By Ray Negron
Whenever I walk into the suite section at the new Yankee Stadium, I can literally tell you where every picture on the walls are located.
I can tell you that the photo of Babe Ruth with all the kids and the old lady with no teeth is by suite 68. A young George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson in street clothes on the left side of suite 56. The wonderful Thurman Munson is on the opposite side of suite 44. I can tell you that Billy Martin and Bobby Murcer are down by party suites 1 and 2. This past Sunday, I walked into suite 33 to say hello to sports promoter Andrew Levy and to pay my respect to a guy who does so much for a lot of retired players and people in general. He was sitting next to Mickey and Cookie Rivers. They had big smiles on their faces. I asked them to share in the joy and tell me what was going on. Cookie asked me, “Don’t you know?” I said, “Know what?” She told me that Mickey’s picture was put up in the hallway by suite 60. I turned to Mickey and he had a smile on his face that I haven’t seen since he had the winning ticket for the Belmont stakes in 1977. He and Cookie are so proud. Someone in the suite asked, “What took the Yankees so long to do it?” Mickey’s response was, “The Yankees have always been there for me in more ways than you will ever understand.” At that point, Cookie grabbed his hand and gave Mick the Quick a very loving smile. Andrew Levy told me that Mickey takes it upon himself to act as a Yankees Ambassador and shakes as many hands as possible. Mickey probably takes more pictures than anybody in the Yankee organization. He tells wonderful loving stories about The Boss, Thurman, yes and even Reggie Jackson.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1978 World Champion Yankees. Mickey was such an important part of that team that he and Bucky Dent were honored at the Yankees Welcome Home Dinner this year and threw out the first pitch on opening day. Like all Yankee fans, I see Mickey as a happy go lucky personality that is quick to smile and is always willing to make fans feel great. As a close friend, I see Mickey as someone that has always been willing to give of himself in any way possible. When they say that a person is willing to give you the shirt right off his back, I immediately think of Mickey Rivers because I have literally seen him do it. I sadly say that he is truly one of the most generous people that I have ever known. I know for a fact that Mr. Steinbrenner loved Mickey as much as he loved any player because of how great he was for those Yankee teams of the 70s and because of Mickey’s gigantic heart.
The Boss once said to Billy Martin that Rickey Henderson is the greatest lead off hitter of all time, however he could never do for my teams what Mickey Rivers did for my Championship teams of the 70s. Billy responded by saying, “Rickey Henderson is like a son to me however for those three years I would have to go with Mickey.”
The greatest defensive center fielder that I have ever seen and a teammate of Mickey’s was the marvelous Paul Blair. He once said that Mickey’s fun loving ways in the clubhouse were as important as what he did on the field and that alone made Mickey an MVP in his eyes. I agree.
Additionally, Ray can be heard on weekends on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day, Newsmax And Baseball America. A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats. For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com