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.”