. Their food drives, non-profit partnerships and outreach to many programs that empower children and women afflicted with Domestic Violence, has been a bright shining light offering unconditional hope for thousands in the struggling Bronx community.

Ray Negron, long time Yankee Community Consultant, has his roots in the Bronx and continues to assist the  Yankees in the Steinbrenner way for everyone that is in need. Now, Negron, along with his BATBOY Producer and TV/Radio Show host Psychologist Steve Vaccaro, will have their show REACH OUT WITH RAY & STEVE appear on BRONXNET weekly starting Monday, October 12th at 8:30 –9:30pm EST. The mission of REACH OUT is to provide top-notch programming focusing in on SPORTS-ENTERTAINMENT- COMMUNITY. The show will be a platform to provide visibility and recognition to the many outstanding residents in the Bronx. “ This show has the capability to reach 300,000 homes. Besides the great guests from the world of sports and entertainment, we will also let Bronx residents have a voice in the community and show that the Yankees are great neighbors. Teaming up with BRONXNET, is a dream come true because of their amazing efforts supporting the Bronx, “ Negron states.

Michael Max Knobbe, Executive Director, BronxNet TV offered his thoughts on the addition of REACH OUT, “ For more than a quarter century BronxNet has provided public services including access to technology, career building learning experiences and media education for students, and vital local programming by, for and about the Bronx. We are proud to premiere REACH OUT with Ray and Steve on BronxNet TV from the Bronx to the world.”

Clearly, the collaborative efforts between the Yankees and BronxNet TV has caught the interest of many celebrities and political leaders, including Chazz Palminteri and Vanessa Gibson, who is running for Bronx Borough President. Both cherish the Bronx and continue to “pay it forward” to its entire community. Palminteri, a long time mentor for Negron,who will be a guest on the show within the next several weeks shares,” The Bronx means the world to me and I can’t ever thank the Yankees enough for all their efforts in the community.” Gibson, who is an outstanding advocate emphatically states,” I am glad that this show is out there. People need to see what the Yankees do in the community.”

Well Bronx…..its time for BronxNet TV to Reach Out to you and your beautiful community. The Yankee season may be over, but the Yankees and BronxNet are just getting started.

Reach Out can be seen on BronxNet channel 68 and 2134 FIOS in the Bronx and worldwide every Monday at 8:30pm EST

Negron: Clemente Would Pick Gio or Gleyber

The last couple of seasons have been great for the Yankees and the Bronx and New York in general. The reason for that is, when you’re the New York Yankees, it is important to do great things on the field but you also have an obligation to the people of this great city off the field as well.

The people, especially the youth of the city have become accustomed to have the players give a helping hand in any way possible. This has been going on since the days of Babe Ruth. In my research I don’t believe that there has ever been a player that did more for kids in New York than Babe Ruth. It was a true passion for the “Bambino.” He was raised in an orphanage with kids who essentially had nothing or no one. The Babe made a promise to himself and to God that if he ever made it in life he would always look out for the less privileged. I honestly believe that this is where Yankee benevolence was born. I also believe that when George Steinbrenner purchased the Yanks in 1973, the Yankees benevolent spirit was reborn in New York.

A couple of hundred miles away in Pittsburgh, there was a great, Black, Puerto Rican player with the Pirates who was doing great things on the field and off the field. He was doing so many wonderful things for his people that he became the most beloved person in that town. The great Roberto Clemente never felt that he had done enough when it came to helping people. That’s probably the reason that he perished in a tragic airplane crash.

There had been a major earthquake in Nicaragua, so Clemente commandeered an airplane and loaded it with food and supplies. Unfortunately, instead of just sending the plane, he felt that had to go along to make sure that everything went smoothly. Unfortunately you know what happened.

Wednesday, Major League Baseball presents the “Roberto Clemente Award” for doing great things off the field. One player from each team is nominated and the winner is announced during the World Series. The Yankees candidate is Giancarlo Stanton. Nice guy and I know he has done his share. I sincerely congratulate him and hope he wins the big award at the World Series. With that said I personally have to congratulate Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres for all the wonderful things that these two Yankees have done since getting to New York and putting on the Pinstripes.

