I Feel Good!!

James Brown, Dwight Gooden and Ray Negron

In the spring of 1998, I received a phone call from Bobby Rossi who is responsible for scheduling all of the incredible talent at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida.

Bobby told me that the godfather of soul, James Brown, was going to be performing at the arena and that Mr. Brown really wanted to meet Dwight “Doc” Gooden. When I told Doc he was very excited and thought that l might be pulling a prank. We arrived at Ruth Eckerd Hall early so that we could watch the sound check.

I was amazed at how totally in control Mr Brown was of everything that was happening on stage and in the arena. It was as if he had eyes in the back of his head. At one point, I pulled out an instamatic camera that I had in my pocket and at the flash of an eye Mr Brown stoped everything,  turned around and in his famous voice screamed out, “No pictures.!” I was shocked and Doc just couldn’t stop laughing, which made it even more embarrassing. Then, in a flash he was back to rehearsing his song “This  is a Mans World.” After the rehearsal we were escorted to Mr Brown’s dressing room. The first thing that Mr. Brown said was “Did I shake you up?” I said, “You sure did!” Doc again went into a laughing attack which made me the center of Mr. Brown’s jokes.

Mr Brown Enjoyed talking to Gooden about the fact that when he was young he was also a pitcher. He said that he could have been as good as Satchel Page, the famous Negro League pitcher. At this point,  Doc and I looked at each other because we hear things like this all the time. Mr Brown even went through some pitching motions that Doc thought were pretty impressive–Mr Brown was actually a very good athlete. He had to be in order to able to do some of the moves that he did on stage. At one point the three of us sat alone in his room and talked about the “demons” that the two of them had dealt with and would always have to deal with, their drug addiction. What they talked about I will leave up to Dwight to share with you if he ever cares to.  I will say that Mr Brown was quite sincere.

Mr Brown and I stayed in touch up until his death. I became very close to his manager through his love of baseball and I was always able to hook them up with tickets whenever they were in town.

Mr Brown and I had another thing in common,  our great fascination for Elvis Presley. Mr Brown loved Elvis like a brother. He used to tell me some incredible stories about times that they spent together and I just couldn’t get enough of the stories.  For me, the best story the one about the song, “In the Ghetto”  The song was written by the artist Mack Davis, who had a pretty good singing career in his own right. When Davis gave it to Elvis,  his people thought that he (Elvis) shouldn’t do it. They thought that the song and its message maybe should be delivered by a black singer. This really bothered Elvis because when it came to this subject he was different from a lot of his friends and always went out off his way to help many African Americans. So Elvis called Mr Brown and Mr Brown told Elvis that he and only he should sing that song and deliver the message. That song was received well by all people and wouldn’t you know that it would be Elvis Presley’s last number one song. Mr Brown was very proud of Elvis and what he did with that song. Mr Brown also told me that when Elvis Presley died it was one of the worst days of his life and he said that other than the people that lived at Graceland, he was the first person there upon hearing the news. He said that most people never knew how close they really were and told me that the only arguments they had were over who knew more Gospel songs. He said that no one respected Elvis as much as he did and vice versa.

Baseball has afforded me the luxury of meeting some of the greatest stars of all time. This being the end of Black history month, its my honor to share my story of one of the truly all time great entertainers. I thank God that through his interest in Dwight Gooden, I was able to know him enough to say that he was a very good man and an incredible talent. This World was lucky to have him.

James Brown, The Godfather of Soul!

Additionally, Ray can be heard on weekends on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day,  Newsmax And Baseball America.  A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats.

For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com

Yankees Piniella Always Sweet Lou

I recently received  a call from Mead Chasky, the sports memorabilia guru, to tell me that Lou Piniella had a stroke.

When I heard this news it really startled me. Lou Piniella is not supposed to have a stroke, Lou Piniella is one of the strongest most wonderful, most caring athletes that I have ever known. A true mans man.

When I was a Yankee batboy in the 70s, Lou was truly one of the leaders of the pack. He was the one that was always very consistent in his relationship with all of the players. When there were issues, Lou was never afraid to extend his hand to help. When the Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson feud over a magazine article happened, Lou masterfully and quietly helped diffuse the situation as best he could. He never had to pick sides because he was loved by all in that “animal house, Bronx Zoo” clubhouse. He was Thurman’s brother, a son to the Boss and a little brother to Billy Martin. I must add that to say that the respect that Sweet Lou and Mr. October had for each other was great would be an understatement. To see Lou and Catfish Hunter joke around with each other was a great treat and to hear Lou and Oscar Gamble go at it verbally was the greatest show on earth. Next to Billy Martin, no one had a bigger temper than Sir Sweetness, yet no one was more loving than Sweet Lou.

