Gene Monahan was the trainer of the NY Yankees for as long as I can remember. Before that, he was a Yankee batboy. To the players, he was known as Doc or Geno, to the Boss he was Monahan and to me he was Superman.
He was the person who had to keep the players together, healthy, and strong, or else he would have to answer to the Boss. Gene was always a fun loving guy but always serious when it came to taking care of the Bronx Bombers. The players trusted Gene with everything. It was no coincidence that the valuables box (where the players left their wallets, etc. before games) was in the trainer’s room.
Our core players could tell Gene everything and anything and know that it stayed right there. The two most trusted guys in the clubhouse were Gene and Pete Sheehy. (Pete is a story for another day!) What we have to remember is that in those days, there was only one trainer -no assistant, no fitness coaches, no interns, no one- Just Geno and he made it work.
Let’s not forget that those were Steinbrenner’s Yankees and not the Milwaukee Brewers so that the demand for these players to be ready everyday was intense. Gene however, made it work one way or another.
Can you just imagine that Mr. Monahan had to wear lots of “hats” including team psychologist? I used to love to watch Gene sitting in the training room having serious conversations with players such as Catfish Hunter about his issues with diabetes or Thurman Munson and his knees when they started to go on him, or Thurman just talking about a new airplane.
I am not even mentioning some of our players with more intense problems and the trust that they put on gene. In all my years with the Yankees, I only saw Gene mad once and it happened to be at me!
What happened was that in the middle of the 70’s disco craze Lou Piniella was taking dance lessons. One day Bobby Murcer walked into the trainer’s room and said,” I went by Lou’s house but he left early, where has he been all week?” Munson said, “Haven’t you heard, Lou is taking disco dance lessons.” Murcer said, “No way!”
Then Catfish said,” Yes, he sure is.” Monahan was giving Catfish a shoulder rub when all of a sudden Piniella walked in and said, “Good afternoon gentleman.” Munson started to chuckle and so did Catfish. Monahan, as always kept his poker face. As Piniella was putting his wallet in the valuables box, he started to notice that the boys were laughing at him so he asked. “What’s so funny?”
Murcer said, “Well the boys tell me that you are taking dance lessons. Do you want to be the next John Travolta?” Lou smiled and said, “I am actually getting pretty good. You guys should think about taking some dance lessons too. Especially our fat catcher.” Pointing at Munson.
Everyone started to laugh and all of a sudden I decided to put on the radio and Monahan yelled out, “No Ray, Don’t!” Gene knew that everything Lou did, he did with passion but it was too late. The song that was on the radio was “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb. The players started to egg Piniella on so I started to turn the lights on and off really fast to give the room a disco effect.
Gene started to scream at me, “Stop it, stop it” but I couldn’t help myself. Munson and the rest of the players were having too good of a time. All of a sudden, what Monahan was hoping wouldn’t happen, happened! In the middle of one of Lou’s pirouettes, he started to go crazy. He started to punch out the ceiling tiles like a “mad man”. Everyone was screaming and laughing except for Mr. Monahan.
Gene made me clean the trainer’s room of all the ceiling tiles that were all over the floor. I also got suspended from the trainer’s room for the rest of the season.
In 1977, Gene asked Mr. Steinbrenner if we could bring in an assistant trainer. The Boss thought that’s it was a great idea, especially given the fact that this team was becoming another “Murder’s Row” with the likes of Munson and his newest Yankee, Reggie Jackson.
Gene selected the AAA trainer Herman Schneider, who today is the head trainer of the Chicago White Sox. He has been with Chicago for the past 25 years and by the way, like Gene Monahan, is a truly wonderful guy.
In all of my years with the Boss, I knew who he liked and who he didn’t like and I knew who he may have said something positive or negative about. I can honestly say that the Boss respected Gene Monahan as much as any employee that he has ever had and I had never heard him utter a single negative word about him.
The Boss knew how lucky he was to have Monahan. Today, Steve Donahue is the Yankees head trainer, again another incredible person. Now Gene Monahan comes to spring training to help get the team ready for a long tough season. However, like Reggie, Goose Gossage, and Ron Guidry Gene is here like the true Yankee legend that he has become.
The man that started as a batboy is really a Yankee Superman!
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