I was recently sitting down with my nephew Michael. He was telling me about his love for soccer and that the first toy he can remember was a soccer ball. He has been playing organized soccer since he was four years old. He is 12 years old and feels the love of the sport now more than ever. As we spoke, he was looking at different pictures. I instantly noticed one of little Michael and his dad standing with one of the most recognizable figures in the world, the great soccer star, Pele. If you know anything about sports, you know that Pele is the Babe Ruth of soccer. I asked Michael what he knew about Pele and he was able to tell me a great deal about this legends accomplishments. Michael told me that he had his instructional videos at home and has read some of Pele’s books.
I asked him if Pele was his hero. Michael thought for a moment then said,”No, my hero is my Dad.” I told him that I thought it was great that his dad was his hero and told him that I thought every kid should think that way about their parents. I told him that I was proud of him. When he walked away I decided to Google his dad and I was shocked at what I was reading.
Michael Windischmann was on the 1988 USA Olympic Soccer team and was captain of the 1990 USA team in the World Cup. Professionally Michael played in the major indoor soccer league and the American soccer league. In 1989 Michael Sr. was the US Soccer Athlete of the Year.
I’m only allowed about 750 words and need double that to talk about his great career. When I read in Wikipedia that Michael Windischmann was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame I can only say,”Wow.” To be in the same Hall of Fame as the great Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia etc. tells me that Michael has had a great career.
With all of his very hard work Michael’s dreams came true. I asked Michael Jr. if his dad’s heroics were the reason why his dad was his hero and very maturely he responded by saying,” My Dad is my hero because he is always there for me, he does for me, he tries to give me everything I need. He has always been my best teacher when it comes to sports, especially soccer.” Then added,”Most importantly my Dad is truly my best friend. I know I will always be a better athlete and a better person because of Dad.”
Ventura “Jenny” Perez Negron Was a 4’10” black, Puerto Rican woman who was very proud of her color and her culture. She was a very fearless person. As a mother, she was like a lion who would do anything to protect her cub. When her first husband, my biological father, beat her, kidnapped me, took me to Cuba and left me there, she stopped at nothing to raise the money to buy two airline tickets to go into Cuba at a very turbulent time to go and get her son back by herself.
When she brought me back to America she would always say that it would be you and me against the world. We would move from the Bronx to Brooklyn, New York where I would meet a grocery store worker. He took a strong liking to me. My Aunt Olga Perez would babysit me every day while my mom would go to work. She would take me to this bodega, where Cirilo Negron worked, to get her daily groceries. One day as I was sitting on the front stoop of our house with Aunt Olga, Cirilo walked by on his way home. He saw me and stopped and said “How would you like to come by my house and play catch.” At that moment my mom was standing right in back of him, just getting home from work. My aunt Olga had told Mom how kind Cirilo had been to me. All of a sudden my mom kiddingly startled and said to Cirillo, “Well if you take my son home you’re going to have to take the mom.” That was the start of a relationship that lasted for over 50 years.
In her youth, my mom was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her inner beauty could never be surpassed by anyone, with the possible exception of God. She once told me that when she married Cirilo she didn’t really love him but she could tell how much he cared about me. That was the motivating factor in her eventually falling in love with him.
My mother would go back to school to get her education and become a teacher for the Board of Education. She would be a leader in the parents and teachers Association and always voiced her opinion on all important causes. She helped Cirilo start a very nice grocery store business in the decade of the 60s. It was called “Ciros Food Center” She and Cirilo would have two daughters, Nancy and Naomi.
Nancy would be like Cirilo, very nice and very mellow. Naomi more like Jenny, strong-willed, always ready to explode. But Jenny was the total package. She was for me, the perfect mom. She knew how to give love like no other and she was also a very strict disciplinarian. She always gave me enough rope to hang myself, however when the rope reached the end, she would give me some of the best ass kickings ever. She was never afraid of anyone. I remember during the 1960s when the black power movement started to really take off, she was at a PTA meeting. Talk got very heated between the parents and the teachers. As my mom was speaking someone said to her, “You don’t know about these issues you are Puerto Rican.” My mom screamed out, “Do you see my skin, it’s blacker than yours.” At that moment I said, “Mom please don’t.” I was scared because it was only me and her. But mom being mom she went to the next level and said, “And how would you like my little foot up your ass.” I said “Oh my God!” However everybody started laughing hysterically. Here was my tiny mother challenging the whole PTA, not even realizing that in her own way she actually brought everyone together with her courage. Or maybe she did know.