He was so giving of his craft as a hitter. He could be in the shower with some of the other players after a game and in the nude he would go into his batting stance to show another player how he could improve his hitting approach.

Thurman and Bobby Murcer loved Lou so much, but then again everybody did.

When Billy Martin would not bat Reggie Jackson fourth in the lineup, it was Lou and Thurman that went to the Boss so that he could talk to Billy because Lou felt it would be better for the team if Reggie batted fourth. While sitting in Steinbrenner’s room, Billy Martin could hear them talking from the hallway and banged on the Boss’s door. The Boss told Lou and Thurman to hide in the bathroom but Billy found them hiding in the shower. Things did work out and Billy did finally understand and Reggie did start to hit again and carry the team through the World Series. Lou and Thurman should have been given honorary psychology degrees for their clubhouse work.

There are so many wonderful locker room stories that if you were not there you wouldn’t believe. So many of them involving Lou.

I will never forget that my very first road trip with the Yankees was in 1974. We went to Chicago. I had an uncle there that I was very fond of by the name of Quino.  I met him at a fancy pizza place and while sitting there, Lou walked in. He saw us and came over to say hello. It was ironic that these two men would meet because one of the reasons I loved Lou Piniella was because he reminded me so much of my uncle Quino. We ended up eating pizza together and just talking about life. My uncle was not a baseball guy at all and he had never  played but his life as a navy guy and a part time actor in Hollywood made for interesting conversation. Of course Lou Piniella was and always will be one of the most interesting people that you would ever meet.

Last week, I went to visit Lou at his charity event. I was afraid of how Lou was going to look after his stroke. I got there early and waited. Lou finally walked in, our eyes met and I could not help but to smile in relief. The first thing that  I did was hug Lou and give him a kiss. I have to say that Sweet Lou never looked better, still one of the most handsome Yankees ever. The first thing that Lou said to me was that he had a stroke but that he was feeling just fine. Lou has never been the kind to sugar coat anything so this was a wonderful relief.

Through  all of this craziness, Lou was still working with his charity which helps abducted children, kids that have been kidnapped and tortured. He is a part of a company called “Score International.” They help children all around the world with offices right here in Tampa. You can find out more by visiting the web site scoreintl.org

I am proud to say that I have known Lou Piniella for over 45 years and proudly say that he has been one of my true role models growing up. He is one of the strongest, most passionate men that I have ever known.

Lou Gehrig once said that “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth”

Well, I have to disagree because I know that I will always be the luckiest man on the face of the earth…. I got to love and be loved by men named Munson, Murcer, Jackson, Martin, Steinbrenner and of course Sweet Lou Piniella.

Additionally, Ray can be heard on weekends on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day,  Newsmax  And Baseball America.  A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats.

For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com

Spring Training Report

Yankees and Baseball Belong to the Kids Again

As I walk around this year’s spring training camp at George M. Steinbrenner field, I can’t help but smile. The reason being that there are so many kids running around. There are actually more kids than adults, which has not been the case during the last few spring camps for all of baseball, not just the Yankee camps.

Leave it up to the Yankees to lead the pack in being the pied pipers and bringing the kids back to the game. After all, it is the kid’s game. I walked around and I can see the excitement in all of the kids’ faces.  I asked them, “What is the best part of this Yankee mania?” and the kids replied. “Some of the players really make me feel special and the autographs are awesome!”  What I loved was that even though so many of them are enamored  with the whole Aaron Judge / Giancarlo Stanton phenomena with home runs in batting practice, they truly love and appreciate how the other players like Didi Gregorius are going out of their way to make the kids feel special.

After batting practice, Gregorius could be seen near the stands signing autographs and talking to the kids. Spring coach Nick Swisher was Nick Swisher, he jumped into the stands and signed for young and old alike. The kids also love the fact that the Yankees have so many young players competing for jobs. It reminds me of when I was a kid and the Yankees had a very young Bobby Murcer and an even younger Thurman Munson in in spring training of 1969. Because of those young players, that spring I fell deeper in love with the Bronx Bombers.

