I recently visited Yankee Stadium for the Pinstripe Bowl (football game) A well known individual came up to me and said I have been reading your material on NY Sports Day and Newsmax. He commented, “You must be making a killing.”
I said to him,”I don’t get paid.” He asked, “Then why would you do it? Why would you waste your time?” I got a little annoyed with him but I kept my cool and told him that I do it because I get to tell stories, real stories about the greatest people that have made the Yankee brand what it is.
Because I am not getting paid, the editors cannot tell me what and how to write. I can accentuate how much I really do love the Yankees, baseball, sports and how great it is be an American and not be afraid to say it.
To me, a writer is someone who is not afraid to tell a story. The very first book that I ever read was “The Old Man and The Sea.” The author was Ernest Hemingway, perhaps the greatest novelist of all-time.
That was story telling at its best because it was about a Cuban fisherman sitting out in the sea for two- and- a half days. He was wrestling a marlin on his fishing hook and at the same time fighting sharks who were trying to eat his giant catch. Yes, that simple, yet Mr. Hemingway won every writing award possible for this story and they even made a major motion picture starring the great Spencer Tracey.
I was only nine-years old when I read this book though I couldn’t help to read every page.
Years later I would get to know the great sportswriters Dick Young and Phil Pepe when I became a batboy for the New York Yankees. They would teach me not to be afraid to tell a story, to write as if I were talking to a person or a group. Remember that writing is an expression.
Throughout the years I would notice that George Steinbrenner would love to sit down and write letters to people Most of the time he would get a pad and just write it out. They were actually beautiful letters of appreciation or dissatisfaction depending on who the letter was for.
I remember, I needed a letter of recommendation to get into a school. He told me to write the letter and he would sign it. Well I wrote the letter, he read it then he tore it up and said, “This letter would be good for a school ran by Al Capone.”
He then sat down, picked up a pen and pad and wrote a great letter which his secretary would then type. This actually happened several times during my tenure with “The Boss”.
Many times Mr. Steinbrenner would actually send people hand written letters. The recipients of the letters were always so grateful because no one did that anymore.
Another wonderful writer was the sportscaster and author Dick Schaap. His books literally spoke to you. I remember asking Dick, how he learned to write like he did. He said, “In this country we have something called the Freedom of Speech.” As long as we have that, I can let my soul tell my story.
Dick used to see me babysit some of the players kids. Kids like Yankees second baseman Sandy Alomar’s boys, Sandy, Jr. and Robbie, outfielder Bobby Bonds son, Barry, centerfielder Bobby Murcer’s son, Todd, and even the Boss’s son Hal, who later along with his big brother Hank, would grow up to run the Yankees.
Dick Schaap asked me to watch over his son Jeremy, who today is one of ESPN’s top sports journalists. On these occasions I would take advantage of Dicks’ knowledge and ask as many questions as I could about the art of writing. Dick was the greatest when it came to sharing his craft.
When I wrote my first story, which was on the days following the death of Thurman Munson, I think it saved my life. For four days I could not catch my breath, continuous hyper ventilation and I thought I was going to die. I had Incredible anxiety over the death of our friend, our team leader, Thurman. Dick Schaap told me that if I wrote down my thoughts, it would serve as great therapy.
He was so right because by the time I finished writing my Munson story, Bobby Murcer would drive in all five runs to beat the Orioles in the tribute game to Munson and I could breathe again.
The pad and pen is still the best friend a person could have from the standpoint of telling a story, writing about your soul or just flat out telling the history of this county that we live in.
The key to writing is don’t be afraid to express yourself. Many times, I’m still guilty of that myself but I am living proof that it is never too late.
I still have dreams and goals even at my age. I will be honest with you, I dream to someday win a Pulitzer Prize and in America anything is possible because the pen is mightier than the sword.
Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes from 11 am to 1pm and also can be read on Newsmax.