George Steinbrenner was sitting at his large round desk talking on the phone. The conversation was actually quite heated. His face was somewhat red. At that moment he said words that one might not use in church and hung up the phone with some muscle. He stared at the wall and just mumbled under his breath. You definitely could tell that he was really mad. I had been around long enough to know that you better keep a low profile at that moment and not say a word. Then all of a sudden a little boy that was a guest of the Boss and had one leg and moved around on a roller skate was rolling by. I said to myself, oh no this is not a good time.
The Boss through his anger because of the phone call noticed the young boy. His name was Alex Garrett. A year earlier the Boss had noticed the young man and his father outside the ballpark and invited them up to his suite. At first, Mr. Steinbrenner felt sorry for the young boy with one leg but when he saw that young Alex didn’t see himself as handicapped or disabled he in turn started to look at Alex with admiration. He had the Stadium manager Sonny Hight issue Alex and his dad an all-access pass so that they could go to any part of the stadium and they were welcome to all games.
The Boss looked at Alex as he rolled by his desk and ordered him to sit next to him. Not a word was spoken. The Boss just looked at Alex with a very firm look on his face and the look slowly turned into a nice smile. At that moment he patted Alex on his back said thanks and told him to go enjoy the game. I later asked the Boss why did he thank Alex. The Boss said because that little boy brought me back to my senses by just sitting there. He said that every once in a while you need different people from different walks of life to remind us how blessed we are and to get your head out of your ass. The Boss also knew of the storied history of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and how they were always helping children in unfortunate situations. He also reminded me of the time when he was having a Major argument with Billy Martin in the manager’s office and I and Goose Gossage were listening at the door and basically giving the play-by-play to the rest of the team. At that moment the Boss opened the door and Goose and I almost fell to the floor. The Boss gave Goose a hard look and told me to let’s go. I thought I was in trouble. We walked into the parking lot and over to his car. He told his driver, a retired police officer to get in the back that he was driving.
I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think he did either except that he kept telling me that your boy Billy can be a real ass hole sometimes. The Boss knew how much I loved Billy and how much I actually understood the two personalities.
At that moment I realized that Mr. Steinbrenner was just burning off steam. Driving through the Bronx during the period when the Bronx was burning could really put things into perspective for him. We actually drove by my old neighborhood on Westchester Ave and 161 st. I remember him looking around and asking, wow this is where you lived?
I said yes and he just curiously looked at me. It was almost as if he was saying, I can’t believe you survived this.
Different people had different effects on the Boss, both positive and negative. You can say that about anyone. Young Alex definitely had a very positive effect on the Boss.
One time the Boss asked someone if the little boy was coming to the game that day and the person responded by asking, You mean the handicapped kid? The Boss took his glasses off looked at the person and said… The only one that is handicapped here is you for even talking that way.
I have to be honest with you… I was proud and happy that the Boss responded the way he did.
The Boss was a true champion for all kids. It didn’t matter if they were black or white, had only one leg or two.
Could the Boss be tough and maybe a little crazy? Yes, but that’s what made him the Boss and I must add no owner in sports ever had a bigger heart. When you were his true friend you just didn’t want to ever let him down.
Today Alex Garrett is a radio producer on 970am The Answer. He produces major personalities like the terrific entertainer Joe Piscopo and others.
Alex often thinks of his coming-of-age years at Yankee Stadium. He never forgot the kindness extended to him and his dad by The Boss’s Bartender Joe Scafidi and Team President Randy Levine.
Alex says none of his success today would have been possible without the great encouragement from the man known as the Boss.