Negron: Gleyber’s Big Heart

Ever since this whole Corona Virus situation has been going on, I have been explaining, to budding Yankee super star Gleyber Torres, why players like him were better off being home instead of going to some of these front line places like hospitals etc. to give a helping hand. I told him that if some of the front liners knew he was there, that it would take away from the subject at hand, which is taking care of the sick people. A lot of days he sees what is happening through my Instagram post and says that there has to be something That he can do.

Over the last few weeks he has done videos and passed along words of encouragement. This week he went a step further by purchasing food to help feed many families including some mothers and their kids that are unfortunately put into shelters because of abuse situations or just unfortunate economic scenarios. This weekend he even rewarded my volunteers at the food pantry, where we distribute food, with a great pizza meal. The volunteers loved the pizza but the fact that it was a reward from Gleyber meant the world to them. It actually made them want to work harder.

The moms at the shelter were so happy that some would even cry because a New York Yankee actually gave a damn about them during these very tumultuous times, and I’m not just talking about the Corona Virus situation. At the end of the day I just hope that Gleyber understands what he did and the impact that he has had with people and the impact that he can have in this world, both as a New York Yankee and as a good person.

On this Memorial Day I want to thank Former Yankee employee and U.S. Air Force serviceman Ken Fagan for his service to the Yankees because he went beyond the call of duty there. Ken knows what I’m talking about and George Steinbrenner would be proud. I also want to thank him for his service to our country. Ken fought in two wars and flew on many combat missions. The Boss was very proud of that. I know how proud he was to know Ken Fagan.

Making the Most of 2nd Chance From Steinbrenner

Ray Negron and George Steinbrenner (Courtesy Ray Negron)

Out of respect to Cope 2 and Slone, two of the greatest graffiti artists of all time, I must admit that I was not doing graffiti art when I was caught by George Steinbrenner in 1973. I was doing a simple interlocking “NY” with blue spray paint on the wall outside Yankee Stadium on a dare from the guys that I was with. It was a true case of peer pressure.

As fate would have it, a car drove up on the sidewalk and two guys jumped out. In the scramble to get away, I bumped into one of the other guys, stumbled and I was the one who was caught. The men dragged me to a holding cell within Yankee Stadium with the intention of sending me over to the 44th precinct.

For whatever reason, the two men came back to the makeshift jail area and told the cops stationed there to “give them the kid.” I was extremely confused, almost disoriented because I had never been in trouble before,and now I was wondering where these two guys were taking me. To say that I was scared was the all-time understatement.

The two guys each held me by my arms as they dragged me down a dark hallway. One of the guys seemed angrier than the other and kept saying, “You can’t help these kids.” All of a sudden we stopped at a black metal door and we walked in and it was as if we were walking into the Land of Oz.

We were in the Yankee locker room. Beautiful bright pinstriped uniforms were hanging all around every locker and some of the players that I recognized from television were actually sitting at their lockers.

The one guy that seemed to be the boss introduced me to an elderly man that he called Pete. The boss man told me that I had a choice. I was either going to work for Pete in the clubhouse or go to jail. I was a dumb kid, but I wasn’t that dumb, so naturally I agreed to the work.

The other guy seemed very disturbed with what this man was doing for me and again he blurted out that he was making a mistake. But the guy told him to shut up and that he was in charge. The man told me to listen to Pete and do whatever he said. In a threatening voice, he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Don’t you make me look bad. (That was my “PG Statement” — kids may be reading this). Then the two men walked out of the clubhouse.

Pete walked me to a locker and asked me if I knew who the man was who just gave me this opportunity?

I said, “No.”

Pete told me that he was George Steinbrenner, the new owner of the New York Yankees. Pete stared at me up and down and I wondered why. He walked away and then he came back with a Yankee uniform and said, “This should fit you.”

A real Yankee uniform and a real Yankee cap! In my neighborhood you only dreamed of having a real Yankee cap because we could never afford one. Pete introduced me to the other batboy’s and they showed me the ropes. Pete Sheehy could not have been nicer. He had been with the Yankees since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. In time he would tell me incredible stories about all of the Yankee greats. At one point, when I would become close to Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and Bobby Murcer, Pete would love to tell me that he was the same way with Babe and Lou. I used to think about how incredible that was. That day, I learned how to clean shoes and shine helmets, fold towels and how to put the underwear in the right locker.

Ron Blomberg was actually the first player to come over and introduce himself to me, he even offered me a bagel. Because he was one of the few Jewish players in the big leagues, a lot of proud Jewish fans used to wait outside the stadium and bring him bagels and lox.

