Negron: Greenburg Telling Some “EPIX” Hockey Stories…

Recently, Ross Greenburg was on my radio show, ESPN 1050 “Impact.” From the standpoint of where he has been and where he is going, it was one of the best shows that we have ever had.

There are few political shows today that can seamlessly mix stories about Ground Zero with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and make everyone watching feel good, but that is what good storytellers do. However we are not talking about “60 Minutes,” we are talking about a show about hockey, which aired its second episode on EPIX last Friday night.

It is called the “Road To The NHL Outdoor Classics, ” and it tells the stories of four teams, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, as they head towards the NHL’s two outdoor games this year, the Centennial Classic in Toronto on New Year’s Day and the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in St. Louis om January 2. The magic is weaved by no other than Ross Greenburg, who in a storied career as a sports TV executive and producer has won an amazing 54 EMMY Awards, and nay be on his way to number 55 with this series.

“The stories come from the athletes, and it’s our job to tell these great stories to a wider audience, with the help from the teams and the NHL,” Greenburg, the former head of HBO Sports, said recently in a conversation. “The opportunity is out there to have these great stories come to life for the fans who crave them, you just need the opportunity to do it.” That opportunity was created by the NHL with EPIX, the premium entertainment network, for each of the last three years, and the results get better and better.

This week fans got to see New Jersey native Trevor van Riemsdyk, a rising Blackhawks star, take time out of a busy week in New York during a road trip for an emotional visit Ground Zero with his family, while the Toronto Maple Leafs go back to spend time with the Yousef family, Ethiopian immigrants whose house the team helped build. We also got a first look at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel visiting the new Blackhawks training facility and talking about the impact it will have on the community, along with scores of up close thoughts and visits with players and personalities big and small. It is compelling content which goes well beyond the normal fandom.

“This type of in-depth content is really what fans want these days, and I think this will be transformative for where television will be going into the future,” Greenburg, who launched popular series like “Hard Knocks” and “24/7” while at HBO, added. “Just watching games is no longer enough. Fans want to know about the drama and the personalities, and that’s what we do with these series.”

For a league like the NHL, the access leading up to their annual outdoor games is critical, and Greenburg is the perfect storyteller to make sure that the stage is set. And for an audience today that wants to consume content anywhere, EPIX, who delivers the show every Friday night via traditional broadcast and on a host of digital platforms including mobile, is a great partner. “They don’t limit the length of the show as you would have with a broadcast network, and the result is great, unvarnished storytelling,” Greenburg added.

Does this work for any sport? “It can with the right timing and access, but the NHL has really grasped and embraced the value.” The Westchester, NY resident and Brown University graduate added. “The players and teams really make it work.”

For fans of hockey, or just great stories, “The Road To The Outdoor Classics” is must see TV made even better by the mad who created the sports reality genre. Maybe they can make it work with baseball as well

Negron: A Reason For Everything – The Brandon Boyd Story

Today, I received a Christmas card from Brandon Boyd. Who is Brandon Boyd? Today he is the equipment manager of the Texas Rangers Baseball team. Even if he was my own son, I could not be prouder of him.

I met Brandon when he was 14 years old. He was a kid with a dream and loved baseball almost as much as I love baseball. At a young age he got to be the spring training batboy for the Cleveland Indians. When I went to work for the Indians for a few years I took Brandon with me. He worked in the clubhouse, learned Spanish, and was very helpful with the predominantly Latin team.

He was loved by the star players like Bartolo Colon, Manny Ramirez, and the Alomar brothers, Robby and Sandy. And let’s not forget Omar Vizquel. However he got to see the ugly side at the same time. He saw the jealousy part of the game from his peers.

I guess you can say he saw the good, the bad, and the ugly.

No matter how good he was at helping the players it just wasn’t appreciated by the people that he worked with. I told him to hang in there, in baseball everyone goes through this. Brandon would not let me talk to the manager or general manager because he was mature enough to realize that it could come back and slap him in the face. He was the hardest working person in the clubhouse, would never complain and only made life in the clubhouse better for those players.

