“A Bronx Tale” the play opened on Broadway last week but unfortunately I couldn’t attend because my dad has been so sick. As many of you know, my mom died last month and there was no way that my father, Cirilo, was going to let her die after him even though all of the doctors said he wouldn’t make it past the World Series. Well, it’s Dec. 5 and my dad died this morning. He was 82 years old, and truly a great man. A true gentleman. I really don’t think I have ever known a better person, with the exception of my mom. If I have one regret it is that I don’t think that I ever told him that.
Chaz Palminteri called to offer me his condolences and he asked me about my dad the person. I only had one answer, he was Lorenzo, the father of “C” (Calogero) from the movie, “A Bronx Tale.” He was a man who would truly take a beating for his kids. If you come from the Bronx or Brooklyn you know what that means.
Cirilo was a man that lived the American dream. He came to this country with a third-grade education, and married the girl of his dreams and her son. He adopted me when I was six years old and then had two girls of his own, Nancy and Naomi. He went to work in a grocery store as a stocker and within five years ended up owning the store. It was called Ciro’s Food Center.
I remember at the stores profitable height, he would buy uniforms for the neighborhood Little League teams even though he knew nothing about baseball. He felt that with all of the neighborhood gang violence, if he got more kids to join little league it would keep them out of the gangs and thus alleviate crime in the area. He was wildly popular in his Brooklyn neighborhood because when people didn’t have money to pay, he would always give them credit. He always knew that this was going to lead to an argument with my mother, who had the better business mind but he did it anyway. By the end of the 1960s, with the change in the country, the economy and some bad business moves, he ended up closing the store but he saved enough money to buy us a home in Queens. He wanted a safer environment for his kids because the gang wars in that part of Brooklyn were getting out of hand. He drove a cab for several years and finally became an orderly at Brooklyn Hospital for many years. He finally retired when my mother, Jenny, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
He only met George Steinbrenner once- the day that the Boss had them come pick me up after my first day as the Yankee bat boy. I will never forget my mom and the Boss semi-arguing over what the Boss told her that I did. My poor dad just stood there quietly because he had never met a man like George Steinbrenner. My mom, however just didn’t care about who he was. Just be good to her kid.
Throughout the years, my Dad fell in love with the Yankees and was eternally grateful for the crazy, unrealistic relationship that I had with Mr. Steinbrenner. He loved hearing my stories and he loved to brag to his friends about me even more. He loved to say to people, “This is my son!”
As a youngster, when I knew that Cirilo was not my biological father I hurt a lot over that and reached out to the Boss and Billy Martin about it. They used to tell me that I had better “wake up and smell the coffee” I was luckier than most because of how terrific a person I used to tell them that Cirilo was.
Billy once asked me, “Does your dad love you as much as I do?” I said,”Yes, he does.” And Billy said, “I couldn’t love you anymore even if you were Italian so he couldn’t love you any more even if he were your blood.” “So always know that your Dad is truly someone very special.”
Years later when I would watch the movie, “A Bronx Tale” and Sonny would have his talks with “C” about his Dad, it would remind me about the talks I would have with the Boss or Billy about my Dad or about life in general.
My dad knew how much I loved these two men and he never discouraged it, he used to tell me to learn as much as I could from them and the great people that I would meet in my lifetime. However, I proudly say that the most important man that I would meet in my life was the grocery store worker that married my beautiful Mom, Jenny and her son.
I thank you Pops for being so good to my mother, Nancy and Naomi and the boy that you adopted…Me.
Visitation will be Thursday 2-5pm and 7-9pm
Krauss Funeral Home
1097 Hempstead Turnpike
Franklin Square, NY 11010
PS I wish Chazz Palminteri and Robert De Niro good luck with their new Broadway play, A Bronx Tale!
I will never forget the day Barry Halper, a co-owner of the Yankees, went up to the Boss and said “I saw a movie about you and Ray Negron. The Boss said, “What are you talking about?” Barry told him about a movie called “A Bronx Tale.” The Boss saw the movie, loved it and two weeks later invited Chazz to a game in his suite. Mr Steinbrenner put us together that night and Chazz and I have been friends ever since. Please see his play, I heard it was fabulous.
Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday from 11 am to 1pm on 1050am ESPN Deportes and read on Newsmax.