Negron: How The Boss Helped Gooden Throw a No-Hitter

It was spring training of 1996, and the Yankees had a former Cy Young Award winner pitching vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, who were putting a hurting on the pitcher. This was the third consecutive start that the pitcher, who was known as “Dr. K,” was getting pounded.

Yes, Dwight Gooden was having a horrible spring training. Many scouts were telling Yankees’ Owner, George Steinbrenner, that Gooden should probably be sent down or even released. One scout even told the Boss that it was a noble experiment on his part but he should give up before it becomes embarrassing.

The Boss went to his pitching guru, Billy Connors, and asked him ‘what should we do.’ Billy told the Boss that we should give him more time because Doc had not pitched in a year due to his suspension from baseball. One scout even recommended that the Boss make him a relief pitcher but the Boss had always been enamored with the legend of Doc Gooden and really believed that the good Doctor, as the Boss liked to call him, could come back.

The Boss literally willed Doc into pitching back to prominence. He had many one on one conversations with Gooden and when he had to, he scolded him like a father. Mr. Steinbrenner paid as much attention to Gooden as I had seen him show any player in all my years with the Boss. Doc once asked me does he take this much time with all the players and I responded by saying, only if he loves you.

I remember one time in 1996, Doc got hurt during a game and the first two people in the trainer’s room besides Gene Monahan was myself and Mr. Steinbrenner. I remember putting my hand on Doc’s leg and the Boss sarcastically saying, ‘I didn’t know you were a Doctor too, Negron.’ That was the only time Doc laughed. The Boss asked Doc how he felt and Gooden said it hurts when you make me laugh.

Well, as we all know David Cone suffered an aneurysm and Doc got into the rotation and on May 14 of that year Doc Gooden pitched a no-hitter. Gooden valiantly pitched that game for his dying father who was about to have open heart surgery. Even though the Boss wanted Doc to go home to be with his dad, Gooden wanted to pitch the game first. Doc just felt that it might be just the medicine that his father needed.

Well as we all know, 23 years ago today, Doc did pitch the no hitter. Rookie shortstop Derek Jeter caught the final out on a pop up that took forever to come down. Doc was carried off the field and the next morning when Doc walked into the hospital room, his biggest surprise was not that his Dad was lying there. It was that George Steinbrenner was sitting next to Dan Gooden with his hand on Dan. I think that this meant more to Doc than pitching the no hitter. I don’t know, I have never asked. I tried to keep that moment light by saying to Mr. Steinbrenner…….’Boss, I didn’t know you were a doctor also.’

Negron: Missing My Mom On Her Day

This will be my third Mother’s Day without my mom.

The fact that I still have her number in my phone and get the urge to call her every day doesn’t make it easier. If you had as special a mom as most of us did then naturally we will miss them for ever. They say it gets easier with time. Well it doesn’t, we just learn to deal with it.

Yesterday I was taking my nightly bath. That’s my time to meditate. I listen to music through my radio that you scream at and say OK Google, then you mention the song and like magic the song or the album comes on. So I screamed ‘OK Google, Frankie Valli’ and for what ever strange reason the song “MY MOTHER’S EYES” came on. The words are so compelling, so beautiful, and the song literally puts you in a beautiful setting with your wonderful mom at probably the greatest moment that you had ever had with her. As Frankie Valli sings the song it feels like he is literally crying.

It was an incredible roller coaster ride because one moment I’m a little boy and my mom is telling me how great I can be. She is making sure I look perfect before leaving for school. Saying that me and my sisters are the most important things in the world to her. Then just like that my MAMA is gone.

I want to think that I made her proud. She was truly a big reason for any semblance of success that I may of had. She never took credit for it. She was just happy that through the Yankees I was able to pursue my dreams.

My mom, the strongest woman that I had ever known, died of Alzheimer’s related causes. She suffered for several years with this. One day I was laying in bed holding her, she was talking like a one year old child and at that moment I knew she was gone. I hugged her very, very tight. Prayed to her and God and basically said goodbye.

When she died, I was naturally devastated because the most important person in my world was gone. Literally all the people that I loved were gone. The men that helped mold me like my uncles Hector, Kino, Vincent and Roman. They were my mom’s brothers.

