If Neil Simon was going to write a movie about Sen. John McCain he would have a very difficult time casting it because the only actor capable of playing the role was John Wayne.
In Hollywood, Wayne was known as a man’s man. In real life McCain truly was a man’s man. A prisoner of war who was continuously tortured yet would leave Vietnam with his head up high, as if to say, "you never got me down punk, you never got me down."
It’s ironic that both McCain and Neil Simon would die a day apart.
In the spring of 1985, I was asked to appear in a film "The Sluggers Wife."
That movie was directed by Academy Award winner Hal Ashby who worked with every major actor you can think of including Paul Newman. The film was written by Tony and Academy Award winner, Neil Simon.
Mr. Simon wrote so many great projects that he eventually became "Mr. Broadway." He was also probably one of the most modest men I've ever met.
In the three months I was in Atlanta working in that film, you hardly knew he was there. I was such a fan that I purposely looked for him each morning. He would always just stand at the back of the production set.
I literally went out of my way to let him know that I thought he was the greatest. I told him that I worked for George Steinbrenner. He replied that the Boss was a friend.
Mr. Simon said that he and the Boss actually talked about doing a project together at some point. Unfortunately that endeavor never materialized. It would have made for a very interest duo. I guarantee you that whatever they did together would have been great.
For me, the highlight of working in that film was when Hal Ashby and Mr. Simon came over to me and told me to take the second unit camera crew to shoot a scene where I would be sliding into second base and Bucky Dent, the former Yankee Great, would tag me hard on the head and I would get up and get into a fight with Bucky.
The scene was actually so good that some of the other players including The Mad Hungarian Al Hrabosky, unaware of what we were doing, actually thought that Bucky and I got into a real fight. Everyone on the set was laughing like crazy and Hal Ashby told Mr. Simon that I guess we are going to have to keep this shot in the film — and they did.
Bucky and I still talk about our scene together and we are very proud of it — 33 years later. Bucky was very proud to be working in a Neil Simon project and thought that Neil Simon was truly a legend.
Bucky has always been a true professional, whether he was on a baseball field or a movie set. He was always so focused that he never noticed Neil Simon actually being there.
He was like that at Yankee Stadium, He would come over to me after games and ask me if Frank Sinatra was really there or whoever. That’s part of the reason why these guys are the professionals that they are.
We lost Sen. John McCain, a true American hero, on Aug. 25. Sen. McCain gave and sacrificed so much for and to his country. I wish I had a fraction of the heart and mental fortitude he possessed.
Thank you for your service, you were a great American, but more importantly a wonderful human being
Mr. Simon, your God-given gift as a wonderful writer in the arts is something which will remain with this world forever.
Both of you will not be forgotten.
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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