My mom had five brothers that she was so proud of that it was ridiculous how much. But I have to admit so was I. My Uncle Chris was in the Army, My Uncle Joaquin was in the Navy and my Uncle Roman was a Marine. My Uncle Hector was a golden gloves boxer and Champion, and my Uncle Vincent was in the book printing business. Uncle Vincent wasn’t a soldier or athlete but he was famous for always picking up beautiful women.
My mom had me hang out with my uncles at different times. She wanted me to learn from all of them, both good and bad. My Uncle Hector developed a very bad drug problem and my mom would use this situation to knock it into my head how bad drugs were. As in adult, this would help me in dealing with Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. My mother was also a very good negotiator. She had Cirilo adopt me as his son. She told my biological father that he wouldn’t have to pay child support if he agreed to this.
My new father, Cirilo, was the happiest person I have ever seen that day in court. I was happy too because I knew what a great man Cirilo was. I also knew how much he loved my mom. The thing that I love most about my mom was how proud she was of me when I was a Yankee bat boy. Mom and Cirilo only came to one game, but that’s all they needed to see. They met George Steinbrenner only once. I think my mom really liked him because he reminded her of her own father who was a very tough church minister, a no-nonsense kind of guy. She knew that there was a special bond between Mr. Steinbrenner and me and she loved it because she felt that the Boss would always watch out for me.
By the time I wrote my first two books, my mother was showing strong signs of Alzheimer’s but she was still mentally strong enough to enjoy and feel proud of my accomplishments. All of my accomplishments in life I owe to her because she was my foundation, my strength, she taught me how to be a parent. When she was a teacher she had me come to her school and talk to the kids and tell them what it was like to be a Yankee bat boy.
I cannot ever repay my mom for what he she has given me. This essay doesn’t even scratch the surface. When I used to watch her interact with her own mother, it was more like they were sisters. I used to say that when I had kids I wanted to have that kind of relationship with them. I think I do.
Yesterday my Mom died. She battled Alzheimer’s for almost ten years. It is such a horrible disease because to see someone so strong become so childlike at the end–it’s just devastating. My poor sisters had the very tough duties of caring for my mom until the very end. My father Cirilo cared for her until he got very sick. Last month he was given his last rights but refused to die. Now this poor man has to live out his last days without his best friend Jenny. Maybe that was his master plan. Maybe he just didn’t want to leave her behind. More questions that I will ask when I get to the other side.
The bottom line is that Jenny Negron was the most incredible woman that I have ever known. My God what a heart she had.
I have always been a dreamer and all she ever wanted was for me to follow my dreams. My whole life has been a magical mystery tour of which could not have happened without the incredible hopes and dreams that my mother, my friend, my soul had for her son. For her daughters.
Arrangements for Ventura “Jenny” Perez Negron
Reposing at Krauss Funeral Home
1097 Hempstead Turnpike
Franklin Square, NY 11010
I was recently watching the MLB network, Bob Costas was interviewing Reggie Jackson. Costas asked Reggie if he regretted not being friends with Thurman Munson. Knowing Reggie the way I do, I could tell the question bothered him. I was curious about how he would respond. All of a sudden Reggie said, “There was a guy back then that’s still with the Yankees today. His name is Ray Negron and he set up a lunch, put me and Thurman together and we talked it out.”
I felt very proud of the fact that Reggie felt it was that important. Thurman was a very important person in my life as much as Reggie has been. Had Thurman lived, he would have been the godfather to my first son, Jon Erik. No slight on Reggie, it’s just that I knew Thurman longer.
It was a long and difficult summer, between Reggie and Billy going at it in the Fenway Park dugout, and Munson and Lou Piniella talking the Boss into letting Billy Martin keep his job. In the middle of all of this, the Son of Sam was going crazy killing so many young girls and we lost the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. But by September, we were slapping the Red Sox around like we owned them. Reggie and Thurman were getting along glowingly and the team just jelled. It was about being World Champions. It was a little scary when we got to the playoffs because it took all five games and Reggie wasn’t even starting game five but had a big hit as a pinch hitter.
