Batboy’s Courage Would Make the Boss and Gehrig Proud

When George Steinbrenner walked into the “swanky” restaurant, La Club, everyone runs around trying to please the man known as “the Boss” as if he owned the place. That was the kind of respect that he demanded and received without even saying a word. His look would be strong and he would dress impeccable, nothing out of place including his very neatly combed hair. All the “high rollers” there can’t get to Mr. Steinbrenner fast enough to say hello. The restaurant bigwigs can’t help but to drool over the Boss.

The Boss naturally plays up to all the attention until he notices that the busboy near his table dropped some plates. The maitre’d gets very upset and says some words to the kid that even the Boss didn’t like. After the maitre’d walked away Mr. Steinbrenner called the busboy over and asked him his name. The kid said his name was Neil Herbst. The Boss said, “I guess you know who I am?” Neil said. “I do because my brother Seth was a batboy for you in 1974.”  Mr. Steinbrenner asked Neil if he would like to come work for him. Naturally Neil said that he would love it. The Boss told Neil to write his name and number on a piece of paper and trust that I will have one of my people call you.

A little while later Neil received a phone call from a Yankee official and later during that 1978 baseball season, Neil Herbst was a Yankee batboy. It basically happened because an adult was belittling a youngster and that never went well with George Steinbrenner. That mean maitre’d probably did Neil a big favor without even realizing it. Neil went on to watch and work for the 1978 Yankees. That summer the Bronx Bombers would come back from 14 1/2 games in July to become World Champions with the greatest comeback in sports history. Neil Herbst had the best seat in “the house that Ruth built.”  After that year Neil, like his brother Seth did four years earlier, went on to college, graduated with honors and built a beautiful career in the finance industry. Seth became a great doctor. It’s incredible how their love for the Yankees gave them and so many other young people the motivation to be possibly even more successful than they would have otherwise been. I have always maintained contact with many former batboys throughout the years. Recently, Seth Herbst asked me to talk to his brother Neil because he was battling A. L. S. (Lou Gehrig disease). Like Lou Gehrig, Neil spoke to me with the same courage and passion that I imagined that Lou Gehrig would have displayed.

Rather than me writing about Neil’s feelings with his battle, I asked Neil to put his feelings into his own words.

These are Neil’s words…..

As a child, baseball and the New York Yankees were synonymous with family, fun and magic to a young boy especially to one who dreamed about being a professional baseball player or a doctor.  They were bigger than life and me and my friends thought about them every second of every day that we weren’t in school.  It took everything that was bad in life away—to be a baseball player

In 1978, I was a bat boy for the New York Yankees.  Being a bat boy for the Yankees it was such a high honor to see the amount of hard work the players needed to have—I got to see firsthand what had to be done and especially their work in the community and with diversity.  How special this time really was.  It was also a large part of my development of the adult I would become—hard working, business owner, parent and husband.

One of the most famous Yankees players—Lou Gehrig (called Baseball’s Iron Man)-was diagnosed with ALS at the height of his career.  In fact, many people call ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  His diagnosis in 1939 brought awareness of ALS to the public.  One of his most notable quotes and one that helped change the views of communities throughout this country was:  “There is no room in baseball for discrimination.  It is our national pastime and a game for all.”   At his final appearance at Yankee Stadium he delivered his “luckiest man speech” and the part I remember the most is his saying he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Even though I have been recently diagnosed with ALS, I too feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  I know I’ve been preparing for this all my life and the Yankees helped me get here.  My time as a bat boy and the lessons I learned, being a successful business owner, having a loving family, and being involved in the community.

The last years of my life I want to be like the Yankees—continue to work hard, but work on healing.  The healing of our country and a cure for ALS are my top priorities.  Today when I think of the Yankees I still have those same feelings I had as a boy.  They are about fun, love and family and it brings a sense of peace to watch the Yankees and to know how this organization has remained dedicated to its values over all of these years.  I also know that they can be influential again in helping with ALS.  It’s been too long since Lou Gehrig passed and a cure has not been found!

As we approach 2021, I would like to ask every baseball team around the world, but particularly in the U.S., to have an ALS patient throw the opening day first pitch of the season.  It’s time for everyone to rally to find a cure.    —-Neil Herbst.

Beautiful words from a kid who, in the summer of 1978, came of age and matured to become a credit to this great country.  Neil Herbst feels that his time with the Yankees had prepared him for everything in his life, both good and bad. Even with all the success that he has had in his life, he still says that the greatest job he has ever had was that of a Yankee batboy. Now with the fact that he has such a horrible decease like A.L.S .it’s incredible that the magic of the Yankees continue to give Neil the strength and courage to live life one day at a time and know that a cure could be somewhere in the horizon.  With the power of prayer, hopefully sooner than we think.

Whitey Ford , A great guy and Success.

Whitey Ford had his funeral yesterday. It was at St Mary’s Church in Manhasset Long Island not far from Where he lived in Lake Success.

Isn’t it ironic that the name of the town that he lived in would exemplify what he accomplished in life ….Success!

I know all his career statistics, like 236 career victories ,most all time in Yankee history etc, however I will leave all that for the sports writers. Sure those things are a mark of success but if you really know what the Yankee family is all about than you would realize that the way Whitey lived his life is what success is all about.

I knew Whitey for the 47 years that I have been around the World of the Yankees.
I can only say that this man was truly a wonderful guy. A fun guy. A loved guy. A caring and sharing guy.