When the announcement for the Clemente Award was going to be made I really expected it to be either Gio or Gleyber and would’ve been happy either way. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement because they left their blood, sweat and tears at the schools and hospitals and parks that I took them to visit.

Last year when the great P.R. Director for the Thurman Munson foundation, John Cirillo, called me about who I thought should win the award, I said ‘Gio or Gleyber.’ I said that I couldn’t pick either one because they both had done so much. Well, they went with Gleyber. Either way I was more proud of these two kids than I had been with any Yankees in my 47 years around the Bronx Bombers.

I’m hoping that this coming year Gio will get The Munson Award because he wholeheartedly deserves it. I honestly believe that when these players get a chance to help people especially the kids, they take that positive energy on the field. George Steinbrenner really believed that. When we would get to playoff time he would say ‘Ok it’s time to really concentrate on winning so save the off the field stuff till after the World Series.’

I’m so grateful to Team President Randy Levine for always understanding the importance of what these players do off the field and like George Steinbrenner, always having a love for the people of the community. Of course we all know what the Steinbrenner family means to all us Bronx people. Brian Smith and the Yankee foundation… invaluable! Gleyber congratulations on winning the Thurman Munson Award and Gio Urshela… Nobody Does It Better.

(Photo courtesy of Ray Negron)

Kids Still the Best Part of Yankees Legacy

“Having Yankees players visit the school is like an ‘injection of love and inspiration’ for our children and school community. Players like Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela have uplifted our communities and even for a moment in time our children feel that they belong and are appreciated by the world. Sadly, if it were not for the Yankees player visits, our community often feels abandoned, and this is why I encourage more people to get involved in our community. The players visiting our school is not just a photo opportunity, we must leverage these visits to inspire our youth and bring light to the darkness around us. I pray for the day that I could wake up in a world that is equitable for all children.”

— Luis Torres, Principal, CS55 – Bronx. N. Y.

Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player of all time but not just for the reasons that you think. Yes he hit giant homeruns and he helped the Yankees win championships.

You can also say the same thing for Lou Gehrig, who was (and still is) a true legend, Joe Dimaggio, Thurman Munson, Reggie, Bobby Murcer, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano. All are star players.

Yet, when it came to the kids, especially the less privileged ones, they had the biggest hearts in the world.

I’ve worked for the New York Yankees for the better part of six decades.

I’ve always had “go to guys” lined up; those who would help me out by going to schools, hospitals, and youth centers; going to those places to encourage and support — kids.

Alex Rodriguez was truly incredible during the 10 years he played for the Yankees.

Alex did things that would shock you, but did them in a very positive way.

He spiritually and financially helped me to keep a little league program alive.

Hundreds of kids in the Bronx would not have been able to play baseball during all of those summers. The reason this is so important to and for me is because as a young kid George Steinbrenner literally saved my life.

I always used to ask him how I could pay him back. He used to smile at me saying, “Just help to take care of your community.”

That help was a big deal for the Boss.

When Mr. Steinbrenner paid an initial visit to P. S. 55 years ago the impact he had remains alive in that place to this day. A letter from the Boss still hangs in the hallway for all to see.

When I take players there, the first stop is always to see that letter.

I promised Mr. Steinbrenner that I would always do the right thing in his honor.

Many of my family members I grew up with are no longer here.

Had they had a mentor or friend like George Steinbrenner, I would bet that half of them would still be alive today. In the last couple of years I have had Gleyber Torres, who actually won the Thurman Munson award for community service, and Gio Urshela, who I would be shocked if he didn’t win it next year, help me in countless and tireless ways with so many kids.

When John Cirillo of the Munson Foundation talked to me last year about who should win that award, I told him that you had to split that award in half because Gleyber and Gio were equally incredible in the way they extended their heart and soul to the community.

I pray and hope that the Yankees realize how wonderful these two guys are and how, in a very quiet and dignified way, they went out of their way to help so many. Even during the coronavirus pandemic Gleyber and Gio have appeared in videos encouraging kids to do the right thing.

I’m very proud of how the Yankees have always been leaders in helping those truly in need.

After we lost George Steinbrenner 10 years ago, the organization, through the leadership of team president Randy Levine, COO Lonn Trost, the Steinbrenner famil,y and of course our vice president of community relations Brian Smith, have taken our community relations juggernaut to the next level.