At one point it was so tough for Brandon that he realized that it was not in his best interest to work there anymore. I told again to hang tough because I would be going back to the Yankees shortly and I would take him with me. I think this made the blow easier.

After that season, Jon Hart became the G.M. of the Texas Rangers and asked me to go there to work with the psychology department. When I got to spring training fate had it that the equipment manager was a guy I knew from the Yankees named Chris Guth. Naturally,  the first thing I asked him was if he needed help in the clubhouse.   He was looking for a guy for the A-Ball team and for the next three weeks I literally begged Chris to hire Brandon. When he finally did I think I was happier than Brandon.

To this day, the people at Texas say that my best contribution to the Texas Rangers Organization was my introduction of Brandon to them. In fourteen years, Brandon has grown through the ranks to the point where he is now the top man in the clubhouse. The thing that also makes me proud is that met a beautiful young lady named Giselle and together they have three incredible kids: Austin, Savana, and Holland. Patience paid off for Brandon being a good person. He never felt sorry for himself and two World Series later Brandon Boyd and his family are living the American Dream.

Thank You and Merry Christmas to the NY Yankees

Going into my 45th season in baseball I need to thank the New York Yankees for all the support through the years.  The Yankees have been this Puerto Rican and Cuban boy second family.  When things were tough at home I always had the option of staying at my second home Yankee Stadium.

I would either sleep in the  trainers room in the clubhouse or on the outfield during a nice night. I remember sometimes having these sleepovers with the Cucuzza boys.  Today Rob and Lou Cucuzza are the equipment managers at Yankee Stadium.

Mr. Steinbrenner first suggested that I stay at the stadium so that I wouldn’t  be on the subways late at night, traveling all the way back to Queens.  The Boss was very good to all the bat boys. In those days he was closer to us because there were less of us.

Today there are dozens of kids working the clubhouse.  I consider this a good thing because who wouldn’t want to work for the Yankees. When I go to speak to different schools around the city the first question is how can they they get a job at Yankee Stadium?

Today it’s great to see that young people both male and female still have such an interest in the New York Yankees. It’s beautiful to see how the organization gets so involved in the community the way they do.

Understand that I take this very personal because some of these food drives at the stadium have actually fed some of my family members that I have living in the Bronx. When Mr. Steinbrenner passed away in 2010, I was afraid that the organization would slack off in their efforts with community relations.

However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything it’s more than increased. The incredible food and toy drives conducted at Yankee Stadium would really make The Boss very proud. No one except his family and very close friends will ever understand how important this was to him or how important Christmas was to him.

Today I celebrate the first Christmas without my beloved parents. It’s a very difficult time for me and my family. I need to thank Hank and Hal, Jenny and Jessica Steinbrenner, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman and Lon Trost for their continuous support.

Debbie Tyman and Debbie Nicolosi, what you guys do behind the scenes with your crew is incredible. Brian Smith and Rocky Balsey who heads the community relations program, you guys are tireless in all your efforts in the Bronx.

I am very lucky to be associated with such a fabled organization. I need to thank the Yankees for the beautiful flowers that you sent both my Mom and Dad when they passed away last month. They loved The Boss and they loved the Yankees for giving their son direction in life.

You didn’t know my parents but they were very grateful. In their honor I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a great 2017 season.

Negron: Just Like Dr. King, Ron Naclerio Had A Dream

Today, I went to my first basketball game as a reporter. The reason why I volunteered to go to this game was because Benjamin Cardozo High School was playing Springfield Gardens, my alma-mater.

It meant that Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio was going after his 755th win which would have put him one ahead of Ed Petrie of East Hampton High School. That would make Naclerio New York State’s all-time winningest coach.

Even though I love my history at Springfield Gardens, I had to root for Coach Naclerio. I have known him since our days as high school baseball players. He was a great center fielder, who flat out flew. If there was a race between Brett Gardner of the Yankees and Ronnie, I would have bet on Naclerio.