Thank God for Sparky Lyle, because he would have pitched nine innings if Billy asked him to. He pitched 4 1/3. After that you know what happened. We beat the Dodgers in six games and Reggie would hit three home runs in game six.
The first home run was a vicious line drive off Bert Hooten into the right field seats. I would tell bat boy and my best friend, Hector Pagan that no one had better get in front of that ball because it would go through their chest. After Reggie rounded the bases, I told him to take a curtain call but he wouldn’t do it. After he hit the second one, again on the Fast pitch and another vicious line drive, I asked him to take a curtain call and again he declined, saying that the fans had not backed him when things had become rough for him this season. I said to him,” If you hit a third home run, you will take one then right?” He saw how insistent I was and said. ”You’re crazy but I’ll do it.” Well in the bottom of the eighth inning I had to go to the bathroom real badly and Reggie was leading off the inning but I just couldn’t wait. I figured that there was no way that he was going to hit the first pitch out. I thought that the Dodgers pitcher Charlie Hough would at least waste one pitch. I was wrong. As I was putting my zipper down, Reggie was hitting the first pitch out into the centerfield bleachers. By the time I finished peeing Reggie had rounded the bases, shook batboy Joe DiAmbrosio’s hand and stepped into the dugout and into bedlam. If you see the old footage you see me going to his ear, telling him that he promised a curtain call if he hit a third home run. He finally did it and it was great. The fans really went nuts. That was the real birth of the curtain call as we know it today.
After the celebration, Thurman Munson would give Reggie a new name, Mr.October. As Thurman was walking out the door he stopped, look at Reggie and said” You sure put on a great show Mr. October.” Reggie said, “Wow what a great name.” and Thurman said, “You can keep it.” Reggie said, “Thanks.” And they gave each other a big smile, the kind of smile only true friends give each other.
The next day we had a great parade. The Boss was so proud. New York belonged to him that day and he deserved it. Only George Steinbrenner, the PT Barnum of baseball, could have put a team like this together. Seeing Reggie and Billy Martin sitting down together with their arms around each other was one of my favorite Yankee moments. I guess because I knew it wouldn’t last. It was beautiful while it lasted and I actually have a picture of them, in that moment, hanging in my living room.
At the baseball writers dinner years later, Reggie told the capacity crowd he didn’t want to take the curtain call, but I made him do it. That was Mr. October’s way of patting me on the back and I always appreciated him for it. Billy, Thurman and, of course, the Boss always had my back that way too. I guess I was just a lucky kid who was able to get love and give love to four of the greatest guys ever associated with Major League Baseball.
If George Steinbrenner were alive, he would probably be advising Donald Trump on how to deal with Latinos in New York and America as a whole. I know for a fact how much Trump respected the Boss, as did most politicians and very powerful businessman. Trump would surely have the Latino vote because he would listen to Mr. Steinbrenner. Then they would celebrate at my favorite Latin restaurant in New York, a place called El Nuevo Caridad. I have been going there since it opened. The name “El Nuevo Caridad” is the name for the Cuban Saint known as the virgin of charity.
To this day, I don’t know how I met the owner of the restaurant, Miguel Montas, but feel like he has always been in my life. Whenever Latin players come to the Yankees and they want to eat Latin food, we would go to El Nuevo Caridad. Soon the restaurant was simply known as “Miguel’s” located on 191st Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue in the Washington Heights section of New York.
It became the post-game hang out for most Latin and a lot of American players that craved a good Latin meal. Miguel would become a big brother and a father figure to a lot of the players, both Yankee and Mets, as well as players from out of town teams. When Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were going through their low points, I was able to hang out there with them and Miguel always had a wonderful, common way of talking to them. When Roberto Alomar was going through his tough times I introduced him to Miguel and to this day, El Caridad is Roberto’s first stop in New York. What’s really funny is that when I first drove Robbie there, he wouldn’t come out of the car. He thought he was going to be bothered by the people and he wasn’t sure if the neighborhood was safe. Robbie was wrong on all accounts. He found out that the food was incredible and when he sat in the restaurant, he saw that everyone was treated like a king, whether you were a Hall of Famer or a plumber.