I met 12 year old Ken Frank from West Chester, New York.  Ken loves the Yankees because Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge didn’t ignore him even though Ken understands that the players are here in Tampa to prepare for the season. Sanchez even took the time to sign some autographs. I must also add that during the week there were over 130 kids from the Hank’s Yanks baseball organization. Ages ranging from six thru eighteen. There are even kids from Tokyo Japan here. They represent J R East Railway Company (makers of Japan’ Bullet train, the fastest train in the world) Through a translator, I was told that everything pertaining to baseball starts with the Yankees and this year’s team has brought great excitement even in Japan.

Many parents like the fact that Aaron Boone looks like a young kid out there and that he is showing such enthusiasm with his players. I asked them how they could tell and some parents responded, “My kids can tell.” (From the mouths of babes)

I guess if the kids feel this way then Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankee Organization knew what they were doing

Additionally, Ray can be heard Saturday and Sunday on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day, Newsmax and Baseball America.  A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats.

For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com

Prescription For J.R East: Doc Gooden

If you are a true baseball fan and you hear someone ask, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Then you know they are talking about Dwight “Doc” Gooden. In New York, he was referred to as Dr K., one of the most beloved sports figures to ever play in the sports capital of the world.

No matter what problems Doc has confronted, you always wanted to believe in him. When he was with the Mets and he had his issues, whether you were a fan, a player, or his employer,  you  never wanted to give up on him because you felt so close to him. People of that era have always said that Doc was the most generous celebrity of that time. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. When he was making his millions, he took care of all of his family and quite a few of his friends. That’s just who he was. When he heard that there was someone in need because of bad luck, Doc just felt that he had to help. This is not me telling a “lollipop” story, this is me just telling it like it is about a guy that has fallen down on many occasions and like many of us, manages a way to get back on his feet.

Today the good Doctor is found in St. Petersburg Florida participating in Spring training as a pitching coach. He was hired as a special instructor to work with the pitchers for a team from Japan called J.R. East. They are a part of the Japanese industrial league, which is basically Japan’s minor league.

J.R.East is the company that makes the bullet train, the world’s fastest train. It’s no coincidence that Gooden used to ” own” arguably the worlds best fastball.

However,  the reason the J.R. East wanted Gooden was not because of his fastball, but because of “lord  Charles” which was the nick name for Dr. K’s curve ball. Imagine being a hitter waiting for Gooden’s one hundred mile an hour fastball and being surprised by his incredible curveball instead. In 1984 thru 1986 Dr. K was considered baseballs best pitcher and every time he started a game, Shea Stadium was usually full. The one thing that most people don’t know about Gooden is that he happens to be a very big baseball fan and has always had a hunger to learn as much as he can about the game. When working with the great pitching coaches he just couldn’t suck in enough information. Between Mel Stottlemyre and Billy Connors and other pitching “gurus” he feels that he really has learned as much as anyone could possibly learn -plus the fact that he had this God given talent.

When J.R.East manager Tetsuo Horii was told by team advisor Richard Seko that maybe they could get Gooden to work with the pitchers, Horii couldn’t have been more excited. Pitching coach Koji Yamamoto has also been very excited with Dr. K’s tireless work ethic when it came to the young pitchers. Even though Gooden doesn’t speak Japanese, his communicating skills in showing pitching grips and arm angles became just as effective. To see the faces of the young pitchers when they see Gooden’s approval after successfully delivering pitches that Dr K had taught them makes for a warm moment. Even though these players are young, they have learned the legend of Dr K and love to have him there.

J.R.East will be playing games against several independent teams at Walter Fuller Baseball Center and Huggins Stengel Park, which was the spring home of The New York Yankees from 1925 till 1960 and of course the spring training home of Doc Gooden and the New York Mets. Naturally, this is almost like a homecoming for Dr. K so this weekend Shawn  Drouin, head of the St. Petersburg Tasco teen program (which is the same youth program that the great Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner used to visit back in the nineties) at Huggins-Stengel Field and Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St.Petersburg, will be retiring one of Gooden’s Mets Jerseys.  It will be placed in a closed off original locker from the original locker room never to be worn again. After the ceremony,  Gooden, along with manager Horii, hitting coach and former 13 year major league veteran Luis Alicea, and some of the players will be conducting a baseball clinic for the area youth. Former home run champion Dante Bichette and Japanese home run champion and Rays announcer, Orestes Destrade will also participate. Thanks to J.R.East and Doc Gooden, Baseball is alive and well in St.Petersburg – One day at a time.