I was a damn good player and drafted in the second round by the Pirates. Maybe, I would have been drafted higher if Naclario didn’t rob me of so many hits. Ron was also a great guard at Cardozo, averaging 18 points per game. This guy was just a great athlete. Ron was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, played three seasons and was invited to Major League Camp in 1981. A terrible tear of his ligaments in his ankle, finally ended his dream of playing in the Major Leagues. It was the third time he would suffer the same injury to the same ankle.

As a high school coach, the numbers speak for themselves. However it is his personalized make-up, intensity and his love of players that made him the greatest of all time. On the court, nobody but nobody works the floor like Naclerio. He is up and down, back and forth walking, running, waving, screaming cheering and I’m sure almost fainting because he is probably more exhausted than his players.

The game itself was very entertaining to say the least. Cardozo led all throughout until three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. At that point Springfield took the lead on the heroics of super guard Hogual Augustine, probably the best player on the floor and one of the most recruited kids by Division 1 schools.

However, it was a three-point bomb by guard D. Utley that would lock up the game for Cardozo. Utley scored 31 points, which made Naclerio the king of high school basketball and a true New York legend.

Another legend in the Naclerio family was Dr. Emil Naclerio, who was the man who would operate on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and saved his life after Dr. King was stabbed in a murder attempt.

Several years ago, before a game, Martin Luther King III – the son of the great Noble Peace Prize winner and one of this country’s greatest heroes – walked on the court to honor Ronnie and his accomplishments. This was truly a classy act by one great son to another.

In my life, I have been so blessed to know so many incredible people, who always had a dream and have never given up on those dreams. Ron Naclerio is one of them.


Negron: “Henry and Me“ Is Baseball’s Greatest Animation for Christmas, Hanukkah, Etc.

A small act of kindness has a ripple effect that can change the world.  Ten years ago I was walking the streets of New York with a book idea.  I shared it with the animated film producer, Joe Avallone from Reveal Animated Studios. When I told him the storyline he said, if you ever get the book published that he would make it into  a film.

Within six months Judith Regan, from Harper Collins and her Vice President Tom Hopke gave me a book deal for “The Boy Of Steel.”

The book would become a New York Times best seller.  Joe Avallone would keep his word and produced “Henry and And Me” based on the “Boy Of Steel.”  I would go for permission to do the project with George Steinbrenner. When he agreed, I asked if he would do the voice over himself. But at the time his health was starting to fail, so he suggested that I ask his oldest son Hank.

The Boss said that Hank’s voice sounded the most like his compared to his other son Hal.   When I asked Hank, he agreed to do it especially when he found out that I had made the film a charity project with funds being directed to different causes.

These charities included Pediatric Cancer Research, Education, The Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, etc.  I would call on my friends in the world of entertainment. They all agreed to perform in the film. To have Richard Gere one of Hollywood’s all-time movie stars lend his voice and star in the project was a great thrill for me, even though Gere has been a friend over thirty years.

I respect his talent and understand that he commands millions for every film that he makes. Richard said he wanted to do it because a film like this can be helpful to these great causes.  I must add that Richard Gere had always helped me in so many of my charity events.  He never says no because that’s the great person he is.

Another wonderful person, Danny Aiello, the Oscar nominated actor for the film“Do the Right Thing” and so many other great movies was  so courageous  because he plays the doctor who finds out that the little boy has cancer and has to tell the parents.  Danny did his part after he lost his own son Danny Jr. to cancer.

As Danny was delivering his lines, I had to leave the studio because I started to cry knowing that he had lost a son to cancer,

Another terrific actor in this incredible ensemble is the great  Chazz Palminteri.  He just knocked it out of the park.  Everyone talks about how great he was in “The Bronx Tale.”  Maybe I am prejudiced because this was my project, but Chazz is definitely better in “Henry and Me.”  When you watch this film you will understand why I say this.

