More and more, it's looking like the New York Yankees may have righted their ship as they cling to a lead over the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. This past weekend, they secured their 20th consecutive winning season, the second-longest stretch above .500 in their vaunted history, and the playoffs are now within sight in a season full of ups and downs.
But for the past 40 years, no one outside of the Steinbrenner Family has seen more of the ups and downs in pinstripes than longtime community advisor Ray Negron. The bestselling author of children’s books, a self-proclaimed Yankee “lifer,” has also come out with some of the greatest stories he has seen in pinstripes with "Yankee Miracles," released this month with co-author Sally Cook.
The Queens, N.Y., native came up with a book formula that tells the stories of some of the Yankees' greatest players in the last 40 years through the eyes of a man who joined the organization in the most unorthodox of ways—he was pulled by owner George Steinbrenner away from the outside of the Stadium and was made a bot boy—and has stayed a part of the organization in a variety of roles ever since.
From Jackson to Munson, Murcer to Gooden, Rodriguez to Jeter, Negron has dealt with them all and helped the organization in any way he could, all the while staying close to “The Boss” and the other members of the Steinbrenner family to help protect the Yankee brand.
“George Steinbrenner took an already fabled brand and made it almost godly,” Negron said recently about his time with the Yankees (via TheBigLead.com). “He understood the greatness of Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle and made the Murcers and Mattinglys believe that they were just as good. Today you have Mariano, ARod and Jeter carrying on that same incredible tradition. We also do things right and take the time to make sure that the brand is never damaged publicly. It is the little things that make a big difference and keep you ahead of the competition.”
The last four decades have not been without their warts as well, and Negron talks openly about some of the troubles Gotham’s biggest stars have faced, as well as the challenges the organization has faced in adapting to a culture today that wants everything right now.
“That’s really the biggest change from the 1970’s to today,” he added. “The players then were for the most part more of the working class, they were more accessible and fans may have related better. Today’s players get pulled in so many directions, the money is so much greater and the fans want things right now. It is not the same as it was.”
What has not changed much are the expectations of winning in the Bronx, and the pressures that go with such high expectations.
“The Yankee mystique has always been about winning and being held to a higher standard of excellence, and that hasn’t changed through the years,” he added. “I don’t think this year is any different, and the goal is to win the World Series. Everybody understands that, and we all have to do whatever we can…on the field, in the community, wherever—to make sure that goal is not compromised. It certainly is not easy for anyone, but it is understood and it is what everyone strives for.”
No. 1 is also something that Negron has experienced again in his literary work. In addition to having bestselling kids’ books and a movie close to being finished, “Yankee Miracles” this past week reached No. 1 in baseball books on Amazon, right around the time the Yanks wrested sole possession of first place from a tie with Baltimore.
Is that just good karma or a symbol of hard work? Well, for someone who rose from the streets to the Yankees front office, it is probably a combination of both, one that probably couldn’t come at a better time for either book sales or a team in a playoff hunt.
Jerry Milani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.