I remember when I was a batboy I would see Whitey working out with his son Eddie. Eddie was a short stop that had just been drafted by the Red Sox. Whitey saw me standing on the side watching and he screamed out, grab your glove and take some grounders with Eddie. Whitey knew that I had aspirations of playing pro ball so he had me join in the fun. That was the kind of guy that he was. At the funeral Eddie reminded me of this all these years later.
Whitey was also a very funny guy. Just before I started my first movie for Warner Brothers , I was in the Yankee locker room picking up my equipment. Whitey came over and said I want you to give me your autograph. I said for what ? He said life is funny, maybe you will become the next Marlon Brando so I signed a cap for him. Every time I was about to do another film he would say ‘You never know ‘. The last time I saw Whitey was about five years ago I was walking with Doc Gooden and we ran into Whitey. We spoke some pleasantries. Doc and Whitey kidded about both wearing number 16. Whitey had always told Doc that he would of let him use the number 16 when Doc was a Yankee and Doc said that that number was sacred in Yankee lore. Whitey then turned to me and said … Marlon Brando my ass! Doc asked what was that about and I said that’s a private joke between me and Whitey.

Whitey was great at setting up a joke. The first time I met him I think was 1974. I remember that we were playing our home games at Shea Stadium because they were renovating Yankee Stadium. Whitey was our pitching coach that year. I was getting a coke at the soda machine that they had in the clubhouse. Whitey walked over and grabbed a cup , at that moment I would say…Hi Whitey … so he turned to me and said , hey are you prejudice? This shocked me … then I saw all the players laughing. I had been set up for a clubhouse joke. I was being initiated by the prankster loving Mr Ford.

I must add that to see Whitey with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin really showed me what true friendship was really all about. Like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis jr. Whiteys crew was baseball’s Ray Pack, and Whitey was the Chairman of the board.

The funeral itself was a very nice dignified affair. It was attended by his very close family and friends. Jeff Idelson from the Baseball hall of Fame assisted the family with the funeral and Whiteys long time teammate The great Bobby Richardson delivered a beautiful eulogy with the most important line being that now Whitey gets to enter Gods hall of Fame. I know that Mickey and Billy are at baseball heaven right now saying… hey Slick what took you so long.

Special thanks to Joan and Eddie and the whole family for really making everyone feel so comfortable and being so warm to everyone, especially at this difficult time.

I guess it’s just the Yankee way.

New York Yankees Consultant and BRONXNET Launch Reach Out

By Steven Vaccaro

Over the last few days Yankee Universe was hit with two devastating blows. Several hours before  their game five, ALDS play-off loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the entire world learned of the passing of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford.” The combination of their 2020 playoff elimination and the death of “The Chairman of the Board” has left the Yankee family mourning with a significant feeling of loss. In addition, this emotionally charged moment in time has been at an all-time high due to the ongoing global pandemic which has created a historical unemployment rate and havoc in the educational system…….leaving the Bronx community reeling.

Despite these unsettling times, The New York Yankees continue to provide support, love and guidance for the Bronx each and every day. Their food drives, non-profit partnerships and outreach to many programs that empower children and women afflicted with Domestic Violence, has been a bright shining light offering unconditional hope for thousands in the struggling Bronx community.

Ray Negron, long time Yankee Community Consultant, has his roots in the Bronx and continues to assist the  Yankees in the Steinbrenner way for everyone that is in need. Now, Negron, along with his BATBOY Producer and TV/Radio Show host Psychologist Steve Vaccaro, will have their show REACH OUT WITH RAY & STEVE appear on BRONXNET weekly starting Monday, October 12th at 8:30 –9:30pm EST. The mission of REACH OUT is to provide top-notch programming focusing in on SPORTS-ENTERTAINMENT- COMMUNITY. The show will be a platform to provide visibility and recognition to the many outstanding residents in the Bronx. “ This show has the capability to reach 300,000 homes. Besides the great guests from the world of sports and entertainment, we will also let Bronx residents have a voice in the community and show that the Yankees are great neighbors. Teaming up with BRONXNET, is a dream come true because of their amazing efforts supporting the Bronx, “ Negron states.

Michael Max Knobbe, Executive Director, BronxNet TV offered his thoughts on the addition of REACH OUT, “ For more than a quarter century BronxNet has provided public services including access to technology, career building learning experiences and media education for students, and vital local programming by, for and about the Bronx. We are proud to premiere REACH OUT with Ray and Steve on BronxNet TV from the Bronx to the world.”

Clearly, the collaborative efforts between the Yankees and BronxNet TV has caught the interest of many celebrities and political leaders, including Chazz Palminteri and Vanessa Gibson, who is running for Bronx Borough President. Both cherish the Bronx and continue to “pay it forward” to its entire community. Palminteri, a long time mentor for Negron,who will be a guest on the show within the next several weeks shares,” The Bronx means the world to me and I can’t ever thank the Yankees enough for all their efforts in the community.” Gibson, who is an outstanding advocate emphatically states,” I am glad that this show is out there. People need to see what the Yankees do in the community.”

Well Bronx…..its time for BronxNet TV to Reach Out to you and your beautiful community. The Yankee season may be over, but the Yankees and BronxNet are just getting started.

Reach Out can be seen on BronxNet channel 68 and 2134 FIOS in the Bronx and worldwide every Monday at 8:30pm EST