Luis Guzman, my Puerto Rican Brother almost steals the film in playing the great Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez.  He is absolutely incredible and now I understand why Guzman is one of Hollywood’s busiest actors. Luci Arnaz and my very dear friend of “Knots Landing Fame” Joey Gian plays the parents and even though they never were on the set at the same time you would think they never left each other’s side.

To have Luci Arnaz on the set  was like having Hollywood royalty there. To me that is what the Arnaz name represents and her accomplishments in film and on Broadway speak for themselves.

Cyndi Lauper is Cyndi Lauper, great. .She even sings a song, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and she makes it her own. The girl just wanted to have fun. Paul Simon doesn’t sing a song but he sure does sound like Thurman Munson.  My pal Aris was supposed to play Mickey Mantle and actually sounded like him, but blood is thicker than water so we brought in David Mantle, Mickey;s son and he made Papa proud.

Then you have some of the Yankees of today like CC Sabathia and Joe Girardi. They do a very fine job but doubt they will ever win an Academy Award… LOL.

I have always said that the best job I ever had in baseball was being the Yankee Batboy, so naturally I do a line in the film. I thought it might excite you guys. All in all, a wonderful film that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles should buy for all kids or even for ourselves.

Richard and Hank loved working with the director Barrett Esposito, a true professional and we were so lucky to have had the Emmy Award winning editor Joe Castellano.   Man, he performed magic with this film.

“Henry And Me” would be the last time that Yogi Berra would ever work.  Yogi is so funny in this film that you forget that it is an animation.  On the set he is so hilarious that Reggie Jackson and Willie Randolph just could not stop laughing.

Even general manager Brian Cashman has a cameo in this film.

Finally, the PA announcer, known as the voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard insisted that he do his own voice even though he was very sick at the time and knowing that he would die shortly.  Ironically he and our beloved Boss George Steinbrenner would die within days of each other.

Every true baseball fan should own a copy of this film.

This should be in your film library next to “The Pride of the Yankees: and “The Natural.” This Christmas let’s make 2016 a “Henry and Me” Christmas. When the film ends watch the special segment on George Steinbrenner as the spirits of Ruth and Gehrig come to get him. Also listen to the closing credit song written and sang by nine-time Grammy winner and all-time good guy Jose Feliciano. It is called “Keep the Faith.”

I wish everyone a Feliz Navidad.  Purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and wherever films are sold.

Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes from 11 am to 1 pm and also can be read on Newsmax.

Negron: Luis Tiant Is Baseball’s Most Important Cuban

Every year you hear about this player or that player going into the Hall of Fame or who should be enshrined in the Hall.  Well, if I have my say that guy would be Luis Tiant. He came into prominence with the Boston Red Sox and is remembered for his heroic performance in the 1975 season and World Series that year against the Cincinnati Reds.

Tiant was so important to the Red Sox, and for baseball in general,  that even the late Cuban President Fidel Castro, a true baseball lover, let the parents of Tiant come to America to be with his son.  When I was a batboy for the New York Yankees, I remember being in the visitors clubhouse and hearing Carlton Fisk tell Bernie Carbo, that Tiant by far was his favorite teammate ever.

I thought that was the coolest thing in the world because Fisk was not one of the best liked players in baseball especially with that crew in the Bronx.   In 1979, Tiant signed as a free agent with the Yankees and quickly became one of George Steinbrenner’s favorite players. His laughter filled the clubhouse so much that even when Tiant told a bad joke everyone would laugh because his  robust laughter was funnier than the joke.

Just like any big business, baseball does deal with a lot of jealousy, dislike, and negativity.  However, Tiant was a person, I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about. Tiant is a straight shooter who will tell you to “Kiss his Big Black Ass” if he thinks you are wrong or disrespect the game of baseball.

Tiant was very proud of being a Yankee, so I can only imagine his pride in being with the Red Sox. I believe this is why Carlton Fisk had such strong feelings about Tiant, as he would constantly make  mention of him during his Hall of Fame induction speech up in Cooperstown.

