NY Sports Day
Ray Negron

Negron: 46 Years Later and My Yankee World is Still Exciting

I have been blessed to be around the Yankee Universe for 46 years.

I have done every job possible in the organization. I have had the good fortune to have worked directly for the greatest owner in sports history (George Steinbrenner) and have had the opportunity to help make life easier for some of the greatest Yankees to ever play the great game of baseball.

Whether it was picking up Bobby Murcer’s bat after hitting a home run or helping Thurman Munson get his shin guards on in-between innings, or having Graig Nettles’ coffee ready on cold nights, cream and sugar, or convincing Reggie Jackson to take a curtain call. No job was too big or too small.

Mr. Steinbrenner always knew how important it was to make the players’ lives as easy as possible in the locker room because this would always help them play the game in a more relaxed setting. When you work in a big league clubhouse you almost have to be a psychologist to work with 25 players. You always have to use true common sense and you must never show favoritism for one player over another.

To the baseball world I was known as Reggie’s guy because of the famous three homerun game in the 1977 World series and the fact that I pushed him into taking the curtain call. However anything that I would do to help Reggie, I would do the same for any player on the team.

If Munson needed me to pick up his family at the airport, I was there. If Billy Martin needed me to get his game notes at his apartment because sometimes he forgot them, I was there. Naturally there was always the hamburger and hot dog pickups because we really didn’t keep food in the clubhouse in those days.

After games I did plenty of baby sitting services. Whether it was Bobby Murcer’s son Todd or Bobby Bonds’ son Barry, or Sandy Alomar’s two boys, Sandy Jr or future Hall of Famer Roberto. I would even baby sit the future co-owner of the Yankees, the Boss’ son Hal.

As time progressed I appreciated the confidence that Mr. Steinbrenner saw in me in my relationship with the team. There were times when he would ask me to talk to certain young players to boost their moral. Particularly the outstanding Latin prospects that had been called up from time to time. Players like Damaso Garcia and Domingo Ramos. They were two big infield prospects that did not pan out for the Yanks but went on to have success with other teams.

One of my big thrills was during spring training of 1978 after both Ramos and Garcia had made errors in an inning. Billy got very upset because he thought they were mental errors and wanted to talk to them at the pitcher’s mound. The great Yankee catcher Elston Howard, who was a coach at that time, reminded Billy that I spoke Spanish, so Billy took me to the mound with him to translate. It was the first and only time that Billy had done that. I won’t mention what Billy said, however Munson couldn’t stop laughing.

From that moment on, Thurman would always kid with me as if he was talking in Spanish to me and fake words. That’s because when we were at the mound that was the first time he had heard me talk Spanish.  He actually laughed as I was walking off the mound with Billy.

Today I still try to use a great deal of common sense in trying to help the Yankees. I try to help my immediate supervisor Randy Levine and the Steinbrenner family in any way possible. I get very involved in community outreach because that has always been the Yankee way, ever since the days of Babe Ruth. George Steinbrenner just took it to a whole new level when he purchased the team in 1973. He reached out to many groups that needed help in New York. To this day, the Yankees are still there.

The 2019 Yankees have a lot of wonderful young players that the organization should be very proud of because of they way they have developed them. These baby bombers I am happy to report are really a group of very fine young man. Players like aAron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, along with Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez to name a few, are just terrific. Torres just recently promised a young cancer patient a homerun and like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, he delivered. Boy, to be young and a Yankee. These players are so invested in the fans and what the fans think of them that they talk about wanting to please them and how important the fans are to them.

Just recently I had a conversation with Gary Sanchez about Thurman Munson. Someone had told him how close Thurman and I were so he wanted to hear more about him and what made Thurman such a special player and such a special Yankee. With that being said I decided to put my feelings about Thurman on paper with some things that I actually got from Thurman’s wife Diana. I translated it into Spanish and with the help of Lino Diaz, one of the Yankee catching instructors and a good friend of mine, we talked about the heart and soul of this great player and why he was so important to the Yankees. When Gary left the ballpark at the end of the day, I saw him leaving with the translated folder and I was very happy about that because, to me, that spoke volumes.

Eleven years ago, I took Brett Gardner to visit a young girl named Allissa in a hospital. She had been waiting for a new heart.

When we were leaving, Allissa asked Brett for a home run. Brett told her that he wasn’t a home run hitter and that he hardly played. Allissa said, ‘Well if you play, please try?’ Brett smiled and said he would try.

Well, that night, he pinch hit for Johnny Damon and hit an inside-the-park home run. That same night, they found a heart and this year, Allissa is getting married.

I get a wonderful feeling about this group of Yankees. They seem to understand the pride in what those pinstripes represent on the field and the responsibility that they have when dealing with the fan base off the field. The thing that makes me happy is how giving they are to our very new young generation of Yankee fans.

I still thank the Boss every day for the opportunity he gave me in 1973 and the fact that I have worked and still work with some of the best people in the Yankee organization. Like me, they just want to help make the Yankees better.


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