'Yankee Miracles': Rising Through Baseball Ranks
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Ray Negron was 17 years old in the summer of 1973, when he and some of his buds and cousins took the D train to Yankee Stadium and started tagging, spray painting graffiti on buildings along 161st Street, just the kind of thing a lot of 17-year-old boys liked to try to do. Ray Negron was trying to tag the greatest target of all, a wall of Yankee Stadium, when a huge blue Town Car pulled up and a furious man stepped out. He was George Steinbrenner, who owned the Yankees, as famed for his temper and tirades as much as for his team's pinstripes. Ray Negron is now a community advisor with the club and has been with the Yankees for more than 40 years. He's written a book with Sally Cook, "Yankee Miracles: Life with The Boss and the Bronx Bombers." Ray Negron joins us now from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
RAY NEGRON: It's good to be here.
SIMON: So, what happened when George Steinbrenner got his hands on you?
NEGRON: Oh, that day he put me into the holding cell. They used to have a precinct over at the old Yankee Stadium. And I was put in there, and I was there probably maybe 20 minutes when the guy that caught me came and said: Give me the kid. Next thing you know they were taking me into the Yankee locker room. They gave me a uniform. And he said you have damages you have to work off. And that night, I was the bat boy for the New York Yankees. And, as you said, that man was George Steinbrenner.
SIMON: Mr. Negron, you seem to, as a Yankee executive over the years, you seem to have made a specialty of befriending a lot of the Yankees that, I might put it this way, that a lot of other people who have disliked. You got a wonderful story in there where Reggie Jackson looks at you one day and decides, kid, you need some clothes.
NEGRON: Hey, one of the most fun days that I ever had in my life. It was right after he had said to me that I was like the prince of the city, per se. And he said, you know, we got to change your wardrobe a little bit. And so we went shopping at the fancy store, the boutiques and all that kind of stuff. Which, listen, I knew about shopping at Woolworth's and stuff, you know what I'm saying? To be going to all these fancy places, Jean Paul Jean-Bauzier(ph) and this kind of stuff. You know what I'm saying? So, it was fun. And walking the streets and with the shopping bags and all that kind of stuff. Here's Mr. October walking the streets and everybody's screaming at us. Well, they were screaming at him. I just happen to be carrying the bags.
SIMON: Mr. Negron, you wound up with a very different life than your brothers, who have had their problems over the years. What was the difference?
NEGRON: It's a tough question because my cousin, who died, said to me before he died I always thought I was the lucky one, meaning him, but you were always the lucky one because that man took care of you, meaning George. So, I always say the only difference between me and my brothers is that I had the boss to take care of me. He showed me right from wrong in his own way and he made me believe that I was somebody.
SIMON: So, Derek Jeter, he's the real thing?
NEGRON: Good guy, OK. He's everything that you read and more. People get upset because, you know, he can't be like Nick Swisher, smiling and clapping and slapping you on the back and all that kind of stuff. But, you know what? Listen, he has a foundation, Turn 2 Foundation, and he gives and he gives and he gives and then he gives some more. He was a kid at the time that George Steinbrenner said this is a special kid so you're going to babysit him. And after the first year, I said: Boss, I really don't need to babysit this guy. He's really got it together. Are you sure? If this kid gets arrested, if something happens with this boy, it's going to be your butt. And it was like after the '96 season, I said: Boss, we have other guys I need to work with. And he said, all right. And, you know what? I was right on that one.
SIMON: I wonder if people can really appreciate the kind of pressure being a Yankee puts on a young athlete, someone who might be in their late teens, early 20s, who comes to New York and suddenly they're known by their first name or their last name or some - a nickname.
NEGRON: Well, when you put on that uniform, you have a responsibility, OK? You're getting paid a lot of money and the adulation that you receive is more here than anywhere else. I mean, I've worked with other organizations. I've worked with Cleveland Indians, with the Texas Rangers, and I live in Tampa, so I see the Rays over there. It ain't easy to be a Yankee because of all the responsibilities - and you've got to win, not just as a baseball player but as people.
SIMON: Ray Negron of the New York Yankees. He's written a new book with Sally Cook, "Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers." Mr. Negron, thanks so much.
NEGRON: It's a thrill to be here with you. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.