Last week, I met with Randy Levine and Brian Smith at Yankee Stadium to hear how much has been done — even during this tumultuous time; accomplishments that would make the Boss very happy. Knowing George Steinbrenner, he would have had his sleeves rolled up and would have been with us helping all who need needed help — especially kids.

Yankees Miracle Continues, Bridging Divides

Eight years ago I authored a book, “Yankee Miracles.”

One of the stories naturally discusses the day that George Steinbrenner caught me doing graffiti outside Yankee Stadium and how he gave me a job as a Yankee batboy.

It also talks about how he knew that I wasn’t responsible for all the tagging that was being done on the Stadium that year but he was sure that I knew who was doing it.

The Boss said that he didn’t want me to tell him who they were but that if I wanted to keep the job as a batboy that I would let the people responsible know to back off.

Well I delivered that message and the powers that be in the neighborhood did the right thing for the Yankees — and for me.

Forty seven years later we have ongoing nationwide protests.

It turned ugly in some cities, as anger turned into looting.

I personally felt that it was important that I attend as many of the protests as possible so I could understand what people were really feeling. I also wanted to see how many people sincerely cared about the issues.

I can honestly report that I went to protests in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and naturally the Bronx.

The Bronx is personal to me because I was born there and of course the Yankees are there.

The first night things got ugly so I called many of my acquaintances and friends that live there, including former Yankee Batboy Luis Castillo, and we visited the local housing projects including Trinity and Soundview.

We visited with many of the guys from the surrounding neighborhoods, brought food that was donated by Puerto Rico USA and Bagels Chalet. We even shared some pizza pies that were donated by Rosas from Great Neck.

During these “pow-wows” we talked about our love of the Yankees.

I shared with them the fact that George Steinbrenner was the first Yankee owner going out of his way to hire as many neighborhood people as possible. I also explained how Mr. Steinbrenner went out of his way to hire as many minorities possible. I went further, explaining that to me this was personal because of all the years that I’ve invested at the stadium, as well as my love of the Yankee brand.

I also shared a laugh with them when I said that the fact that many of them wore Yankee caps, I knew that Yankee Stadium would always be protected by them.

One of the guys asked me if the Yankees asked me to come here and I said, “No, I came because Yankee Stadium has always been my cocoon. The Stadium saved my life.”

They all knew my story and just wanted to know if the Boss, as Mr Steinbrenner is still known in these Bronx’s streets, was all that. I replied, “He was all that and more!”

Luis and I left with a good feeling about our visits to the different projects and the fact that many of the people are as big of a Yankee fan as I am.

I’m not saying that my visit with some of these very tough “hombres” was vital in what could have happened at the Stadium, however if some possible crazy things might be going on outside of your house aren’t you going to do everything possible to protect it?

Besides, 47 years ago the Boss asked me to deliver a message so, I guess I’m still delivering that message.

I want to thank all the guys in the Bronx. It was great “breaking bread” with you and I appreciate the respect.

Thanks Squeegee for getting me into some places that I couldn’t have gotten into by myself.

We Need to Listen, Learn, and Grow Together

I have seen New York through many of its lowest lows and highest moments in my lifetime. From “The Bronx is Burning” of the late 1970’s through the boom in this century I know we are a city of resilience.

We are a people who usually make me very proud.

Most of my life, from the time I was 17-years-old, I have also been honored to be associated with the New York Yankees; from batboy to community consultant.

It is as much a part of my DNA as my Latino blood is; that also makes me proud.

Every day I lay in bed. I don’t fall asleep until my youngest son Ricky gets home.

If my older son is working then I won’t have a comfortable night because he works at night. They are two of the most decent people that I’ve ever known.

I must add that I love them like a mother hen. I’m so proud of what they do because they are proud. They want to be the best at what they do. They both made sacrifices to become police officers. My oldest son, Jon-Erik, had a cushiony job at Chase Manhattan Bank and he was good at it. My youngest son Ricky, was playing professional baseball.

They both became Suffolk County Police Officers for the same reason: they wanted to help people. I’m not saying that Ricky was going to be an all-star baseball player because he wasn’t. However, if he had the same passion in baseball as he has at being an honorable police officer then he might have had a chance.