During batting practice I got to shag in the outfield. I learned how to put the bats in the right slots in the bat rack in the dugout. Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson got a big kick out of the way that I became a batboy. That was the big laugh in the clubhouse that day. I was actually very embarrassed, but acted like it didn’t bother me.

I have to say that when I put on that uniform I couldn’t help but to think of Gehrig in the movie “The Pride of the Yankees” when he got his uniform and he kept looking in the mirror. Man what a proud moment for me. When it was game time I was so nervous standing in the dugout.

Bobby Murcer came over to me and said that I looked scared. I said that I was, and he asked me what I was going be doing during the game. I told him that I was the ball boy on the right field foul line. Bobby told me to run out on the field with him when the organist, Eddie Layton, played “Here Come The Yankees.” I have to tell you that this was one of the biggest thrills of my life.

We played the Cleveland Indians that day and we won. It was a big victory for George Steinbrenner because he was from Cleveland and he had tried to purchase the Indians. After the game, he came into the clubhouse and acted as if we had just won the pennant. He was really happy. After the game we had to collect all the shoes, scrape all the dirt off the bottom and shine them. We picked up the towels and the underwear that the players threw on the floor and took them to the laundry room.

When I finally finished, I was instructed to go see Mr. Steinbrenner by the managers office. He asked me how did I like my job. I said, “It was great!” He asked me if I wanted to keep it and I said, “Yes sir I would.” He asked me how was I in school and I told him that I was just fair. He said that I was to improve my grades and he said,”Oh and naturally you and your friends won’t do graffiti on Yankee Stadium anymore right?” I said, “Yes sir.”

My mom and my father had been called and they picked me up that night. It was the only time they ever met George Steinbrenner. Before I left, Mr. Steinbrenner told me not to ever let him down because he was taking a chance on me even though people that worked for him told him that he should not. He went into his pocket and handed me money for carfare. He said, “Tomorrow is a day game; don’t be late.” That was my very first day as a Yankee batboy.

Forty-seven years later I can honestly say that it is the most wonderful job that I have ever had. Years later, I would ask the Boss why he would do that for me, and he said that when the security guard told him that there is nothing you could do for this kid, I knew you deserved a second chance.

I remember thanking him for saving my life and he said, “I didn’t save your life. Your story was told long before I met you.” It wasn’t until recently that I truly comprehended what he meant. I asked “the Boss” how I could pay him back and he said, “Just don’t forget where you come from and never be afraid to help those in need.”

Today with this whole coronavirus situation going on, I think of the Boss and how he would have been handling this. I think about the fact that out of the four guys that were with me that first day, two are dead and the other two were always in and out of prison, so the blessing that this man gave me overwhelms me to this day. There has to be a God or else how could all of this have happened.

So today and every day that I get up and as the Yankees Community Consultant I go to wherever I can in the city to help deliver food and whatever else is needed with many volunteers including my dear friend and psychologist Steve Vaccaro. We try to work extra hard in the Bronx with some people that fall between the cracks.

One of the Bronx school principals, Luis Torres said that he needed a way to keep the kids in the house, so we came up with the idea of doing a movie night through the public access television station, Bronxnet. Many families in the Bronx saw the animated film that I was the creator of and also the executuve producer. After the telecast, Principal Torres said, “Tonight we actually saved lives by keeping all those families home.” I was so very proud and happy about this because it would not have happened without the magic of George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees.

As the Boss would say, “We’re Yankees it’s what we do!”

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: Thanks, Hank

The other day I was walking in my Babylon neighborhood when I saw this giant of a man walking towards me. I instantly knew who it was because at 6 foot, 10 inches, he is the tallest man in this village. His name is Max Watt and he was one of the original members of the legendary youth baseball team, “Hank’s Yanks.” The first thing out of his mouth was, “I have been meaning to call you to express my feelings about the passing of Hank Steinbrenner.” At that moment I said to Max, “Please do me a favor, don’t tell me, tell the world.”

Here are Max’s words and feelings about Hank Steinbrenner:

As I, Max Watt, learned of the incredibly sad news of the passing of Hank Steinbrenner a lot of thoughts and emotions went through my mind. I reflected on how lucky I was to have not only met this great man, but to have spent some quality time with him as well. Thanks to Ray Negron I was able to experience these moments in my life by being invited to play on “Hank’s Yanks” a team sponsored by Hank Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees.

