Written By Producer/Psychologist Steve Vaccaro
During the latest production of BATBOY, the audiences in Suffolk County (Argyle Theatre), Nassau County (Tilles Center) and the Bronx (Hostos Community College) were treated to an evening of drama, romance, laughter, baseball, player hijinx, and musical reflection. These audiences also observed the behind-the-scenes relationships of many of the significant Yankees that brought two consecutive World Championships (1977, 1978) and three consecutive American League Championships (1976, 1977,1978) to the Big Apple. An era that was symbolized by the passion and determination of owner George Steinbrenner, the fun-loving, family man side of Thurman Munson and the compassionate Bobby Murcer. These three men, who were amazingly portrayed by Larry Davis, Joey Gian and Richie Cannata respectively, were the heart and soul of the image of these Yankee teams. An image that Ray Negron brilliantly and creatively brings to the theatrical stage.
Current Suffolk County Sheriff and former Yankee Batboy, Errol Toulon, who was a recipient of a community award prior to the Argyle show stated, “It’s a story that reminds us all of the Yankee teams back then but more importantly the character of George Steinbrenner and Thurman Munson.” It is this character that Negron shows us all through his eyes and permits each audience to experience firsthand. In his book Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers, Negron discusses that he liked watching Yogi Berra and mentioned that Yogi was one of the best and smartest people he had ever known. Negron revisits a Yogism “You can observe a lot by just watching………” Well, over the last several weeks, throughout the Tristate area, the BATBOY crowds observed from an intimate, front row seat.
In the play, we see George Steinbrenner, who just bought the New York Yankees from CBS in 1973, personally affected by the actions of Ray Negron (played by Carmine Elvezio), a seventeen-year-old Bronx Boy defacing Yankee Stadium by spray-painting graffiti on “his” new home. Instead of just allowing this teenager to suffer the legal consequences, Mr. Steinbrenner gave Ray the ultimate second chance of a lifetime by pulling him out of jail and immediately making him a New York Yankee Batboy that very same day. Unfortunately, Ray’s Cousin Edwin (Luis Castillo) who was also there that fateful day, did not fare as well as we can see in the play’s “gang” scene. Throughout the show, we all observe the many sides of The Boss. The relationship he had with Reggie Jackson (Terrell Carpenter) and Billy Martin (Martin Knapp), the leader he was with his top administrators and players and the love/support he had for children all around the world. Larry Davis perfects the Boss’ image not only by the way he dressed but more importantly by his ability to portray one of the greatest sports owners of all time.
Joey Gian, who has been a professional accomplished actor/performer for decades, treats us all to his impeccable role as Thurman Munson. His character is the heartbeat of the entire production and is the common thread that reminds us that the “Captain” title went far beyond the baseball diamond. Not only do we see Thurman’s relationship with George, Billy, Reggie, Mickey, Bobby and Roy we see him candidly dancing to Soul Train (one of his favorite clubhouse shows) with Mickey Rivers (Self) and Yogi Berra (Charlie Santoro) in the Yankee Locker room, to his love and happiness with his teammates and his incredible love and devotion to his wife, Diana (Gigi Cormio) and children. With Gian’s singing performance and passionate acting, the heart of Thurman Munson is captured effortlessly. Everyone knows Thurman’s incredible love of music. Some of those sounds were magnificently delivered by the soulful Layla Dionne and former Drifters singer, Dave Revels.
Richie Cannata (legendary saxophonist of Billy Joel’s Hall of Fame Band), brings the house to tears with his portrayal of Bobby Murcer and cleverly situated saxophone riffs throughout the closing song sung by Layla Dionne. Murcer’s eulogy to Yankee teammates following Munson’s death in August, 1979(also portrayed by American Idol’s Robbie Rosen and Actor Patrick Stoffer at other venues) and his re-enactment of the game at Yankee Stadium, where he single-handedly won the game for the Bronx Bombers immediately following the same day funeral service in Canton, Ohio was utterly riveting.
Academy Award-nominated actor Danny Aiello, who was one of the celebrities in the audience, expressed his jubilation for the performance, “BATBOY was incredible and a concept that should be worked on so that it can be shared with the world in many years to come.” Chazz Palminterri, the creator of A Bronx Tale, praised the show and Ray by saying, “You should be very proud of yourself-you did it and made it happen. Everybody talks but no one really does it.”
So as Yogi has also told us all, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” BATBOY will soon be on the road again sharing the stories that should never die. Stories that a seventeen-year-old boy from the Bronx continues to share while supporting communities along the way. The Boss and “Our” Captain Thurman burn deeply in Negron’s soul, a fire that we are blessed to “observe a lot by just watching.”