Throughout the years they’ve both gotten to witness firsthand my work for the Yankees.

They got to know the Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner.

They got to see him instill kindness and goodness into me so that I would share what I received from him — to others. He would tell them the importance of what I had to do in these New York communities, so that I could help humankind.

Everyone knows the story of Mr. Steinbrenner catching me outside Yankee Stadium engaging in painting graffiti. Instead of having me arrested he made me a Yankee batboy.

Yet, some people thought he was making a mistake by giving me this opportunity, but as we all got to know about the Boss, we found that you didn’t tell him what to do.

The one thing that he told me was, “Don’t you ever make me look bad.”

I once asked him how I could possibly pay him back?

He responded, “Never forget where you came from and never be afraid to extend a hand to the young people that will follow you.” I’ve always taken his words to heart and I think that my sons live by that code also.

Being a police officer is not always what you see on television.

Last week my son, Jon-Erik got a call about a mother going into labor. As a result, he delivered his fourth baby. Another time a baby wasn’t breathing and he had to clear the infant’s throat in a difficult procedure.

When the baby started to breathe Jon-Erik cried with joy.

Today — he is that child’s godfather.

With Ricky, I had the scare of my life because I was pulled out of a theater because he was involved in a shootout and taken to a hospital. I didn’t know if he was OK.

My eyes were filled with tears because I was so scared.

I thank God that Ricky was alright. He was not shot as was my first thought.

These days I attend these protest rallies because I want to respect the cause.

I have always been a fan of Dr. Martin Luther King — and peaceful protest.

I also want to see young people do the right thing.

I want them to know why they are there and not because “Joe from upstairs ” is going.

I also fear for the safety of our police officers and want people to understand that almost every one tries to do the right thing. Coming from the streets of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, I’ve had my fair share of experience with NYPD and I will say that most of the time I thanked God that they were there.

The past couple of weeks were no different.

While I attended a rally with my Yankee cap on, I almost got into a bit of a scuffle with some young people who were looking only for trouble; they ignored all the peaceful protesting going on around them and wanted to spark violence.

In all honesty it was my Yankee cap, which many young people identify with, and the kindness and calm of others, including several police officers, that diffused a very ugly situation, helping instill calm.

And speaking of the Yankees, baseball, even on these streets, remains common-ground for discussons. The amount of Yankees hats that I saw in the crowd, from every walk of life, is astounding.

If baseball returns would it help ease tensions?

I’d like to think so, because it’s common-ground for so many.

We need the game just like we need healthy discussion, and we need the helping presence of good people in law enforcement. During our darkest moments in our country’s history, baseball was always there. I’m not saying that it will settle everything, but many of the protesters who know me always had the same question, “When is baseball coming back?”

As someone who has seen this escalating from so many sides, the community as well as from the badge, I am hopeful that we will all meet in a proper place. We need to listen, we need to learn and we need to grow together. It’s not easy. I have seen us overcome issues before and use sport, and baseball, as a unifying point, and I think we will again. Until that happens we need to be smart, be safe, and keep finding common ground.

I thank my kids and all who are in public service, and I thank all people for believing in America. I have great faith that we all just want to make it better.

Negron: Gleyber’s Big Heart

Ever since this whole Corona Virus situation has been going on, I have been explaining, to budding Yankee super star Gleyber Torres, why players like him were better off being home instead of going to some of these front line places like hospitals etc. to give a helping hand. I told him that if some of the front liners knew he was there, that it would take away from the subject at hand, which is taking care of the sick people. A lot of days he sees what is happening through my Instagram post and says that there has to be something That he can do.

Over the last few weeks he has done videos and passed along words of encouragement. This week he went a step further by purchasing food to help feed many families including some mothers and their kids that are unfortunately put into shelters because of abuse situations or just unfortunate economic scenarios. This weekend he even rewarded my volunteers at the food pantry, where we distribute food, with a great pizza meal. The volunteers loved the pizza but the fact that it was a reward from Gleyber meant the world to them. It actually made them want to work harder.

The moms at the shelter were so happy that some would even cry because a New York Yankee actually gave a damn about them during these very tumultuous times, and I’m not just talking about the Corona Virus situation. At the end of the day I just hope that Gleyber understands what he did and the impact that he has had with people and the impact that he can have in this world, both as a New York Yankee and as a good person.

