Being involved in the world of sports and entertainment, I have had the good fortune of getting wonderful support from great individuals. People like Atlanta Braves president Jon Hart, Yankees President Randy Levine, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, Super scout T.Bone Giordano, and of course the Steinbrenner family.
However, a lot of my self confidence died with the the passing of George Steinbrenner in 2010. I have not felt like the person that for 38 years was a constant presence with the Boss. Mr. Steinbrenner made me feel like I was someone special and that I belonged anywhere. Billy Martin was the same way. When I went through my low periods as a teenager, Billy Martin took me to meet Frank Sinatra, and Mr. Sinatra verbally berated me about my lack of self confidence in who I was. (He did the same to Sammy Davis Jr., until Sammy realized he was somebody.)
For the last seven years, walking around Yankee Stadium is like walking on eggshells because I no longer have my Godfather there–the man who always looked out for me. In addition to losing Mr. Steinbrenner, this past year, I lost both my parents in the course of one month. Thank God I have family and good friends that have kept me going — but it still hasn’t been the same.
This past week, my friend, Aris, reminded me that Frankie Valli was going to be appearing in Clearwater. Each time I hear Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, it brings a smile to my face. I’ve known Frankie for years, and he is one of the most genuine guys in the world of sports and entertainment. Frankie and his musical director Robby Robinson have treated me like royalty throughout the years. In fact, the Four Seasons made me an honorary “Four Season” and let me sing Sherry with them (for the benefit of the audience, the microphone was off.) What a thrill to sit next to Craig Pilo, Frankie’s long time and very talented drummer and feel the beat of those drums.
When I got to the show, I sat in my seats and naturally was enjoying all the wonderful music like “My Eyes Adored You” and “Swearin’ to God”. After Frankie finished singing Grease, he announced, “I want to introduce you to a friend of mine that has been with the Yankees for a long time.” When Frankie said that, I thought that a former player was in the audience. Frankie then asked, “Where is Ray sitting?” The lights came up and Frankie said, “Ray has been with the Yankees since he was a little boy. Ray take a bow.” I was blown away. It was like the people up above sent Frankie a message. It was like I was someone again — it recharged my spirit.
After the show, I was escorted with Aris and my friend, Sean Druin, backstage. Frankie came over and gave me a big hug and told Robby Robinson to take off his Dodger shirt! (Frankie was always a Joe DiMaggio and a Yankee fan.) I couldn’t stop thanking him for his generosity. Frankie said, “Don’t be silly.” But that is the hallmark spirit of Frankie Valli. He is truly my generation’s Sinatra.
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