I also believe how Thurman Munson felt about Tiant, that  was the only thing that Carlton Fisk and Munson ever had in common.  As we all know, Munson was not a fan of Fisk.  Munson had such a strong feeling about Tiant  that it was his urging as to why George Steinbrenner signed him.

I remember when the Yankees lost to Kansas City in the 1980 playoffs. The Boss came into the clubhouse and went into the players lounge. In the corner by the soda machine was Rich Gossage and Tiant.  The Boss went over to “Goose” and  put his arm around him, told him not to cry and that we would be back next year and get to the World Series.

He then grabbed Tiant by the shoulders and said, “Had we won today, I would bet Yankee Stadium that you would definitely win tomorrow.”  And then he said, “You are the one guy that I would have wanted in that big game.”

Tiant was so grateful that he gave the Boss a big hug.  As we all are aware, the Boss could be the toughest S.O.B. but he could also be soft, especially when it came to kids or his players.

I’m not getting into lifetime statistics. You can look that up yourself, however at the end of his career Tiant had statistics very similar to the great Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  He is also the winningest Cuban pitcher on record and until this day he is still beloved in Boston.

When Tiant finally retired, I know for a fact that George Steinbrenner tried to get Tiant to work with his young players, especially the Latin pitchers that the Yankees had.  For whatever the reason, it just didn’t work out and the Boss was very disappointed.

In the Yankees clubhouse, Tiant was especially known as “Uncle T.”  When Cuban players get into this country somehow one of the first calls  they get is usually from Tiant to give them advice and wish them good luck.

This week the MLB Network is broadcasting their latest documentary entitled, “Cuba Island of Baseball.”  Luis Tiant plays a very prominent part in it. You even see President Obama and the First Lady Michelle go out of their way to meet the great Luis Tiant who is considered Cuba’s greatest pitcher and to me their greatest man.

I can say that, because I thank God everyday that I really know him.

Negron: Another Bronx Tale – The Cirilo Negron Story

“A Bronx Tale” the play opened on Broadway last week but unfortunately I couldn’t attend because my dad has been so sick. As many of you know, my mom died last month and there was no way that my father, Cirilo, was going to let her die after him even though all of the doctors said he wouldn’t make it past the World Series. Well, it’s Dec. 5 and my dad died this morning. He was 82 years old, and truly a great man. A true gentleman. I really don’t think I have ever known a better person, with the exception of my mom. If I have one regret it is that I don’t think that I ever told him that.

Chaz Palminteri called to offer me his condolences and he asked me about my dad the person. I only had one answer, he was Lorenzo, the father of “C” (Calogero) from the movie, “A Bronx Tale.” He was a man who would truly take a beating for his kids. If you come from the Bronx or Brooklyn you know what that means.

Cirilo was a man that lived the American dream. He came to this country with a third-grade education, and married the girl of his dreams and her son. He adopted me when I was six years old and then had two girls of his own, Nancy and Naomi. He went to work in a grocery store as a stocker and within five years ended up owning the store. It was called Ciro’s Food Center.

I remember at the stores profitable height, he would buy uniforms for the neighborhood Little League teams even though he knew nothing about baseball. He felt that with all of the neighborhood gang violence, if he got more kids to join little league it would keep them out of the gangs and thus alleviate crime in the area. He was wildly popular in his Brooklyn neighborhood because when people didn’t have money to pay, he would always give them credit. He always knew that this was going to lead to an argument with my mother, who had the better business mind but he did it anyway. By the end of the 1960s, with the change in the country, the economy and some bad business moves, he ended up closing the store but he saved enough money to buy us a home in Queens. He wanted a safer environment for his kids because the gang wars in that part of Brooklyn were getting out of hand. He drove a cab for several years and finally became an orderly at Brooklyn Hospital for many years. He finally retired when my mother, Jenny, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

He only met George Steinbrenner once- the day that the Boss had them come pick me up after my first day as the Yankee bat boy. I will never forget my mom and the Boss semi-arguing over what the Boss told her that I did. My poor dad just stood there quietly because he had never met a man like George Steinbrenner. My mom, however just didn’t care about who he was. Just be good to her kid.