On this Memorial Day I want to thank Former Yankee employee and U.S. Air Force serviceman Ken Fagan for his service to the Yankees because he went beyond the call of duty there. Ken knows what I’m talking about and George Steinbrenner would be proud. I also want to thank him for his service to our country. Ken fought in two wars and flew on many combat missions. The Boss was very proud of that. I know how proud he was to know Ken Fagan.

Making the Most of 2nd Chance From Steinbrenner

Ray Negron and George Steinbrenner (Courtesy Ray Negron)

Out of respect to Cope 2 and Slone, two of the greatest graffiti artists of all time, I must admit that I was not doing graffiti art when I was caught by George Steinbrenner in 1973. I was doing a simple interlocking “NY” with blue spray paint on the wall outside Yankee Stadium on a dare from the guys that I was with. It was a true case of peer pressure.

As fate would have it, a car drove up on the sidewalk and two guys jumped out. In the scramble to get away, I bumped into one of the other guys, stumbled and I was the one who was caught. The men dragged me to a holding cell within Yankee Stadium with the intention of sending me over to the 44th precinct.

For whatever reason, the two men came back to the makeshift jail area and told the cops stationed there to “give them the kid.” I was extremely confused, almost disoriented because I had never been in trouble before,and now I was wondering where these two guys were taking me. To say that I was scared was the all-time understatement.

The two guys each held me by my arms as they dragged me down a dark hallway. One of the guys seemed angrier than the other and kept saying, “You can’t help these kids.” All of a sudden we stopped at a black metal door and we walked in and it was as if we were walking into the Land of Oz.

We were in the Yankee locker room. Beautiful bright pinstriped uniforms were hanging all around every locker and some of the players that I recognized from television were actually sitting at their lockers.

The one guy that seemed to be the boss introduced me to an elderly man that he called Pete. The boss man told me that I had a choice. I was either going to work for Pete in the clubhouse or go to jail. I was a dumb kid, but I wasn’t that dumb, so naturally I agreed to the work.

The other guy seemed very disturbed with what this man was doing for me and again he blurted out that he was making a mistake. But the guy told him to shut up and that he was in charge. The man told me to listen to Pete and do whatever he said. In a threatening voice, he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Don’t you make me look bad. (That was my “PG Statement” — kids may be reading this). Then the two men walked out of the clubhouse.

Pete walked me to a locker and asked me if I knew who the man was who just gave me this opportunity?

I said, “No.”

Pete told me that he was George Steinbrenner, the new owner of the New York Yankees. Pete stared at me up and down and I wondered why. He walked away and then he came back with a Yankee uniform and said, “This should fit you.”

A real Yankee uniform and a real Yankee cap! In my neighborhood you only dreamed of having a real Yankee cap because we could never afford one. Pete introduced me to the other batboy’s and they showed me the ropes. Pete Sheehy could not have been nicer. He had been with the Yankees since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. In time he would tell me incredible stories about all of the Yankee greats. At one point, when I would become close to Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and Bobby Murcer, Pete would love to tell me that he was the same way with Babe and Lou. I used to think about how incredible that was. That day, I learned how to clean shoes and shine helmets, fold towels and how to put the underwear in the right locker.

Ron Blomberg was actually the first player to come over and introduce himself to me, he even offered me a bagel. Because he was one of the few Jewish players in the big leagues, a lot of proud Jewish fans used to wait outside the stadium and bring him bagels and lox.

During batting practice I got to shag in the outfield. I learned how to put the bats in the right slots in the bat rack in the dugout. Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson got a big kick out of the way that I became a batboy. That was the big laugh in the clubhouse that day. I was actually very embarrassed, but acted like it didn’t bother me.

I have to say that when I put on that uniform I couldn’t help but to think of Gehrig in the movie “The Pride of the Yankees” when he got his uniform and he kept looking in the mirror. Man what a proud moment for me. When it was game time I was so nervous standing in the dugout.

Bobby Murcer came over to me and said that I looked scared. I said that I was, and he asked me what I was going be doing during the game. I told him that I was the ball boy on the right field foul line. Bobby told me to run out on the field with him when the organist, Eddie Layton, played “Here Come The Yankees.” I have to tell you that this was one of the biggest thrills of my life.

