Ever since George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, he has always given respect to the great artists from the world of entertainment. Through the eyes of the Boss it has always been the Yankee way.
Yesterday, during the fifth inning of the game, the Yankees put up a beautiful picture of Aretha Franklin and played some of her beautiful music. Kudos to the Yankees for honoring one of the all-time greats in a very tasteful way. Sitting in the stands I could hear many fans, both black and white, really touched by the presentation.
Throughout the years, Reggie Jackson has introduced me to some of the biggest stars in the world of entertainment. I knew that he knew Ms. Franklin so I called Mr. October to ask him his thoughts on the passing of the Queen of Soul.
“Wow” Reggie said, “It hurts because she was always there giving us messages through her incredible voice and music. She understood the struggle of civil rights and at the same time was extremely sensitive about human rights.” When Reggie was a youngster and there may have been issues in the house, his dad, Martinez, would say, “You’d better go upstairs and put on some Aretha.”
Reggie first met Aretha Franklin in the early 70s in Oakland, California, and was truly honored with the respect and enthusiasm that she showed him but that didn’t compare to the respect that he showed her. Reggie said, “Aretha was a beacon of hope for all of America especially black America in a difficult period in our country's history.”
Reggie closed our talk about Ms. Franklin by saying, “When a Muhammad Ali or an Aretha Franklin can acknowledge you in such positive ways than I guess we are really blessed.”
Another wonderful Yankee that loved Aretha Franklin was former center fielder, Mickey Rivers.
I will always remember Saturday mornings and the players would be sitting in the clubhouse before the game. Mickey would take over the television and put on Soul Train and when Aretha would be on Mickey would dance to every beat of her song. I asked Mickey his feelings about the passing of Ms. Franklin and he simply said, ‘”Hey I loved her.”
Yankee all-time great second basemen and Captain Willie Randolph was born in the south and raised in Brooklyn in the 60s and 70s. Willie said, “Aretha Franklin’s music, heart and soul represented the sound track of my life. She will be missed by all.”
It is no coincidence that she would die on August 16. After all, it’s also the day that the King of Baseball, Babe Ruth, and the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, would leave us, so why not also the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
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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