Additionally, Ray can be heard on weekends on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day,  Newsmax And Baseball America.  A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats.

For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com

Goose, Baseball is still a Great Game

Ray Negron with Goose Gossage

I have known Goose Gossage for 45 years and have been friends with him for 40 years. To say that he is one of the toughest guys I have ever known would be an understatement.

I saw him go after Cliff Johnson, one of the meanest looking Yankees ever,  because Cliff said that he felt that he hit him in the National League like he owned him. When Cliff said that he sure did say that and some other choice words, Goose proceeded to break his hand on Cliffs face. Fight over.

To say that Goose is one of the sweetest Yankees ever would also be an understatement. In 1981 when I was getting married, Goose came over to me in the locker room and apologized because he couldn’t come to my wedding but he went out of his way to find out what I would need in my house and made sure that it was delivered to my home before the wedding.

I saw him call George Steinbrenner  “fat man” in a fit of anger and in the next breath,  tell him how much he loved him, and you can be guaranteed that Goose loved the Boss very much.

Gossage has always been a very kind and generous individual who always treated his teammates, black and white, like they were his biological brothers.

Pete Sheehy, the wonderful equipment manager during that era, who as many of you know was also there during the days of Babe Ruth, used to say that Gossage had a personality as close to Babe Ruth as any player he ever had.

From anything I have ever heard from Pete and many of the Babe’s family members, I would have to agree. The one difference is that in public after his career, the Babe would never have insulted a Yankee official in the Media the way Goose insulted Brian Cashman. I know this for a fact. When Babe Ruth wanted to manage the Yankees and he was declined because he was asked how he could manage the Yankees if he couldn’t manage himself, he was very upset. Reporters tried to “egg” him on so that he would  rip the Yankees in the press but he wouldn’t do it. One reporter even asked him if he was mad at baseball after all that he (the Babe) had done for the game? The Babe said,  “How can I be mad with baseball after all that this great game has given me.”

Like Goose, I consider myself an old school guy, however I have to understand that with the passage of time all things must change and there isn’t much that we can do about that.

Baseball is still the greatest game in the world. Goose has to live up to his responsibilities of being one of the games most loved personalities who is looked up to by parents who are telling their kids who Goose Gossage was and is.

These kids don’t need to see the kind of statements that the Goose made to the media this week.

I spoke to quite a few of Gossage’s former teammates and they hope that as time passes this too shall pass- for life is much to short to waste on this.

Let’s not forget that we just buried our beloved teammate, Oscar Gamble on Friday. I can guarantee you a million dollars that Oscar would trade places with all parties right now.

Goose, I hope that you let this go because Yankee fans love the Goose Gossage that I love.  You know who that guy is.

Oscar Gamble, you rest in peace my dear brother.

Additionally, Ray can be heard on weekends on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day,  Newsmax And Baseball America.  A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats.

For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com

Yankees Guidry in Ted Williams Hall of Fame

Just recently, arguably the greatest second baseman in Yankee history, Willie Randolph asked me how I remember all of the great stories that I write about. I told him very simply that I didn’t have to play!

George Steinbrenner had me there to take care of everybody, so it is easy to remember the stories. It’s almost as if every one of the players has their own chapter. I actually started my writing when we lost Thurman Munson.

Even though I had dealt with death before, with Thurman it was the first time I lost someone that I truly loved. It affected me in such a way that I started to hyper ventilate. I just couldn’t breath!

I literally thought I was having a heart attack. When I went to see a doctor he understood what was going on in my life and recommended that I start writing down my thoughts so that I could release a lot of the things that I was holding in my mind.

Amazingly, it worked. The first story that I wrote was one called “Five Days in August”

It is the story of those first five days after Thurman died. The pain that we went through the clubhouse and the incredible love that was displayed by all of the players–Not just for Thurman, but for everyone. I honestly believe that a lot of those guys actually learned how to share love because of this period of time. If you go into the internet you can find this story.