I remember having a meeting with the Boss at his hotel. At the time, I believe it was the Carlyle Hotel. I remember the Boss and the great piano player Bobby Short sitting together. They were very good friends. When Short asked me if I was Puerto Rican I said yes and Cuban. Mr. Short asked me how long had I worked for the Boss, Mr. Steinbrenner screamed out,” Too long.” and we laughed. I told Mr. Short that I had been trying to talk the Boss into going to a Spanish restaurant for a while and Mr. Short said,” Come on George, you’ve got to go.”
As we were driving up to the stadium, I’ve been telling the Boss about Miguel and how great he had been to our players. The Boss knew the pulse of the city. He knew that a lot of important people were always telling him bad places where his players shouldn’t go and Miguel’s place wasn’t one of them. At that moment Mr. Steinbrenner decided to pay a visit. The Boss could be that way.
Always expect the unexpected.
When we walked in, Miguel lost his cool. He started to scream that the Great One was there Miguel was literally shaking. To Miguel, George Steinbrenner was bigger than life. For Miquel there could never be a more important person to step into his restaurant. He had the Boss sit at a corner table and he sat with him the whole time that we were there. Miquel had all sorts of food brought to the table, even though the Boss kept saying that he wasn’t hungry, he sure did eat a lot.
This meeting reminded me of when Joe Scognamillo, the owner Patty’s Italian restaurant, would stay right at Frank Sinatra’s side as the chairman of the board ate his meal. Just like Joe, only Miguel would touch the Boss’ food. Steinbrenner and Miguel talked very intensely. The Boss asked Miguel to please watch over his players and Miguel promised that he always would. The Boss told Miguel that even though he was known as a very tough and difficult man he really loved his players and his team.
By the time the meeting with Miquel was over the restaurant was packed with neighborhood friends. However, they never bothered the Boss once they just stared and smiled. These people would never disrespect Miquel by bothering the Boss. The Boss tried to pay but Miguel wouldn’t have it. I explained to the Boss that the rest of his life Miquel can say that he cooked a meal for the Boss “El Chefe.” The Boss told Miguel, that if there is anything he could ever do for him, to let Ray know. Miguel whispered something in my ear, the Boss asked what he said to me. “Mr. Steinbrenner, Miguel wants to know if he could take a picture with you.” The Boss laughed and said,”let’s do it.”
Mr. Steinbrenner had Miguel visit him on several occasions at his office. I used to laugh inside because it was like watching the Godfather, everyone would go to pay their respects. After meeting with Miguel, the Boss took time to meet many of the Latin people from the community and would always take pictures with them because he knew that was important to them. Miguel would later tell me that meeting with Steinbrenner was one of the most important days of his life. He said that his sons were so proud of their father that it brought tears to his eyes. “Mr. Steinbrenner made me feel like I was an individual that mattered in the society.”
Miguel says that the day Mr. Steinbrenner died he cried all day and did not come to work. “I will always cherish the memory of my friend George Steinbrenner,” he said. “Brian Cashman has come to my restaurant on occasion and it makes the neighborhood people happy to know that like the Boss Brian Cashman has a soft place in his heart for us.
“We even had Alex Rodriguez buy hot lunches for neighborhood kids and Alex acted like he was the chef.”
Thanks to Mr. Steinbrenner and the Yankees, Miguel says, “I have a lot to be grateful for.”
The Yankees also are very lucky to have a friend like Miguel.
Andrew and Heather are a very sweet couple that met online. A phone relationship started which led to a dating situation which led to love. Love led to Yankee Stadium. Heather is the Yankee fan of the couple and future family.
Within a year of meeting, Andrew felt that the stadium was the perfect place to spring the question. He made arrangements to be able to get engaged in Yankee Stadium. Cameras were all set. The scoreboard asked the magic question “Would you marry me?” As Andrew opened the little box with the engagement ring in it, the ring shot out of the box. To Andrew and Heather’s shock, it disappeared into the crowd or so they thought.
All of this was captured on the scoreboard, radio, and television.
