Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Frankie Valli, Mended bridges Swear to God

In 1975 I was in Bradenton Florida playing professional baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

A bunch of the players and me were in the activities room in Pirate City where we were playing pool. The majority of the players were from all around Latin America. Many from the Dominican Republic. Because of my bilingual background, I use to serve as a translator.

We always had the radio blurring with music and the biggest argument was between the black players wanting to hear the soul music, the white players wanting either country or pop, and the Latin guys wanting salsa or merengue. This was always a problem, even to the point of us getting into shoving matches and the coaches taking the radio out of the room.

One day after a game we were all just hanging out when one of the guys put on the radio and the DJ said this is a new song by Frankie Valli. All the Latin players screamed out change the station we don’t want to hear that. All of a sudden the initial beat to the song started to resonate into their brain. They started moving to the music with big smiles on their faces. Even though they didn’t know what the words to the song meant, the sound and the bridge to the song with such a Jazz tempo was big for them. The next day after the game we all went to a record store and purchased the album that I think was called… Close up.

The album cover had Frankie Valli on the cover with a beautiful blond. Everyone thought it was a very cool album cover. I guarantee you that we sold out all the Frankie Valli albums that day.

After that, most of the Latin players really gave all types of music a chance. I will never forget Nelson Norman a short stop that went on to have a nice Major League career say to me one day… You know, now that I listen to American music I really like it.

That all happened because of Frankie Valli and his big comeback hit In 1975 …Swear-in to God. It was so cool how the players went full circle and how that song probably prevented an international incident.
Let me tell you about Frankie Valli…

In 1977 I would go to Madison Square Garden to attend my first music concert. Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons. I just didn’t know what to expect. All I know is that twenty thousand fans filled the garden that night.

Frankie came on stage and the place went crazy. I was surprised at the fact that I knew just about every song he did. I naturally knew My eyes adore you and Swearin to God because they were recent number-one hits however the songs from the 60s were even bigger hits.

It was such a spectacular show that I just didn’t want it to end. I was there with my friend and co-Yankee batboy Hector Pagan who was loving the show just as much as I was. That night Frankie was so great that they had to bring him back for three encores. After the show, I was really happy yet sad at the same time because I don’t think that other than a baseball activity, I had never had a better time.

I remember telling Hector that I really want to meet Valli. He said I was crazy, there is no way you can get to him. I said I was going to try. I asked all different security how I can get to the dressing room until I got to where he would be.

I finally got to the guard that was in charge of Frankie’s dressing room. Hector asked me what was I going to tell the guard and I said the truth…. I’m the New York Yankee batboy and I would like to say hello to Mr. Valli.

The guard smiled and said wait a minute.

He walked in and within 5 minutes he came back and said follow me.

He walked me and Hector into the dressing room and there was Frankie eating a plate of pasta. He was already out of costume and into a pair of jeans and a t. shirt.

He said hay how are you. I just don’t remember the rest of the conversation except that it was great. I couldn’t believe that he was taking time with me and showing interest in my job as a batboy. At the end of the visit, he had his then-assistant give me his number so that I could attend future shows and I can honestly say that 45 years later I still visit with the great Frankie Valli.

I will close by saying that when my mom died Frankie sent the largest floral arrangement that I had seen. Frankie and his musical director Robbie Robinson, who is like my brother, and the band prayed for her before their show and they even had her picture on Robbie Robinson’s organ during the show. What made this incredible gesture so unbelievable was that this particular performance was on Broadway…

Swear to God.

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