Throughout the 45 years that I have been around the Yankees, I have learned that all these guys that have had the honor of wearing those classic pinstripes have thier own stories that they love to share with people. They also have stories that are either too personal or they just don’t know how to express them.

One of those guys is the former great Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry.

Ted WilliamsAs many of you know, I am on the board of the Ted Williams Hall of Fame in St Petersburg Florida.  I have been for the past twelve years. I love it because I get to honor many of the heroes that I grew up with, guys  that I honestly believe should be in Cooperstown but for whatever reason fall short.

I actually met Mr Williams through my relationship with George Steinbrenner and his organizational insurance representative, Dick Biley. One way or another the relationship grew and thanks to Dave McCarthy, the museum curator, we have been able to keep the place alive. The best part of the museum is that we are able to help different charities in the Tampa Bay Area. Then there is the players selection process and the arguments that come with each selection. The one thing that we decided in our selection process was not to get involved with all the politics that surround the players. Let’s keep it simple.

Were they great player? Were they good people? Did they try to help thy fellow man? If you knew anything at all about Ted Williams then you would know that next to hitting, that was all he cared about. Oh and by the way, let’s not forget that when Mr Williams was inducted into Cooperstown, he closed his speech by saying that he would be happy when the Hall of Fame starts to let the Negro league Players into the Hall, however I will save this for my black history month story.

Yesterday we had our 2018 induction ceremony. Many players were inducted but the one that meant the most to me was the great Yankee lefthander Ron Guidry. In 1978, Ron had arguably the greatest season any Yankee pitcher had ever had with a 25-3 record and a 1. 74 era. In 1979 when Hall of Famer Goose Gossage broke his hand on Cliff Johnson’s face during a typical “in clubhouse” player brawl, Guidry went to manager Billy Martin and pretty much told him that he was going to the bullpen to be the closer. Let’s not forget that by doing this he was sacrificing not having another twenty game season. I always said that by doing that it could have been the difference between Guidry getting into Cooperstown. However,  if you say this to Guidry he would not have done it any different. That’s Ron Guidry.

Just before last night’s ceremony, Diana Munson sent Ron a congratulatory text thanking him for always being her “knight in shining armor.” Ron and his wife, Bonnie, I found out have been there for the Munson family every step of the way.

To know Ron Guidry is to love Ron Guidry.  It is not surprising that Guidry is the only Yankee pitcher to ever be a team captain. One thing for sure is that he was a leader. Oh and by the way, the Boss loved Ron Guidry’s Rabbit stew. Mr Steinbrenner did not allow “Louisiana Lightning” to spring training without it!

A heartfelt congratulations to the other inductees….

Tony Perez, Dick Allen, J.R.Richard and Charlie Manuel,  the Philadelphia Phillies winningest manager  and one of my best friends in baseball.  Charlie and I became close because of our time together in Cleveland and our mutual love and respect for the great Yankee, Billy Martin.

Much thanks to David McCarthy, George Kati’s and the Beautiful Claudia Williams for helping to keep Ted Williams dream alive.

Ray Negron’s stories can also be found on nysportsday.com , newsmax.com and Baseballamerica.com

And he can be heard Saturday’s from 12-2pm on Impact ESPN 1050am

Maybe I’m Amazed

This past week I attended the 38th Annual Thurman Munson Dinner. The awards dinner, put together by media mogul John Cirillo, benefits children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Carlos Beltran, David Robertson, Justin Tuck, TJ Rivera and Jorge Posada were honored for their charitable contributions to society. I know that in the case of Beltran and Posada, they have been extremely busy with all of the work that they have done in Puerto Rico because of the hurricane.

Thurman Munson and Diana

I find it incredible that thirty nine years since we lost Thurman Munson,  people all over this city and all over this country still think about this incredible man. I loved hearing how much Thurman meant to Jorge Posada. It was beautiful to hear Diana Munson tell her story about how Jorge showed Diana a Thurman article that he kept in his locker for inspiration.

I looked around this room and felt a large sense of pride because only Diana knew Thurman better than I did. I find that crazy. I got to know the player and I got to know the real man… a mans man!

Oh my God, how this man loved his children and Oh my God how this man loved his wife!

