Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Like Mr. Sinatra, Billy Martin and Frankie Valli , Michael Buble loves PATSY’S to… so do I

I was first introduced to Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in the winter of 1976.

The Yankees had just lost the World Series in four games to the Cincinnati Reds.

Yankees manager Billy Martin stayed in New York to look for real estate so that he could open up a western store. A place where you could buy cowboy boots and hats and all sorts of western accessories.

He found a place at 73 Street and Madison Ave. At one point I went to see it because I was going to work there when I wasn’t at Yankee Stadium.

After checking the place out he asked me if I was hungry and I said yes.

He took me to a restaurant called Patsys which is located on 56st and Broadway.

As we were walking in I stopped and said to Billy that I felt underdressed. I was wearing dungarees and sneakers. Billy laughed and said don’t worry partner we have protection here. I didn’t know what he meant. As we walked in a distinguished-looking man named Joe came over to Billy shook his hand and whispered in his ear. Billy turned to me and told me to wait here a minute. All of a sudden they walked up a flight of stairs at the back of the restaurant. Now I really felt out of place because I was standing there alone in what was for me a very fancy and famous restaurant. Let’s not forget that my favorite restaurant at the time was White Castle.

As I looked around I noticed that there were alot of Frank Sinatra photos on the wall.

All of a sudden Joe reappeared and said follow me, kid. He asked me what my name was and I said Ray. He told me that his name was Joe Scognamillo. It’s taken me all of 40 years to learn how to pronounce his name!

Joe couldn’t help but stare at my hair which at the time was a pretty big Afro. He said with a big smile… nice hair!

We walked up the stairs and then walked to the back where a private section was. Over in the left corner was a table. I saw Billy right away waving me over. Next to Billy, I recognized Sammy Davis Jr right away. At the head of the table, I saw the man himself. Frank Sinatra… Mr. Sinatra! I had actually been introduced to Mr. Sinatra at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs because he had been a guest of George Steinbrenner in his suite. I had brought up a dozen signed baseballs that Mr. Steinbrenner wanted to give his guests which also included Cary Grant and Kirk Douglas.

Mr. Sinatra and all his guests were actually very nice and did everything possible to make me feel like I belonged. The thing that shocked me was how much alike Billy and Mr. Sinatra were. I could also tell what an incredible affection Mr. Sinatra and Sammy had for each other. Sammy was so cool. We hit it off right away because Sammy was actually half Puerto Rican. I didn’t know that his mom was a Latina and still lived in Spanish Harlem. I also found it fascinating how the only person that would handle Mr. Sinatra’s food was Joe. When Mr. Sinatra talked to Joe they looked each other right in the eyes. You could see the incredible respect that they had for each other. You could see that Mr. Sinatra was home. There were others there that you could tell were a part of his entourage. However, the thing that I will always remember was how he made me feel like I belonged. That night I told him that and he said that if anyone ever makes you feel otherwise to tell them to go f…. themselves. He said that nobody is better than anyone else. What’s so ironic was that I don’t know how many times Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner told me the same thing.

Mr. Sinatra actually asked me who my favorite singer was… then he said… and don’t say me! Then he said let me guess, Michael Jackson. He said that because with my Afro at the time I did have a bit of a resemblance. I laughed and said no it’s Frankie Valli. He said good choice, he’s hot again and he’s a good boy. He also said that he liked Frankie very much.

In the immortal words of Frankie Valli in his popular song … Oh What a night! Yes, it was.

I would see Mr. Sinatra several other times at Patsy’s and I swear to God I was never disappointed. I must add that Joe Scognamillo and his wonderful wife Rose and son Sal have always treated this poor Puerto Rican boy like the Prince of some rich country. They are the most precious people ever.

Through the years I have eaten there with my wonderful friend Frankie Valli. Frankie actually appeared on the YES Network with Michael Kay and talked about his love of Patsy’s.

To see Michael Buble at Patsy’s and talk with a passion about why he loves the place so much is just wonderful. He even was at awe about the fact that the whole Yankee team once partied there. As a matter of fact Hank Steinbrenner, the Boss’s oldest son once had a little league team celebrate their championship victory there.

The thing I love about Michael Buble is that like me, we absolutely love the food but we love the spirits that hang out there more!

Thank you Billy Martin for introducing me to an important and amazing part of my life.

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