The Boss meant so much to me and he was gone. My Pop is gone, but to lose my Mama, just devastating. I remember walking into the funeral parlor and seeing all the flowers, I thought that was so very nice. Some of my friends that couldn’t afford flowers, brought them anyway. I could hear my mother screaming now about spending too much money. Boy, she would be mad but so very grateful at the same time. I saw this gigantic floral arrangement from my pal Alfred Zac and I was really happy to see the flowers from the Yankees. Mom would’ve really liked that because she was always grateful for all that the Yankee family had done for me. Then I saw this other beautiful arrangement.

This one was from Frankie Valli and his “4 Seasons” band. Tears came to my eyes because Frankie and his friendship and his right hand man Robbie Robinson have meant the world to me. The day after the funeral I was a lost soul , a wondering stranger not knowing whether I was coming or going. Robbie Robinson called me and said we are going to be at a theater on Broadway and Frankie wants you to come. I told him the I was just not in the mood. Robbie is a very spiritual man and knew how distraught I was and said all the right things to get me there.

When I got to the theater I was told to go to Frankie’s dressing room. I hung out with Frankie until just before show time. Then we went to the area behind the stage and Frankie and the band had a prayer session of which they included my Mother Jenny. Frankie and Robbie asked if I had a picture of my mom. I always do. They took it on stage and put it on Robbie’s keyboard. Can you believe it , The original Jenny from the Bronx made it to Broadway!

This is my Mother’s Day Story and whether your mom is still with us or not, think of how great they were or are.


Negron: Her Heart is a Yankee Miracle

Ten years ago, I brought Yankee rookie outfielder Brett Gardner to visit some sick kids at a hospital in Manhattan. This is a tradition that was actually taught to me by the great Yankee catcher and Captain, Thurman Munson. He quietly would go to hospitals and schools as long as there would not be any fanfare surrounding the event because he didn’t want any distractions to mess up the event from the kids.

Reggie was also very good in these settings because he was never afraid to show affection towards these kids. Bobby Murcer was very sentimental when it came to visiting kids or adults in hospitals. Bobby actually showed me that it was ok to cry. The Boss, George Steinbrenner, was great because he would make the kids feel like they were his equal.

One of the great visits I got to share with a Yankee was when I had plans to visit a little boy at a hospital with Chien-Ming Wang. I got up that morning and looked at the sports page and realized that he was pitching that day. There is an unwritten rule that says that if a starting pitcher is pitching that day he is not supposed to do any kind of an appearance. So I called Wang and mentioned this to him. He immediately asked, is this visit going to be so tough that it’s going to affect my start. I said probably not but that’s the rule. Wang said look if you don’t want to come because you might get in trouble then don’t come, however I am not going to let that kid in the hospital down. So he went and I did go with him and I did get reprimanded for taking him. However, Wang did pitch a great game that night in beating the Orioles and the little boy in the hospital had a wonderful visit with the then great Yankee. It’s something that, to this day, he has never forgotten.

When I took Brett Gardner to the hospital, he met a young lady who had been waiting and praying for a heart. With each passing day things were not looking good. Brett actually got to sit in front of a lot of the kids in the hospital and read one of my children’s books. (The Greatest Story Never Told)

After finishing up and signing some autographs for everyone we started to walk out. A girl by the name of Alyssa Esposito went up to Brett and said if you take my bracelet you will hit a home run tonight. The girl said please take it because someway this might help me. Brett smiled and took it. When we got in the car, Brett said I’m not playing tonight and if I play you know I don’t hit home runs. I said, look Brett you did a wonderful job with all the kids and you never know what’s going to happen tonight. Well Brett was right, he wasn’t in the starting lineup however Johnny Damon got into an argument with the umpire and got thrown out of the game. Brett Gardner batted for Damon and he hit a fly ball down the left field line that got past Twins left fielder Denard Span and went all the way to the wall. Gardner raced all around the bases at about 100 miles an hour for the first inside the park homer at the new Yankee Stadium.

As Gardner was celebrating in the dugout, another miracle was happening. The doctors at the hospital were telling Alyssa that they had found her a heart. Ten years later she is a strong beautiful woman who is about to get married in October. She is a strong believer in God and she strongly believes that God sent Brett Gardner to the hospital that day.

Yesterday I got together with Alyssa at the Project Sunshine fundraiser. I got to meet her fiancé. I marveled at her confidence as she addressed the 800 people at the event as she thanked Project Sunshine, the Yankees, her Family and fiancé, and of course her hero who hit her the home run that she so badly needed at that time, Brett Gardner.

I guess that was just another Yankee Miracle.

A special thank you to Sally Cook from Project Sunshine for always pushing me into bringing the players to visit the kids.