Negron: The Day Billy Joel And Richie Cannata First Had A Yankee State Of Mind

One of the pleasantries of spring training is to see the Yankee legends like Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry.  If the Yankees of the 1970’s were a rock band than they would definitely be the Beatles. The Fab Four had George Harrison, known as the quiet Beatle. The George Harrison of the Yankees would have to be Ron Guidry.

Very quiet, but very smart and when you get Guidry started, no one knows more about the game and he loves to reminisce about that era and the great times that we had. I will never forget the day a couple of young musicians were walking around the Yankees clubhouse like a couple of little kids.

I went into my locker and got a couple of baseballs and pens, and handed it to them. It turned out those two young musicians were great sax player Richie Cannata and his friend, a Long Island kid, who would become world-wide legend Billy Joel.

It was nice to see how grateful they were for my gesture and how the first autograph they got was from Ron Guidry. This happened just before the two big hits “I Love You Just The Way You Are” and “New York State of Mind” were released.

I remember asking Cannata at the time, how did he get into the Yankees locker room and he told me, Billy Joel and him were guests of Yankees bat boy Joe D’Ambrosio.  I asked D’Ambrosio who these guys were and he made a bold prediction and said, “Billy Joel would someday be as big as Elvis.”

I remember chuckling to myself because in my mind, nobody could be as big as Elvis. But 40-years later, D”Ambrosio wasn’t too far off and let me add, if there’s a better sax player in this world like Richie Cannata, especially after you hear him in that solo “New York State of Mind,” he just doesn’t exist.

Ron Guidry was always a big music fan and a favorite of all the musical celebrities that would visit the clubhouse. I would never really see Billy Joel again after that initial meeting, however I would develop a lifelong relationship with Richie Cannata and send messages back and forth to Guidry on the behalf of Cannata.

The reason Cannata struck such a deep bond? Because like me, he likes to help people. Richie and other members of the then Billy Joel band have helped me do charity events for kids in the Bronx and in poor communities in Long Island. When Hurricane Sandy hit the Island the first call I got was from Cannata to conduct another benefit concert to raise money helping feed the families after the devastation.

The beauty of the New York Yankees is that people like Ron Guidry know what’s important in life. They are aware that to be kind to someone is always better than to act like a crab.

Guidry’s kind gesture, to Richie Cannata had an impact. Through the years there is nothing that Cannata wouldn’t do to help the less fortunate in conjunction with the Yankees, or for that matter anybody that is trying to do good.

In closing, I am forever grateful for the friendship to Ron Guidry who was a big brother to me and all the other bat boys in that locker room, and of course, to Richie Cannata. During his last concert, he dedicated “New York State of Mind” to my late mother Jenny.

Today Richie, drummer Liberty Devitto, Russell Jabors and the rest of THE LORDS of 52st  will be performing at an arena near you. You can find them at THE

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