Last week I received a call from Bobby Rossi, who arguably is Florida’s top music promoter and heads all show events a Ruth Eckerd Hall. He told me that Frankie Valli will be performing his 30th show at Ruth Eckerd Hall and is going to be honored by the City of Clearwater. This is the all-time record for any performer at the venue.
As most people know, Rossi and his family have been long time friends of mine through our mutual love of Bobby Murcer and the New York Yankees. Bobby also knows that Frankie Valli is my all-time favorite musician, singer, performer, whatever you want to call him, he is the man.
Rossi told me that on the record-breaking night he wanted to do something special for Frankie.
I asked Rossi what was planned and he told me that he was going to have Mayor George Cretekos give Frankie the key to the city and that a street outside of Ruth Eckert Hall would be named after Sir Frankie. It would be called “Frankie Valli Alley.”
Rossi, knowing my passion for Frankie and his band members, asked me what gift we could give to Frankie. That’s a tough one because what do you give a man that you think has everything? So I asked my friend Aris, a retired corrections officer who Hank Steinbrenner calls “the man of mystery” because in his crazy, sometimes crude ways, Aris always seems to have all the answers!
Aris asked me who Frankie’s hero outside of music was and I told him Joe DiMaggio. Within 24 hours Aris came up with a real flannel Joe DiMaggio shirt. (How did he do it I have no idea.) Did he get it from Hank Steinbrenner, who knows Aris is usually the person I go through when I need to talk to Hank?
The bottom line is, it was a beautiful gift and it looked even better when Rossi had it framed. Now, who were we going to get to make the presentation?
Rossi and I agreed that the presenter had to be special because we wanted to do this on stage and we wanted to really surprise the audience and it was important for Frankie to really love it. I spoke to Frankie’s musical director, Robby Robinson, for some ideas. Finally, I asked myself, what is it that I love the most about Frankie Valli? His class and his dignity, the way Frankie loves and is loved. With that being said I Immediately thought of Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph. They are what class and respect are all about, they were loved by their teammates and George Steinbrenner thought so much of them that he made them Co-Captains.
When I went to them individually to ask if they would do it, they responded almost as if they were scripted, “Are you kidding I love Frankie.” Guidry said. Willie Randolph said, “I grew up on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I would be honored.” Well the night could not have gone any better, with the exception that Craig Pilo, Frankie’s drummer, was wearing a Boston Red Sox cap so I decided to embarrass him in front of the audience of predominantly Yankee Fans by telling him that he had to remove that cap. Frankie and the crowd agreed so off went the cap as the audience roared.
Mayor Cretekos gave Frankie the key to the city and then I introduced Willie and Guidry to the totally sold out arena. It was quite touching to hear Guidry and Willie tell Frankie that they loved him. Knowing Frankie as long as I have, I thought that he was really moved by these two Yankee icons sharing the love.
The Ruth Eckerd Hall audience just couldn’t get enough of the love that that was being given to a man that is so deserving, Frankie Valli. It was also so beautiful that the love of the Yankees helped make the night that much better. After the show, the party moved back stage and I wish we could have brought the audience with us but there just wasn’t enough room. By the way, I didn’t know that Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph could dance like they did last night. A special thank you to Japanese baseball scout, Richard Seko, for flying in from Los Angeles to fulfill his dream of meeting his hero Frankie Valli. Some people say that sometimes it’s not good to meet your heroes, however in Richards’s case, his scouting report on Frankie reads, “Frankie Valli is a super star in every way possible.”
In the immortal words of Frankie Valli, “Oh What a Night.”
Ray Negron can be heard Saturday's from 12-2 p.m. on Impact ESPN 1050AM.
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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