As Brett Gardner came to bat, he literally stepped out of the batter’s box. I’m sure he was distracted. Knowing Gardner I would call it concerned.
As fate would have it, something shiny came from Heather’s cuff of her pants and as Gomer Pyle from the old TV series would say surprise, surprise, surprise. The engagement ring was right there all along. A good catch by Heather without even realizing it.
All of a sudden as Heather held up the ring the whole stadium started to cheer. You could even see a smile on Gardner’s face. The whole time it was wonderful to see the concern on the faces of all the Yankee fans.
The fans in that section, where Heather and Andrew were sitting, did everything they could to help find the ring. As Mr. Steinbrenner would always say, the greatest fans in the world are Yankee fans. That that night they proved it.
I was the first person to interview them for my radio show. A nice story, not your usual cheasie story that you find in page 3 in most papers. I also found Heather and Andrew to be two very nice and decent people.
I told them that I was going to air the interview on my radio show called Impact which airs every Wednesday at 6 PM and on WPAT930AM.com or WPAT 930 on the AM dial. My producers were very excited about the interview because the story was really going viral. They were all set to play it very big. Just before the show a funny thing happened,
Andrew called me and he told me that Ellen DeGeneres wanted to fly them to LA to do her show and give many gifts, as a wedding present. However, it would only happen if Ellen has the exclusive. Andrew explain this to me and I could hear the panic in his voice. I told him that I would hold off until after the Ellen show. I told my producers of my agreement with Andrew. They told me, no let’s play it on right now. I told them that I gave him my word and won’t be a part of some sleazy nonsense.
Last night, I had Andrew and Heather on the show and we talked about the wonderful excitement that these two kids are going through. I must add that while watching the Ellen show, I was so happy to see that the Yankees sent some very nice gifts for them and they are going to bring Andrew and Heather to the stadium next season as their guests. As usual very classy.
It’s not fair for anyone to compare Jeurys Familia to Mariano Rivera.
Rivera was a baseball god and a baseball immortal. He was something that we will never see again.
Another closer that never got his due was Sparky Lyle. He was the first great closer in the Steinbrenner Championship Era. A bull dog, who more than anyone that ever closed a baseball game was never afraid of anything or anyone.
In the 1977 playoff game against the Kansas City Royals, he was willing to pitch 4.2 innings to get the Yankees to the World Series that led us to a World Championship versus the Dodgers.
That, ladies and gentlemen, will never happen again.
By the way, Lyle won the Cy Young award that year. Not even the great Mariano Rivera did that.
What I am saying is Familia is one of the finest relief pitchers in all of baseball. He saved over 50 games and that tells me for a Major League relief pitcher, he more than did his job. He was more than dependable and always ready, willing, and able to take the ball.
Mr. Familia also happens to be one of the finest individuals in all of baseball. I have gotten to know him this year and found him to be a true gentleman. Baseball is very lucky to have him.
When he gave up that home run vs. the Giants to lose the National League Wild Card game, my heart fell to my stomach. However, let’s remember this is Major League Baseball. Rich Gossage, who happens to be in the Hall of Fame, gave up home runs in big playoff games also. That’s why they call it the Major Leagues: the very best of the very best.
Congratulations Mr. Familia on a very fine season.
Just because I said you will never be Mo or Sparky doesn’t mean you can’t become Familia.
George Steinbrenner use to tell me to help the kids and ask questions later. That’s the motto that I lived by since I was a 17 year old kid. (I am 60 now) The day he grabbed me from the streets and made me a batboy he only wanted one thing. He asked me, how much do you love your job? I said so much that I would pay you. He said the only way you can pay me is by always helping the less privileged. Never be afraid to help others no matter how big or small.
One time, I was trying to get his attention so that I could take some baseballs to a hospital and the security force said I better get the OK from him. However, he was having a very tense day to say the least. Later that day, he asked me what I needed. When I told him it was about getting some autographed baseballs to take to the hospital, he got upset. He told me to take care of the kids and asked the questions later. I told him that I didn’t want to get in trouble. He said, you used to get in way worse trouble than this. If a kid is going to be better off because of it, isn’t it worth the butt kicking! As long as the butt kicking is coming from me you will always be OK. Understand that when you help a kid in need, that small kid may come up to you in the future and say do you remember me? Hopefully you will see a mature man that you possibly helped at some point in his life.
