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!”


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.”