This team opened up my life to so many opportunities and experiences I would’ve never thought I would even come close to experiencing. Without this team I would not be the man I am today, I would not have had the life experiences I have had and I wouldn’t have the accomplishments I have been able to achieve in my life. Without meeting Hank, and being one of the lucky few to be on this team, I wouldn’t have been able to receive a scholarship to play baseball in college, nor would I have had the opportunity to play Minor League Baseball for the Boston Red Sox.

All of those things are great, but most importantly without Hank I wouldn’t have been able to learn and grow into who I am today. That’s why I am forever thankful to have met this great man.

—-Max Watt

Hank Steinbrenner’s Story Was a True Bronx Tale

At the end of Hank Steinbrenner’s life it was tough to get together, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

We had to be careful to not possibly bring the virus around.

The last time we actually did together, I knew that I and Aris Sakellaridis, who was also very close to Hank, would not be seeing him again.

Aris and I were there with him, with very heavy hearts.

We went to see Hank with the intent of spending 10 minutes.

We ended up staying for four hours.

Hank wanted to have fun and laugh so we decided to watch a Richard Pryor show.

I laughed more at him laughing then I did at Richard Pryor.

I laughed so hard that tears streamed down my face.

I have to admit that half of those tears were due to my own sadnessof my sadness; I guess they served as good camouflage.

In between the “horsing around” as we usually did during our visits, and Aris screaming at Hank to get up so that they could go to the front yard to play catch one more time, as was their routine, I could tell that Hank was having a great time. I could also tell that he was getting very tired so we told him that we were going to leave so he could rest.

Hank at that moment “ordered” us to stay and watch one more movie.

Aris screamed, in his standard sarcastic manner, “I don’t work for you! But I’ll stay of course because I like Clint Eastwood in “‘Pale Rider.'”

The movie was an an all time favorite of Hanks.

We all laughed because that was classic Aris.

Hank knew me very well and asked when I would be running into the fire, referring to the coronavirus situation in New York. He knew how seriously and personally I took my city, as well as the people living there.

Hank always used to tell me I couldn’t save the world but he loved the fact that I thought that I could.

For several years, Hank Steinbfrenner actually became a regular visitor to the Bronx. He got to know the people there. On several occasions he visited schools and actually didn’t make it to Yankee Stadium.

That’s how seriously he felt about the people in the Bronx and I have to add that the kids loved him.

Just about halfway through the film, he fell asleep. I looked at Aris and I said, “Let’s go.”

As we were leaving, Hank woke up and asked us if we were coming tomorrow.

I said yes.

I knew we weren’t, but I didn’t want to disappoint him. He told me not to leave for New York without letting him know, and if l left to tell Max, his assistant.

As we walked out, Aris said that he really would have liked to give Hank the cross that he wore around his neck. I said, “then go back in the room and give it to him.”

Aris said that Hank wouldn’t take it. So I told him to force it on him. Aris walked back into the room and said,”Hank this is for you.”

Hank saw it and said, “No that’s yours.”

Aris told him that he wanted him to accept it, so Hank lowered his head and Aris put it aroound his neck.

Hank always had the greatest smile and with that he warmly said, “Thanks Pal!”

We knew that when we got into my car that we had seen Hank for the last time.

Not a word was spoken as we drove from Hank’s home in Clearwater to St. Petersburg, Florida.

Today I’m in New York trying to help as many people as possible in anyway possible during this pandemic. I have two sons who are police officers.

They are on the front line in the frot line of duty.

I worry about them every day.

There are many who are hungry; we’re helping them, along with doctors and nurses needing support. It’s an every day thing in New York. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for this city and all the great people that I have met here.

One of the great things that happened at one point this week was that I got calls from Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela asking if there was anything that they could do to help.

I thought that was a beautiful thing. I told them that when things got back to normal I would love for them to just do what they always do, visit the kids at the schools.

I think of Hank Steinbrenner every day.

I miss him.

He was a beautiful person with a crazy, yet wonderful soul.

I wish you would have known him the way Aris Sakellaridis and I knew him.

To us — he was just Henry.

I produced an animated film a few years ago “Henry & Me.” Hank voiced his father, George. Hank was quite proud of his work in that film. Kidding around he used to say that he didn’t want to show up Richard Gere or Chazz Palminteri, who also provided voices in the film.

Hank Steinbrenner was a different kind of guy. He was special and he will be missed.

Just ask a bunch of kids in New York known as Hank’s Yanks.

That’s a story for another day.