Mr. Steinbrenner’s all-time favorite film was The Pride of the Yankees. There is a scene where Lou Gehrig visits a sick boy at the hospital. The little boy asks Gehrig to hit him two home runs. Lou says I will hit you two home runs if you hit one for me. That home run was for the little boy to try his best to get better. Years later as Lou Gehrig was walking into Yankee Stadium for Lou Gehrig day on July 4, 1939. A teenage boy came up to Lou and asked him do you remember me? You once hit two home runs for me in a World Series game. The teenager said and I hit that home run for you, you see I can walk. In 1974, while spending an afternoon with Mrs. Gehrig she verified this story to me and much more.
Babe Ruth, was universally known for many of these kind gestures as were many other Major League players. Whenever I speak at schools, I always say that when Major Leaguers especially Yankees put on that uniform they become supermen. I always get a big roar from the crowd. I remember going to a hospital with Reggie Jackson when he was the King of New York Baseball. This little boy had been burnt on over 70% of his body. The Boss has asked Reggie if he would visit this poor little boy and bring him some Yankee Magic. The Boss knew that Mr. October would give the kid the will to live. I was never more proud of Reggie Jackson. It would be the second time I would see him cry (when Thurman Munson died was the first.)
Today’s Yankees have Delin Betances and CC Sabathia doing so much for kids that you can’t help but feel proud because it really comes from the heart. In New York, Mark Teixeira has helped Harlem RBI and has helped other organizations throughout his career, a true gentlemen that I have known since his days in the minor leagues.
This weekend, I received an urgent call from sports writer Rich Mancuso, He told me of a 14 year old boy who was playing in a baseball tournament in Puerto Rico. He said that the boy’s name was Brandon Ortiz. In the middle of the game his father had a heart attack and unfortunately died. Rich Mancuso felt that since Brandon loved the Yankees that maybe a visit to the Stadium and words of encouragement would possibly just bring a smile to Brandon’s face. I am a true believer in God and I let the forces takeover. Remembering that with the Boss no longer here, I don’t have the pull that I used to. At the same time I always think of what the Boss would want me to do. So I went to the stadium manager Sonny Height and team president Randy Levine and they gave me carte blanche to help this young man in any way that I could. The youngster, Brandon Ortiz, and his brother Jonathan met me in the lobby. As we were standing there talking the video screen shared Bucky Dent hitting the famous home run at Fenway Park. Guess what happened next, Bucky Dent walked through the door. If you know Bucky, than you know that he is one of the truly great all time people ever to put on a Yankee uniform or any uniform for that matter. Bucky who just recently lost the love of his life (his wife) was the perfect person to share time with Brandon. Bucky said all the right things, talked about the Boss and insisted that we take a picture with the statue of the Boss. We than took a walk on the field and saw batting practice, had lunch, and got to watch the game with some of the player’s families. What a nice day. We got to put a smile on a Bronx boy, who just did not want to smile anymore.
I am completing my 44th season in Baseball and can honestly say that the Yankees have the best community relations department in sports. I don’t say this because I love the Yankees so much. I say it because I have seen all the others in sports and no one can touch the incredible work of Brian Smith and Rocky Bulsy who run this great department.
Also the great work of Jason Zillo during Hope Week. There has to be a God because he gave us Joe Girardi, who is the most giving person of any manager during the Steinbrenner’s Yankee’s era. Billy Martin was definitely terrific also because like Joe G, Billy did everything from the heart, when it came to helping people. I learned so much from him and like the Boss, Thurman and of course Bobby Murcer, who was truly a fine wine, they all knew how to perform Yankee Magic!
When my publisher asked me to write something about the announcement that George Steinbrenner was on the Today’s Game Era Ballot to be considered for election to Cooperstown in December, I wasn’t comfortable about it. To me, it’s a “no brainier.” George Steinbrenner revolutionized the game of baseball. I say this until I’m blue in the face.
I have read what all the other writers say, positives and negatives, however, the good far outweighs the bad. Seventy percent of people that work at stadiums today should forever be grateful to the Boss because before he came into the picture in 1973, these jobs didn’t even exist. Over a dozen jobs alone created, working directly with the team, including a second trainer, that position going to Herman Schneider, who today is the head trainer for the Chicago White Sox.