I will share one of my favorite and sensitive Thurman stories……

When Thurman would go on the road I would usually drive him to Teterboro Airport. I have to admit that I loved doing this because besides having alone time with Thurman, I would get to have a brand new Cadillac to drive while the team was on the road. Sometimes Thurman would come back to New York with Diana and I would love that because the ride back to the Bronx was going to be a true comedy show with the two of them. Thurman would dish it out but what Thurman loved so much was that Diana would come right back at him and I have to admit that I laughed my ass off.

Thurman Munson loved and appreciated music. Once on the drive back with him and Diana I will never forget that a Paul McCartney song came on and Thurman got quiet. The song was called ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’

I was sitting in the back seat and remember just staring at them because they just looked so cool together.

The first few lines of the song went like this……
Maybe I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time…
Maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you …
Maybe I’m amazed at the way you pulled me out of time and hung me on a line …
Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you…

At that moment, Thurman and Diana had this long beautiful loving stare that made me feel uncomfortable because if I wasn’t there they may have pulled over so that he could have given her a kiss.

They were magic together and the fact that Diana is so loving and giving with the fans that love her husband so much has been a blessing. Let’s not forget that when her husband was alive Diana and her children had to share Thurman.  It’s been thirty nine years since we lost him and the Munson family is still sharing him with the world.

I can only say ….thank you Diana Tracy, Kelly and Michael…  because as Paul McCartney would say in the last line of that song …..I’m amazed with You!

Ray Negron’s stories can also be found on nysportsday.com, newsmax.com and baseballamerica.com

And he can be heard Saturday’s from 12-2pm on Impact ESPN 1050am

Our Tears for Oscar

Oscar Gamble

When I first started with the Yankees as a batboy in 1973 Ron Blomberg used to tease me about my Afro hairdo. He and Bobby Murcer used to say that I was the Oscar Gamble of batboys.

George Steinbrenner used to get on my case about getting a haircut and I always said that I would but I never did. One day the Yankees were playing the Cleveland Indians and Oscar Gamble hit a double. The next hitter was Walt’No Neck ‘Williams who got a base hit to centerfield. Bobby Murcer fielded the ball and threw a bullet to catcher Thurman Munson who collided and in one motion tagged Oscar Gamble out. The first thing that the fans noticed was that with all the dust coming up all you could see was Oscars giant Afro. I think the fans appreciated his hair raising Afro as much as they loved Bobby Murcer’s great throw.

In the spring of 1976, Gamble joined the Yankees along with Mickey Rivers, Dock Ellis and Willie Randolph. The First thing that the players on the team noticed was how quickly Gamble cut his hair. A lot of the guys didn’t think he would cut it because his hair was his trade mark, also like Samson in the Bible, that’s where he got his home run power from. Also you know how superstitious baseball players are. Not Oscar though. He wanted to be a Yankee at all costs and that first year he would Always say, ” I’m just happy to be here.”

Mr Steinbrenner really got to know the real Oscar Gamble for the first time at a team function that spring. The Boss had a lot of his old college buddies there along with the head of U.S.Steel and other major corporations. As the Boss was talking at the podium about the importance of that season for New York, Oscar screamed out that it was also important for the new Mercedes that he wanted to buy. The Boss and all the players broke out in crazy laughter. Oscar also said, “Excuse me Mr Steinbrenner, I heard that Lou Piniella is a neighbor of yours in Tampa and in the winter in order to make extra income he is your landscaper.” “Well I can detail your cars if you’d like.” That night, Oscar was as funny as Richard Pryor could ever be and the Boss loved it.

On the drive back to the hotel I will never forget Mr Steinbrenner say that Gamble would be great for the clubhouse because his humor would keep everyone loose.

In the Spring of 1977, the Boss knew that he had to upgrade the short stop position and the thought of getting Bucky Dent was something that he could not pass up on. The only way this deal was going to get done was Oscar Gamble. As much as the Boss did not want to trade Gamble, the betterment of the team always came first, however I always knew that the first chance that the Boss got to get Gamble back, he would jump at it. That opportunity came in July of 1979. He got Oscar back from the Texas Rangers for one of his all time favorite players Mickey Rivers. The reason for this trade is too personal and complex to explain but when you find out why, you would understand the true human and loving side of George Steinbrenner through both of these players.

