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Tags: andujar | mercer | munson | nettles

My Debt of Gratitude to George Steinbrenner and the Yankees

gary sanchez and ray negron
Gary Sanchez and Ray Negron (Photo Credit Ray Negron) 

Ray Negron By Wednesday, 20 March 2019 10:45 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

I've been blessed to be around the Yankee Universe for 46 years, and have done every job possible in the Yankees organization.

I have had the good fortune to have worked directly for the greatest owner in sports history, George Steinbrenner. I've also have had the opportunity to help make life easier for some of the greatest Yankees to ever play the great game of baseball.

Whether it was picking up Bobby Mercer’s bat after hitting a homerun, helping Thurman Munson get his shin guards on in between innings, having Graig Nettles coffee ready on cold nights (cream and sugar), or talking Reggie Jackson into taking a curtain call.

No job was too big or too small.

Mr. Steinbrenner always knew how important it was to make life as easy as possible for the players in the locker room because this would always help them play the game in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Working in a big league clubhouse you almost have to be a psychologist to work with 25 players. You always have to use genuine common sense.

You must never show favoritism to one player over another.

To the baseball world, I was known as "Reggie’s guy" because of the famous three homerun game in the World Series and the fact that I pushed him into taking the curtain call.

However, anything that I would do to help Reggie I would do the same for any player on the team. If Thurman Munson needed me to pick up his family at the airport, I was there. If Billy Martin needed me to get his game notes at his apartment because sometimes he forgot them, I was there. Naturally there was always the hamburger and hotdog pickups because we really didn't keep food in the clubhouse in those days.

After games, I did plenty of babysitting service — whether it was Bobby Murcer’s son Todd or Bobby Bonds' son; Barry or Sandy Alomar’s two boys, Sandy Jr., or future hall of famer Roberto.

I would even babysit for the future Yankees co-owner — the Boss's son Hal.

As time progressed, I appreciated the confidence that Mr. Steinbrenner started to observe in my relationship with the team. There were times when he would ask me to talk to certain young players to boost their morale — especially the outstanding Latin prospects who were called up from time to time.

These were players like Damaso Garcia and Domingo Ramos; they were two big infield prospects who did not pan out for the Yankees but went on to have success with other teams.

One of my big thrills was during the spring training of 1978. Ramos and Garcia both made errors in an inning. Billy Martin became extremely upset because he thought they were mental errors.

He wanted to speak to them directly at the pitcher’s mound.

Coach Elston Howard reminded Martin that I spoke Spanish, so Billy Martin took me to the mound with him to translate. It was the first and only time that Billy did that.

I won't relate what Billy Martin said, but Thurman couldn't stop laughing.

From that moment on, Thurman Munson would always kid with me as if he were sspeaking Spanish with fake words, because when we were at the mound it was the first time he had heard me speak Spanish.

He actually laughed as I was walking off the mound with Billy Martin. Today I still try to use a great deal of common sense in trying to assist the Yankees.

I try to help my immediate supervisor Randy Levine and the Steinbrenner family — in any way possible. I get very involved in community outreach because that has always been the Yankees way, since the days of Babe Ruth.

George Steinbrenner took it to a whole new level when he purchased the team in 1973.

He reached out to many groups needing help in New York.

To this day the Yankees are still there.

The 2019 Yankees have a lot of wonderful young players and they should be very proud of them because they have developed them.

These "baby bombers" I am happy to report are really a group of very fine young man.

These are players like Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar; along with Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez to name just a few.

Gleybar Torres just recently promised a young cancer patient a homerun and, like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, delivered it just as it happened 11 years ago.

I'd taken Brett Gardner to visit a young girl in the hospital  named Alyssa.

Alyssa was waiting for a new heart.

When we were leaving, Alyssa asked Brett for a homerun. Brett told her that he wasn't a homerun hitter and that he hardly played. Alyssa said, "Well if you play please try?"

Brett smiled, saying he would try. Well, that night he pinch hit for Johnny Damon and hit an inside the park homerun! Miraculously, that night they found a heart for Alyssa.

This year Alyssa is getting married!

These ball players are so invested in the fans and what the fans think of them that they talk about wanting to please them and how important the fans are to them.

To be young and a Yankee!

Just recently, I had a conversation with Gary Sanchez about Thurman Munson. Someone told him how close I was to Thurman so he wanted to hear more about him and what made Thurman such a special player and such a special Yankee.

With that being said, I decided to put my feelings about Thurman on paper with some things that I actually got from Thurman’s wife Diana. I translated those into Spanish. With the help of Lino Diaz, one of the Yankees catching instructors, and a good friend of mine, Sanchez and I talked about the heart and soul of this great player and why he was so important to the Yankees organization.

When Gary left the ballpark at the end of the day, I saw him leaving with the translated folder and I was very happy about that, to me that spoke volumes.

I get a wonderful feeling about this group of Yankees. They seem to understand the pride those uniform pinstripes represent on the field, as well as the responsibility that they have when dealing with the fans off the field. The thing that makes me happy is how giving they are to our very new young generation of Yankees fans.

I still thank the Boss every day for the opportunity that he gave me in 1973, and I thank him for the fact that I have worked (and still work) with some of the best people in the Yankees organization.

Like me, they just want to help make the New York Yankees better!

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." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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I still thank the Boss every day for the opportunity that he gave me in 1973, and I thank him for the fact that I have worked (and still work) with some of the best people in the Yankees organization.
andujar, mercer, munson, nettles
Wednesday, 20 March 2019 10:45 AM
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