The Boss felt that one trainer per team just wasn’t good enough for the Yankees and two would make us stronger. It’s no coincidence that the injuries were down and we were World Champions in 1977 and 1978. The Boss would also add a bullpen catcher to the team- today every team has one or two. The position went to former Oakland A’s farmhand Dom Scala. Dom was so good at what he did that the Boss would say that Scala was more like a coach that just a bullpen catcher. Dom would be known on the team as “Disco Dom.” It was the disco era and when we went out to the discos while on the road, all the players would love to see Dom dance. It was like a scene out of Saturday Night Fever. One time when we were in Chicago at the disco, the Boss showed up because he knew that was where the players would be after the game. He sat at a table with myself, Piniella, Munson and Rivers and he said,”When is that discotheque Dom guy going to dance?” We all laughed like crazy and then Dom proceeded to put on a show. The Boss thought it was great for the morale of the team. Dom would later become a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and today is great college coach at a Adelphi University.
The Boss created many positions around the game of baseball and a lot of opportunities for students coming out of college who loved the game of baseball so much that they were willing to work for free.
When I started with the Yankees in 1973, you could count the number people who worked for them on one hand. Now you can fill a phone book, three buildings and two cities, Tampa and New York. You also need a human resources person to explain all the positions in the organization.
I remember when the Boss started all this in the 70s and all the other teams would walk around the stadium in amazement at what the Yankees were doing for their players. They were shocked at the fact that we had a gym in the ballpark and let me add, our own masseuse. Players also loved the fact that we had a video machine in the clubhouse. Today, all of this is standard practice.
This is my 44th season in baseball, and today I walk around Yankee Stadium amazed at the fact that one man’s vision could really do all of this. Could he be crazy? Yes, but he was also a lot of fun. Was he intimidating? No question, but he was also the best friend that anyone could have in this game. He could “kick your butt” one minute, and make you feel like a million bucks the next. If you didn’t know him like I did, I feel sorry for you because you missed out on one of the great pioneers of baseball- who really was a good guy.
George Steinbrenner was honored by the Ted Williams Hall of Fame in 2008 but wasn’t well enough to attend, so his daughter Jennifer accepted for him. Ted Williams was a very big fan of George Steinbrenner because he understood what the Boss meant to the game of baseball and to the average person in general. They enjoyed each others company and the last time they were together, Ted actually told him that someday the Boss would be in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The Boss’s reply was,”I doubt it.” Ted Williams said, “I think I know baseball more than you do George and I know what I’m talking about.”
Well Mr. Williams, my money is with you and I’m banking on baseball’s greatest owner getting into Cooperstown someday.
Simeon Lipman, curator at Christie’s actually let me swing a bat that once belonged to Babe Ruth and then let me swing one that Mickey Mantle used in the 1962 baseball season. The bats are so heavy that it makes me feel like these incredible players were fictional characters. When I was there at Christie’s, I could almost see the spirit of the Babe not wanting to let his bat go. Willie Randolph, the great Yankee and a longtime fan of Negro League Baseball, was very excited when I told him about the rare collection of artifacts that I saw at Christie’s.
Christie’s is honored to present one of the most important and comprehensive collections of baseball memorabilia and photography ever offered at auction with The Golden Age of Baseball, Selections from the National Pastime Museum, a two-day auction on October 19-20 in New York. Items will also be on display in other locations for the public, and are available for media to encounter first hand.
The sale is the largest collection of baseball ephemera to appear at an international auction house in more than 15 years. Comprised of a remarkable assemblage of game-used bats, letters, contracts, memorabilia and a treasury of vintage baseball photography, Part I of the sale is devoted to memorabilia and Part II is devoted to photography. With 485 lots in total, estimates start at $300-500 for photographs and memorabilia, while the top lot of the auction is a “Shoeless” Joe Jackson Professional Model Bat, estimated at $500,000-700,000. The contents of the auction are from the National Pastime Museum, which is an online museum based on a private collection of baseball artifacts.