Throughout the years, my Dad fell in love with the Yankees and was eternally grateful for the crazy, unrealistic relationship that I had with Mr. Steinbrenner. He loved hearing my stories and he loved to brag to his friends about me even more. He loved to say to people, “This is my son!”

As a youngster, when I knew that Cirilo was not my biological father I hurt a lot over that and reached out to the Boss and Billy Martin about it. They used to tell me that I had better “wake up and smell the coffee” I was luckier than most because of how terrific a person I used to tell them that Cirilo was.

Billy once asked me, “Does your dad love you as much as I do?” I said,”Yes, he does.” And Billy said, “I couldn’t love you anymore even if you were Italian so he couldn’t love you any more even if he were your blood.” “So always know that your Dad is truly someone very special.”

Years later when I would watch the movie, “A Bronx Tale” and Sonny would have his talks with “C” about his Dad, it would remind me about the talks I would have with the Boss or Billy about my Dad or about life in general.

My dad knew how much I loved these two men and he never discouraged it, he used to tell me to learn as much as I could from them and the great people that I would meet in my lifetime. However, I proudly say that the most important man that I would meet in my life was the grocery store worker that married my beautiful Mom, Jenny and her son.

I thank you Pops for being so good to my mother, Nancy and Naomi and the boy that you adopted…Me.

Visitation will be Thursday 2-5pm and 7-9pm

Krauss Funeral Home
1097 Hempstead Turnpike
Franklin Square, NY 11010
PS I wish Chazz Palminteri and Robert De Niro good luck with their new Broadway play, A Bronx Tale!

I will never forget the day Barry Halper, a co-owner of the Yankees, went up to the Boss and said “I saw a movie about you and Ray Negron. The Boss said, “What are you talking about?” Barry told him about a movie called “A Bronx Tale.” The Boss saw the movie, loved it and two weeks later invited Chazz to a game in his suite. Mr Steinbrenner put us together that night and Chazz and I have been friends ever since. Please see his play, I heard it was fabulous.

Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday from 11 am to 1pm on 1050am ESPN Deportes and read on Newsmax.

Negron: Dec. 4 Will Forever Be Known As A Yankee Holliday

Today is the birthday of Jackson Holliday. He is 13 years-old and for his birthday his gift was a New York Yankee hat and a chance to see his dad play outfield and designated hitter for the Yankees.

Jackson’s dad is, obviously, veteran outfielder Matt Holliday. The right-handed hitter is a seven time All-Star and a lifetime .300 hitter.

Matt comes from a baseball pedigree, as his dad is a long time, big time college baseball coach Tom Holliday. Tom has had some of baseball best players in his programs, including former Yankee and Met Robin Ventura.

Matt’s grandfather Donald Holliday was a major Yankee fan who signed a contract with the Bronx Bombers in the 1940s, but never got to play for the team because of World War II. Donald was a big Mickey Mantle fan, so Matt always wore No. 7 in honor of his granddad and the Mick.

It will be very interesting to see what number Matt will wear in the Bronx.

My son Ricky Negron played for coach Tom Holliday at the University of Auburn, so I have known Matt for some time and know how he always wanted to be a Yankee.

Besides the fact the Yankees got a terrific baseball players, I am more excited about the fact the Yankees got a terrific person, who cares for his fellow man. Matt has been involved with many charitable causes in all the cities that he played. If you know anything about the Yankees, charity is their middle name.

I got a chance to speak to Matt by phone today and he is looking forward to this phase of his career.

“I am very excited to play for the Yankees,” Matt said. “Also, I can’t wait to get involved with the community.”

Of course, there is still one question that needs to be answered.

“My wife, Leslee and my kids were debating,” he said, “over what number I should get.”

I told Matt when Reggie Jackson heard his oldest son is named Jackson, Reggie will say he’s named after Mr. October.

All in all, a good day for the Yankees and the Hollidays.

Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes from 11 am to 1 pm and also can be read on Newsmax.

Negron: Restaurateur Jimmy Rodriguez Has The Best Latin Food In The City And A New Location

Jimmy Rodriguez has had more lives than a cat. I first met Jimmy over twenty years ago when he had the infamous Jimmy’s cafe in the Bronx. That first time I remember taking rookie Derek Jeter with me along with “Dr. K” Doc Gooden. Since then, he has had great spots all over the Tri-State Area. His latest location is in the theater district in Manhattan at 38th Street and 7th Avenue. It’s called Jimmy’s NYC.

I caught up with Jimmy at the beautiful new location and naturally had some questions for him. Obviously, that was after filling my stomach with the best Latin food in the city, especially the empanadas.

Ray Negron: You have the Jimmy’s Café in the Bronx by Yankee Stadium and all the players went there. They all followed Jimmy. You were the first guy to have Fidel Castro at your restaurant. How did you make that happen at that time?

Jimmy Rodriguez: It was 1995 and (Rudolph) Giuliani snubbed him from all the events in New York. And Congressman (Jose) Serrano came to us and said, can he host an event for Fidel. Sure enough, he accepted the invitation and came up to Jimmy’s Café. I had a baseball hat signed by him.  Still to this day, I see it and say “Wow.” I am probably the only person with a Yankee hat signed by Fidel Castro.

RN: When you heard of his passing, what came to mind?

JR: Not being a politician or knowing the politics in Cuba, I got to meet a world leader that came to the Bronx and broke bread with Hispanics. That alone is historic and momentous.

RN: Jimmy, you’re an icon from a standpoint what you have done all these years. How do you feel that all these Latinos look up to you?

JR: I wake up every day trying to be a bigger inspiration than I was yesterday and try to open up more doors for young men and women. Not just Hispanic, but show diversity. To show that you believe it, you can achieve it.

RN: You’re the Reggie Jackson of what you do. How do you deal with the jealousy of being Jimmy?

JR: I never look upon jealousy. There’s a purpose for you to be in this world and you have to shine every day. You have to be the best of what you do every day and do it with love and passion. And you love what you do, you just shine and continue to shine every day.

RN: You could have done anything with your life. Why the restaurant business?

JR: Growing up as a kid, I played with Bobby Bonilla and Devon White in Double-A from little league. The only player from the Bronx that made it was Ed Kranepool. I decided to work, because at the time I didn’t believe I could be a big league ball player. I quit and I love what I do. It’s not a regret, however if you love what you do don’t give up. Make it happen.

RN: You had an exciting life. Will there be a Jimmy movie?

JR: Everyday there’s a Jimmy movie. You live it. You love it. And all those who come into our circles, experience being part of Jimmy’s movie. One day it will be on TV.

RN: And who will play Jimmy? Would it be Jimmy Smits?

JR: You never know. It could be Jimmy Smits. He’s a good guy. You know what, let me ask him. (Laughs)

Give yourself a treat, especially if you want to impress a young lady or man. Go to Jimmy’s NYC at 156 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018, before the show.

Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes from 11 am to 1 pm and also can be read on Newsmax.

Negron: Gene “The Stick” Michael Was Always a Hero!

One of the very first Yankees that I met my first day in the Yankee clubhouse was Gene “The Stick” Michael. I idolized Gene Michael because like me. He was a shortstop. He was skinny and he was the most graceful infielder that I had ever seen.

When Mr. Steinbrenner ordered Pete Sheehy, the clubhouse manager, to get me a uniform so that I could be a bat boy that night in order to work off damages for my graffiti antics, the first players to come over and introduce themselves to me were Ron Bloomberg, baseballs very first designated hitter and Gene Michael.

It was so cool meeting him because I used to tag all around the city. “The Stick” – that’s how much I idolized this man.

I will never forget when he first extended his hand to me and said, “Hi, I’m Gene Michael.” He reminded me of the great actor Gary Cooper who played Lou Gehrig in “The Pride of the Yankees.” He was just a very cool guy and very generous on the field. When he found out that I could play a little bit, he gave me a lot of advice about playing shortstop.