Thurman Munson
Thurman Munson

When Thurman Munson died, Oscar and Rivers held hands like the brothers that they were and along with the Boss and the rest of the team, cried uncontrollably and unashamed. Thurman loved and respected Oscar so much that it made you proud. Oscar loved playing cards with Thurman and picked up many tricks that Thurman had learned from Gene Michael. In those days, we only had one bus on the road so we were always together. The players were closer then they are today. When we got on the bus after games everyone had their set seats.

That meant that the show was about to begin. Oscar usually would be in rare form so like Don Rickles, Oscar was gonna verbally get you. The funny thing was that you wanted to be zapped by Oscar. I will never forget that when we got Oscar back he had already signed a big free agent contract and would dress in all Gucci clothes-shoes hat, and he would carry a Gucci attaché case. Our bullpen catcher Dom Scala, a jokester in his own right and popular guy with the players, started to call him “Gucci Gamble” and the nick name stuck.

In 1989, I was the General manager of the St Lucie Legends,the now defunct Senior Baseball League in Florida. My Manager was Graig Nettles and among the many ex Yankees on the team, I had Oscar Gamble. By the time the season started, both of Oscar’s knees were shot. He could still put on a show in batting practice but come game time he would hit a line drive to the out field and because his knees would not let him get out of the batters box, he would get thrown out at first. I tried to keep Oscar on as a coach for as long as I could but my owner Joe Sprung finally ordered me to release him and that if I wanted to keep my job not to sign anymore friends.

I think what bothered me the most was that Oscar felt more badly for me than I for him. He was one of my heroes and he knew that. He also felt that he let me down but in reality I let him down because I knew that he wasn’t one hundred percent. My trainer, Steve Davis, told me that he wasn’t ready but I let Oscar charm me with one of his classic lines, “GAMBLE WITH GAMBLE!” It was a line that he used with the Yankees often before hitting big home runs. So, I hoped that history would repeat itself. In Oscars case, this time it didn’t.

As years passed, I would see Oscar at old timers day and Yankees fantasy camp and was always so happy to see him, Rivers, Bucky, Chambliss and all the boys from that era.

One time when I walked into the locker room at a fantasy camp, the great Paul Blair saw me and screamed out,”Oscar Ray is here, is he going to release you again.?” Oscar screamed out, ” Oh no not again!” Everyone laughed and when I explained to the players that Oscar couldn’t get out of the batters box , Oscar said, “I didn’t get out of the box because I thought you wanted a photo op for the year book cover.” That was Oscar.

This morning I received a call from Doc Gooden and he told me that Oscar had died.

Oscar had been suffering from mouth cancer, even though he never chewed tobacco and didn’t smoke. He suffered from this painful decease for several years and he fought like a champion because he loved life so much. The last time we talked he said, “When you write about me, don’t write about the baseball player, write about the guy that loved being with his teammates and family.”

In 1995, when I spent that summer helping Doc Gooden with his rehabilitation, he used to tell me about how close the 1986 Mets were and I would argue with him that there is no remote way that the Mets that year were closer then the Yankees of the 70s. When Gooden started to attend Yankees Fantasy camp he got to know Oscar and Bucky and so many others and he saw the love. He will never admit that the Yankees of the 70s were closer because he is loyal to the Mets but he did admit that he gained big respect for them.

Today, I spoke to Bucky Dent, Ron Blomberg, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph Dom Scala Mickey Rivers and many others. To say that they cried for one of their brothers and that the missing process has begun is an understatement. The last time that I heard Mickey Rivers cry like that was on August 3rd 1979 when Bobby Murcer and George Steinbrenner were painfully and tearfully explaining to the team how our beloved captain, Thurman Munson had died.

Oscar GambleOscar Gamble was a beloved roomie to Chris Chambliss in Cleveland. Bucky Dent considered the Big O a true brother as did Blomberg. While sick, Blomberg always checked on Oscar. Willie Randolph probably played with Oscar the longest of all the players and like me and Bucky, have lost loved ones within the last couple of years but we still have a lot of tears left for our dear friend and brother Oscar Gamble.

When it came to Oscar Gamble, “Mr October” Reggie Jackson said it best.

“Oscar was a sweet, decent man without a single ounce of malice in his heart. He was a cool breeze out of Alabama.”

Oscar wanted people to know that he was a good person that loved his family and friends very much and loved and appreciated the fans of this great game. To the end I can honestly say that Oscar was always grateful to the Yankees because he was always able to put on the pinstripes at old timers day and fantasy camp.

Rest In Peace my friend.