We played the Cleveland Indians that day and we won. It was a big victory for George Steinbrenner because he was from Cleveland and he had tried to purchase the Indians. After the game, he came into the clubhouse and acted as if we had just won the pennant. He was really happy. After the game we had to collect all the shoes, scrape all the dirt off the bottom and shine them. We picked up the towels and the underwear that the players threw on the floor and took them to the laundry room.

When I finally finished, I was instructed to go see Mr. Steinbrenner by the managers office. He asked me how did I like my job. I said, “It was great!” He asked me if I wanted to keep it and I said, “Yes sir I would.” He asked me how was I in school and I told him that I was just fair. He said that I was to improve my grades and he said,”Oh and naturally you and your friends won’t do graffiti on Yankee Stadium anymore right?” I said, “Yes sir.”

My mom and my father had been called and they picked me up that night. It was the only time they ever met George Steinbrenner. Before I left, Mr. Steinbrenner told me not to ever let him down because he was taking a chance on me even though people that worked for him told him that he should not. He went into his pocket and handed me money for carfare. He said, “Tomorrow is a day game; don’t be late.” That was my very first day as a Yankee batboy.

Forty-seven years later I can honestly say that it is the most wonderful job that I have ever had. Years later, I would ask the Boss why he would do that for me, and he said that when the security guard told him that there is nothing you could do for this kid, I knew you deserved a second chance.

I remember thanking him for saving my life and he said, “I didn’t save your life. Your story was told long before I met you.” It wasn’t until recently that I truly comprehended what he meant. I asked “the Boss” how I could pay him back and he said, “Just don’t forget where you come from and never be afraid to help those in need.”

Today with this whole coronavirus situation going on, I think of the Boss and how he would have been handling this. I think about the fact that out of the four guys that were with me that first day, two are dead and the other two were always in and out of prison, so the blessing that this man gave me overwhelms me to this day. There has to be a God or else how could all of this have happened.

So today and every day that I get up and as the Yankees Community Consultant I go to wherever I can in the city to help deliver food and whatever else is needed with many volunteers including my dear friend and psychologist Steve Vaccaro. We try to work extra hard in the Bronx with some people that fall between the cracks.

One of the Bronx school principals, Luis Torres said that he needed a way to keep the kids in the house, so we came up with the idea of doing a movie night through the public access television station, Bronxnet. Many families in the Bronx saw the animated film that I was the creator of and also the executuve producer. After the telecast, Principal Torres said, “Tonight we actually saved lives by keeping all those families home.” I was so very proud and happy about this because it would not have happened without the magic of George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees.

As the Boss would say, “We’re Yankees it’s what we 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.” 

Negron: Thanks, Hank

The other day I was walking in my Babylon neighborhood when I saw this giant of a man walking towards me. I instantly knew who it was because at 6 foot, 10 inches, he is the tallest man in this village. His name is Max Watt and he was one of the original members of the legendary youth baseball team, “Hank’s Yanks.” The first thing out of his mouth was, “I have been meaning to call you to express my feelings about the passing of Hank Steinbrenner.” At that moment I said to Max, “Please do me a favor, don’t tell me, tell the world.”

Here are Max’s words and feelings about Hank Steinbrenner:

As I, Max Watt, learned of the incredibly sad news of the passing of Hank Steinbrenner a lot of thoughts and emotions went through my mind. I reflected on how lucky I was to have not only met this great man, but to have spent some quality time with him as well. Thanks to Ray Negron I was able to experience these moments in my life by being invited to play on “Hank’s Yanks” a team sponsored by Hank Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees.

This team opened up my life to so many opportunities and experiences I would’ve never thought I would even come close to experiencing. Without this team I would not be the man I am today, I would not have had the life experiences I have had and I wouldn’t have the accomplishments I have been able to achieve in my life. Without meeting Hank, and being one of the lucky few to be on this team, I wouldn’t have been able to receive a scholarship to play baseball in college, nor would I have had the opportunity to play Minor League Baseball for the Boston Red Sox.

All of those things are great, but most importantly without Hank I wouldn’t have been able to learn and grow into who I am today. That’s why I am forever thankful to have met this great man.

—-Max Watt