From baseball’s earliest days through its golden era, the game’s most iconic players are represented in this collection. Of particular interest are the remarkably rare items pertaining to The Negro Leagues and the legendary ballplayers who played in them,” remarked Lipman.
The auction represents the legends of baseball, spanning more than 130 years from the inception of the game through modern day, with items owned and used by icons such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jimmy Foxx, as well as a bat used by Derek Jeter. Letters and contracts from Ty Cobb, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and Cy Young, in addition to notable pieces relating to Jackie Robinson, Mike “King” Kelly, Roberto Clemente and Christy Mathewson are also available. The collection is notable for some of the greatest artifacts extant relating to the Negro Leagues and its most celebrated stars such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Oscar Charleston.
Another feature of the collection is the significant amount of items and photographs detailing the history of Cuban baseball, including Cuban Cigarrillos cards and items signed by Martin DiHigo. Other rare highlights of the auction include the ball that ended the 1909 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers (estimate: $10,000-$15,000), and an 1898 contract from the pioneering woman in baseball, Lizzie Stride (Arlington) (estimate: $10,000-15,000). Laura Paulson, Chairman, Christie’s Americas, comments, “The collection, one of the most comprehensive and distinguished of its kind, includes extraordinary offerings that chronicle the profound social and cultural significance of America’s National Pastime. This is a rare opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts to experience and own rare and historical memorabilia, artifacts, and photographs which tell the story of a game that continues to create passion and excitement season after season. We are honored to be presenting this collection to the public and look forward to sharing its treasures in the next months as it tours the United States and in our exhibition galleries in Rockefeller Center in October.”
If you were to ask me who knows the most about the Yankees and baseball in general I would tell you that it’s a person sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. It’s not a bleacher creature. He listens to the game on his transistor radio. He happens to be blind but sees more of the game then most of us. His love of the Yankees has always inspired me to never give up on our team. He is a nine time Grammy winner for his beautiful work in music.
In 1968, he was the first Latino to perform the National Anthem at the World Series. His love of baseball was such that he sung it with so much soul and I guess many in this country were just not ready. If you see the video of the performance today you see how beautiful it was. He truly is one of America’s jewels. He is Jose Feliciano.
I was at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Yankees playing the Orioles — a 4 o’clock start. The day before I received a text from Jose Feliciano making sure that I was going to be attending his concert in Patchogue, Long Island.
Baseball games generally run for three hours and the concert was at eight. When I got to the theater his assistant said that Jose was waiting and would not start the show until I had gotten there. Thank God I was only five minutes late! The show started with a five minute film presentation about his career. As I was watching the incredible footage, I was so proud of the fact that this musical genius is actually a true friend of mine.
As I saw him perform with some of the most incredible showmen of all times, my eyes welled up with tears and when I saw him sharing a true moment with another one of my heroes, Frank Sinatra, the tears were rolling down my face and I just didn’t care. He started the show by performing the theme from Chico and the Man. It brought back memories of a great comedian Freddie Prinze. Then he sang Listen to the Falling Rain with such strength and conviction.
Nobody, not even Jim Morrison and the Doors, can do Light My Fire like the great Jose Feliciano. Hit after hit, after hit. Ladies and gentlemen, I must add that Jose is still one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He goes right on the list with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana and I dare you to put them in order. Jose spoke about his pride in being a Puerto Rican, he spoke about his pride in being a Latino and more importantly he spoke about his pride in being an American. He then broke into a brand-new, incredible song titled, Believe Me When I Tell You, that he wrote for his wife, Susan, and if you know his wife, you would know that he meant every word of that song. His wife is one of my best friends, who has always helped me with my charity throughout the years. Jose is one of the most giving people that you could possibly meet.
He told the audience of about 1,200 that they could all hang out with him after the show and take pictures. Well, after the show the line went around the theater as Jose took pictures with everyone.
When Jose got back to the dressing room he told me that, he liked my article on Newsmax.com and New York Sports Day, that was titled, How do you Mend a Broken Heart. He told me that he was supposed to sing the song in the show and then proceeded to sing it right there in the dressing room and I even sang the closing part of the song with the great Jose Feliciano, one of my all-time idols and friends. I’ve always said that when you meet your heroes and idols, most of the time they break your heart, with Jose, he has only made my heart bigger.