Ray Negron, an executive in the New York Yankee’s front office, first crossed paths with George Steinbrenner when he got caught tagging the stadium, mistaking the legendary owner for a security guard.
Negron details this story and more in his new bestseller, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.”
Story continues below video:
“The first time that I met him I actually thought he was a security guard,” he tells Newsmax.TV. “I was doing graffiti on a wall at Yankee Stadium . . . All of a sudden this guy jumps out of this car and another guy and I thought it was two security guards. One was a security guard but all of a sudden they grab, they take me into the holding cell at the old precinct at the old Yankee Stadium and they left me in there with the police.
“And then within like 20 minutes, the main guy comes back. He says, ‘Give me the kid.’ They take me into the Yankee locker room and then all of a sudden they’re giving me a Yankee uniform. So I don’t know what’s going on. And then he says, ‘Put on the uniform. You have damages you have to work off.’ And that night I was the batboy for the New York Yankees and the guy that caught me was George Steinbrenner, not a security guard.”
That break took Negron on a journey of discovery that had him reach the front office of the Yankees and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Thurman Munson, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin.
Through it all, he came to realize Steinbrenner had a soft spot for kids.
“Could he be tough,” he asked, “could he be mean, could be all of these things with his people and all of that? Yeah. But with the kids of this country, whenever he saw a kid that needed help, he was always the first one there. He always was there with the less fortunate. He was always there to help people in whatever way possible and as he got older, if he saw something on TV or in the newspaper or whatever, he would always say, ‘We’ve got to help these people.’ And the next thing you know, he’s sending a jet or when we had the big hurricane over in Florida that time, he was the first guy to load up a truck with water and jump on and go to the other side of Florida to help. So that was the George that I knew.”
Negron said Steinbrenner was always ready to give a hand up to a street kid or even someone in prison.
“I saw kids out in the street and the next thing you know they’re batboys,” he said. “So I wasn’t the only one. I was a part of that fraternity and I say that with pride because he was always bringing in some new kid and said, ‘Okay, help this guy out.’ Or ‘Let’s do this.’ I mean I saw him deal with people at jails that he had seen that had gone astray and he would never give up on them so, in essence, if they were in jail, he would write them letters there and when they came out. Like he said, ‘If you do what you have got to do and come out with a clean record out of jail, I’ll have a job waiting for you when you get out.’ And I saw him do that many times.”
Negron said in addition to Steinbrenner, Jackson and Martin had the greatest effect on his life.
“I would always say to them that a piece of them is in me and I’m a better person today because of the aspect of knowing them and what they taught me in life because, you know, Billy had his issues. No question. But his heart was beautiful,” he said. “Billy was the type of guy that if he was having lunch with Frank Sinatra, he was not embarrassed to bring me, especially at that time in my life when I wanted to be somebody and I was insecure.
“I had low self-esteem and I would have to say I was almost ashamed of my color, okay, because I was just dealing with a lot of issues and he helped me break out of that because he took me to dinner one night and at that dinner we had Sinatra, we had Sammy Davis Jr., and to see Sammy Davis Jr. and Sinatra counter with each other and to see the love had the love that Sinatra had for Sammy Davis Jr. and then to see Billy look me in the eye it was a big time learning experience for me.”
Negron has little doubt about where he might have ended up had he not had his run in with Steinbrenner.
“Well, throughout the years I would always try to give him the credit for what he did for me and he would never accept it,” he said. “He would never accept it. And then one day I said to him, I said, ‘Boss, you don’t understand that looking at certain members of my family and the fact that they lived in prison half of their lives, there’s a good shot that I would have been right there with them.’
“And he would get upset with me and then he would say, ‘No. No. Number one, the day I caught you, when I looked into your eyes, I knew that your story was already told.’ I didn’t want to ask what he really meant but I knew and I just accepted it that way because that’s the closest way that he could, in essence, say, ‘Hey, I know that I helped you out but que sera, sera.’ He just never wanted credit for that.”
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