Work in Baseball Film Very Personal to Me

It ‘s opening day and I just finished reading the fabulous book“Big Fella,” the very thorough story of Babe Ruth.

Having met members of the Ruth family throughout the years, I was able to truly appreciate some of the Babes intimate family moments.

It also made me understand why he loved kids so much. His feelings about them was a wonderful reminder of how great the big George (Steinbrenner) of my era was.

Approximately 10 years ago, I agreed to participate in an animated film entitled “Henry & Me,” a story about a young boy battling cancer who is taken on a magical adventure by a stranger named Henry. During their journey, the boy meets New York Yankee legends, both past and present, who give him lessons about baseball — and life.

I actually received a signing bonus and at the press conference I signed the back of the check and handed it over to Daniel Quintero, from the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club.

I also agreed that if the film made money, the proceeds would also go to the club and a couple of hospitals that I’m involved with.

Some of my great friends from the sports and entertainment world joined me in making the film including Richard Gere and Chazz Palminteri. They came into the studio to loan their voices for their characters. Danny Aiello, who appeared in “The Godfather” among other great films, blows it away as the doctor who cares for the young cancer patient.

In my heart I know that Danny’s greatness in the film is because of what he lived through in real life with his own son, who he lost to cancer several years before performing in “Henry & Me.”

I was very proud that the producers of the film thought enough of my children’s book series that they wanted to do an animated film based on those books.

To see George Steinbrenner in this film as an animated character really made me happy, because his young family members would be able see a little bit of what their grandfather and great grandfather was all about by watching the film.

To hear the Boss’s oldest son, Hank, play the role of his father so professionally was very inspiring. After five years of hard work on this project and some very wonderful reviews I felt a wonderful sense of achievement for everyone involved. After the film premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre (with all the pomp and circumstance” I thought we had a “Disney type” of movie that would stand the test of time.

Because this was one of the very few baseball films ever done and the first with actual Yankees lending their voices, I thought, at the time, how could we go wrong?

Unfortunately as two great prophets (Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz) once said in their song, “That’s Entertainment!”

Even though my role in the film was strictly in the creative end, it broke my heart that the film did not do well commercially. It hurt even more that I was not able to give another check to my friends, the kids at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club.

My friend, David Jurist, from Hackensack Medical Center, deals with the pediatric cancer program at the hospital and whom I support by putting together visits for the children with my many celebrity friends, kept telling me not to count on the film because motion pictures are always a “crap shoot,” no matter how good they are.

When I was reading Jane Leavy’s book on Babe Ruth, “Big Fella,” I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful this film is and how something should be done to bring it back to life again.

If for no other reason than to have kids and their parents sit down together and watch something good and something real.

I know that some of you remember me writing a “Henry & Me” story last year during opening day and I guess this is my annual plea to bring this film to prominence, where it belongs.

To purchase your copy of “Henry & Me” today please visit here.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.”

Negron: Yes, It’s A Bronx Tale

Chazz Palminteri

If you ever saw the movie “A Bronx Tale,” the most prominent line in the film is when Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) says to “C,” the young boy that he is mentoring, how in life “there is nothing worse than wasted talent.”

When I saw the new commercial on the Yes network about the up and coming Yankee season, I was blown away. The ad features Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and “Sir” Didi Gregorius and his double play partner Gleyber Torres. They also have Ken Singleton, Michael Kay, John Flaherty, David Cone and Paul O’Neill.

This commercial is very tactfully and tastefully put together. Just when you think you have seen it all, in pops the great Academy Award nominated actor Chazz Palminteri. Chazz just gives the commercial that true Hollywood feeling. Charlie Santoro, a sales specialist at YES and a part time actor who plays Chazz’s assistant barber in the commercial, said that having Chazz in this role made every one bring their “A game” to the set.

I was told that Chazz was very generous in helping all the people on this job.

When I spoke to Chazz about doing this commercial he responded by saying that it was truly a lot of fun. One actor said that when you have a Chazz Palminteri on the set, it’s like the equivalent of a young player being on the field with Mickey Mantle.

I personally have spent as much time in the world of entertainment as I have in the sports world. I can honestly say that of all the actors and entertainers that I have known, I have never met a bigger Yankees fan than Chazz Palminteri.

Having Chazz in this commercial for YES was genius casting and what ever they paid him was worth every penny.

There was no wasted talent in this Bronx Tale for YES!

Negron: Bernie’s Life After Baseball

Last night I got to go to the Murray Theatre at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. The main attraction was former Yankees’ superstar Bernie Williams.

Every seat was filled with baseball fans and music lovers. Among those in the audience were some of his former teammates like David Cone, David Wells and Tino Martinez. Also on hand were Yankee icons Willie Randolph and Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson.

When Bernie walked on stage, the feeling was like being at the first game of a World Series. It was as if Bernie went up to the batter’s box with his bat, then turned to the umpire and called time. He asked for the batboy, handed him his bat and the batboy then handed Bernie his guitar. At that moment Bernie proceeded to hit it out of the park.

Song after song from Bernie’s magic fingers just mesmerized everyone in the audience. The usually quiet Willie Randolph acted like a “teeny bopper” at a Beatles concert. Willie could not hold back his emotions because like everyone in the audience, the music just ran through your soul.

I have seen Bernie perform before but there just was something very magical about last night. After the show I asked Bernie if there was a difference in the emotional preparation for this show as compared to that of a World Series game and Bernie said that it was pretty much the same. He also said that just like baseball, he practices with the guitar every day.

The elegant living room setting of the Murray Theatre made it that much more magical. It made the audience feel like they were a part of the band. With that type of setting, Bernie made you feel like he was performing just for you.

The true home run in the show was when Bernie was brought back for a curtain call and he performed “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” like I have never heard it before. It literally brought the capacity crowd to its feet.

Reggie Jackson is a man that I have big time respect for.  He is also a person that knows his music. He is also the most brutally honest person that I know. With that being said I went over to him and asked him for his review of Bernie. Mr October had one word. GREAT!!!

Negron: Yanks Read The Future

Earlier this week we had batting practice rained out. A couple of days before we actually had a game rained out. When this happens it gives the players a little extra time to rest but knowing our Yanks, they would rather be playing.

The thing that really bothered me is when I walked around the ball park I see some very sad faces. I actually saw one kid crying and I asked his dad what was wrong and he said that because batting practice was canceled his son would not see Aaron Judge take batting practice.

At that point I decided to go to the trunk of my car and get some of my children’s books and give them out to some of these sad kids and try to put a smile on their faces. With the permission of the Yankees I even got to take a couple of them around the ball park to meet some of the players and they even got to read one of the books with Gleyber Torres.

The Yanks explained to the kids that it was important to put as much emphasis on reading as they do on their video games. Dellin Betances even kidded with little Michael from New York that someday he might throw 100 miles per hour also. Nick from Ghana was ecstatic when Aroldis Chapman gave him a hug.

Overall it made me feel so proud to be a part of the Yankees and see that the players really do care about the fans and especially the young ones. However Gleyber would say it best when I thanked him for taking a few minutes with the sad children that he was able to put a smile on their faces. He said kids are people too. They are our future.

That’s coming from the future of the Yankees.