Bronx, NY—There are very few fans of sports teams who have become a part of the organization they root for. Bill Stimers, who passed away at the age of 67 on Thursday at the Hebrew Home of Riverdale, his place of residence for the past 10 months, was considered a valued member of the Yankee family by the Steinbrenners.
Stimers, a devoted rooter for the Yankees since his early childhood, met Steinbrenner at Shea Stadium, where the Yankees played their home games during the refurbishment of Yankee Stadium, shortly after the Cleveland businessman led a group that purchased the Yankees from CBS. The story as Stimers always told it went like this, “I said to George, ‘Let’s hope the Yankees win today,’ and he just took a liking to me.”
Stimers was an only child, a brother died in a miscarriage, born to a middle class couple in Queens. His father worked on the Long Island Railroad and his mother was a telephone operator. The couple and their young son moved to Brentwood, Long Island, where they each remained for the rest of their lives. Even though both parents worked full-time, they were devoted to their son. To the day of his death, he told stories of his parents concern for him to a close friend. He remembered them with love and respect and was not embarrassed to say how much he still missed them.
At the age of five, Stimers attended his first baseball game in May of 1952. As his memory was astonishing, decades later he recalled seeing Mickey Mantle hit a home run and the Yankees winning the ballgame. He did not return to the Stadium for several years as his father thought he was too young for such an outing.
He was an enthusiastic sports fan, especially of baseball, throughout his life. His ability to remember what he read, what he heard and what he witnessed made him exceptionally knowledgeable of many topics. He was one of the most well-known callers to radio station WFAN, where he was known as “Bill the Baker”
The sobriquet came from Stimers’ occupation at Entenmann’s Bakery in Bay Shore, Long Island. In his senior year in high school, Stimers worked in a co-op program at Entenmann’s. He kept the job after his graduation, and worked there until his retirement at the age of 50.
Over the past several decades, Stimers attended many MLB All-Star Games and World Series games. He told interesting stories of many events such as the earthquake during the World Series in San Francisco and seeing the final hit (#3,000) of Roberto Clemente.
For whatever the reason, Steinbrenner was dedicated to the well-being of Stimers. On July 26, 1976, Stimers moved to a seat with his own nameplate in the Press Box at Steinbrenner’s behest. The Yankee owner told Stimers, You’ll be more valuable to me in the press box than in the stands.” Stimers’ seat was next to Steinbrenner’s box in the old Stadium. The Yankee owner and members of his family often came to Stimers’ seat and engaged the dedicated fan in conversation. Steinbrenner joked with him, solicited advice on players and discussed that day’s game. He also invited Stimers to travel with the team to post-season playoff trips.
Bill, who considered Steinbrenner his greatest friend, liked to recall that shortly after his mother died, Steinbrenner invited him to travel to the American League Division Series. When Stimers was threatened with the loss of the family home due to a second mortgage that his late mother took out, the Yankee principal owner saved the home by paying off the money owed. Those who are familiar with the relationship between the two men understand the charitable nature and compassion that was an important part of Steinbrenner.
Stimers retained his seat in the Yankee Stadium Press Box through the 2012 a. L. Division Series. He attended only nine games during the 2014 season, but had a seat in the lower stands.
On an even more personal note, another devoted Yankee fan and extremely knowledgeable observer of baseball, my brother Jeffrey also passed away in 2014. The two had many congenial baseball conversations. Jeffrey was well-educated and had much knowledge and understanding of many diverse matters. He worked quietly, but with great capability and effort for the New York State Court System for many years. Despite being a private person and soft-spoken, he was very pleasant to spend time with because of his highly advanced sense of humor and kindness. Like Bill, the 65 year-old man passed away far too soon. He was a blessing to his family and all who knew him.
May you rest in peace Jeffrey and Bill. You are both missed.