You could tell that he was a true student of the game because he studied everything when it came to baseball. Sometimes I would just stare at Gene sitting in the dugout in between at bats and he would be studying every player from the opposition.

Sometimes some of our players would sit next to him and ask his opinion about different situations. We used to have a player on the team by the name of Walt “No Neck” Williams who loved talking all facets of the game with Gene. I would love to just sit and listen to them. It actually made me a better player because I would practice what they talked about.

Gene helped me with my fielding and Walt “No Neck” Williams helped me with my hitting. It was no coincidence that that following year I would be drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It would not have happened without the baseball tutelage from these two guys.

I will never forget taking ground balls with Gene Michael. There used to be a game where we would play for a Coke. We would take ground balls and the guy that made the most errors had to get the winner a cup of Coke with ice after batting practice and put it on the stool in his locker. As you could imagine, I don’t remember ever winning.

Gene was also the best card player I had ever seen. At that time, I think the big card game in the clubhouse was whisk and some guys played spade. I remember that Gene and Thurman Munson were always a team and they beat everybody.

In the winter, some of the players had a basketball team and the two best players were Gene Michael and Walt Williams. They used to play at different high schools and colleges in order to raise money for the school athletic programs. Late in the game, they always gave me a couple of minutes playing time and once they realized that I could play, I became the extra player who gave the starters a breather. Dick Barnett, the great Knick guard, even played with us. Barnett had once played for George Steinbrenner when the Boss owned the Cleveland Pipers of the old ABA.

The fans always loved “the Stick” because he had been with the Yankees for almost 10 years and had a strong personal relationship with them. In those days, the players had to come out of the stadium and cross the street in order to get their cars in the parking lot. Gene always took the time to stop, sign autographs and talk to the fans. People used to feel like they personally knew him.

I will never forget that one time in 1974, we were playing a Saturday afternoon game at Shea Stadium. After the game, I was leaving with my girlfriend and her sister and the car broke down. I ran inside to get help and when I got back to the car Gene was under the hood getting the car going! By that time, the gesture didn’t surprise me because that’s who Gene Michael was. Always helping.

That year Gene was our utility infielder. My very first road trip with the team was in August and we were in Chicago. It was a Saturday night and our manager, Bill Virdon, decided to start Gene at shortstop in place of Jim Mason. I was the happiest guy on the bench and I’m sure Gene knew it. That day he went five for five and I was feeling like I had also gone five for five.

Thurman Munson was very close to Gene Michael. Thurman thought of Gene like a big brother. He knew how much I admired “The Stick” and I think that opened the door to the great friendship that I would have with Thurman and his family. To this day, I consider the Munson family just that, family. Just as Bobby and Kay Murcer and their kids will always be my family also.

It is no coincidence that it all started with Gene “The Stick” Michael, a man with one of the greatest baseball minds ever. He was extremely respected and loved by the Boss, George Steinbrenner. For me and a lot of kids like me of that era, Gene “The Stick” Michael would always be our hero!

PS: The first time I knew that Gene Michael was truly a baseball genius was October 18 of 1977. Reggie Jackson has just completed the greatest batting practice exhibition that I had ever seen since Mickey Mantle in 1968. Reggie probably hit 35 out of 50 balls Way- Way out of Yankee Stadium. Reggie then went to a telephone and called Gene Michael, who was our advance scout and would sit in the press box with a walkie-talkie and send info to Billy Martin. Reggie asked Gene, “What do I look for today?” Gene Michael said, “Fastball in. Move back in the batters box a few inches.” Reggie followed his orders perfectly and the rest is history. Three pitches and three home runs and the birth of “Mr. October!”

Gene Michael would go onto manage, become a general manager, Vice President of Baseball Operations. But more importantly, one of The Boss’s very best friends.

Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday from 11 AM to 1 PM on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes and read on Newsmax.