A small act of kindness has a ripple effect that can change the world. Ten years ago I was walking the streets of New York with a book idea. I shared it with the animated film producer, Joe Avallone from Reveal Animated Studios. When I told him the storyline he said, if you ever get the book published that he would make it into a film.
Within six months Judith Regan, from Harper Collins and her Vice President Tom Hopke gave me a book deal for “The Boy Of Steel.”
The book would become a New York Times best seller. Joe Avallone would keep his word and produced “Henry and And Me” based on the “Boy Of Steel.” I would go for permission to do the project with George Steinbrenner. When he agreed, I asked if he would do the voice over himself. But at the time his health was starting to fail, so he suggested that I ask his oldest son Hank.
The Boss said that Hank’s voice sounded the most like his compared to his other son Hal. When I asked Hank, he agreed to do it especially when he found out that I had made the film a charity project with funds being directed to different causes.
These charities included Pediatric Cancer Research, Education, The Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, etc. I would call on my friends in the world of entertainment. They all agreed to perform in the film. To have Richard Gere one of Hollywood’s all-time movie stars lend his voice and star in the project was a great thrill for me, even though Gere has been a friend over thirty years.
I respect his talent and understand that he commands millions for every film that he makes. Richard said he wanted to do it because a film like this can be helpful to these great causes. I must add that Richard Gere had always helped me in so many of my charity events. He never says no because that’s the great person he is.
Another wonderful person, Danny Aiello, the Oscar nominated actor for the film“Do the Right Thing” and so many other great movies was so courageous because he plays the doctor who finds out that the little boy has cancer and has to tell the parents. Danny did his part after he lost his own son Danny Jr. to cancer.
As Danny was delivering his lines, I had to leave the studio because I started to cry knowing that he had lost a son to cancer,
Another terrific actor in this incredible ensemble is the great Chazz Palminteri. He just knocked it out of the park. Everyone talks about how great he was in “The Bronx Tale.” Maybe I am prejudiced because this was my project, but Chazz is definitely better in “Henry and Me.” When you watch this film you will understand why I say this.
Luis Guzman, my Puerto Rican Brother almost steals the film in playing the great Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez. He is absolutely incredible and now I understand why Guzman is one of Hollywood’s busiest actors. Luci Arnaz and my very dear friend of “Knots Landing Fame” Joey Gian plays the parents and even though they never were on the set at the same time you would think they never left each other’s side.
To have Luci Arnaz on the set was like having Hollywood royalty there. To me that is what the Arnaz name represents and her accomplishments in film and on Broadway speak for themselves.
Cyndi Lauper is Cyndi Lauper, great. .She even sings a song, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and she makes it her own. The girl just wanted to have fun. Paul Simon doesn’t sing a song but he sure does sound like Thurman Munson. My pal Aris was supposed to play Mickey Mantle and actually sounded like him, but blood is thicker than water so we brought in David Mantle, Mickey;s son and he made Papa proud.
Then you have some of the Yankees of today like CC Sabathia and Joe Girardi. They do a very fine job but doubt they will ever win an Academy Award… LOL.
I have always said that the best job I ever had in baseball was being the Yankee Batboy, so naturally I do a line in the film. I thought it might excite you guys. All in all, a wonderful film that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles should buy for all kids or even for ourselves.
Richard and Hank loved working with the director Barrett Esposito, a true professional and we were so lucky to have had the Emmy Award winning editor Joe Castellano. Man, he performed magic with this film.
“Henry And Me” would be the last time that Yogi Berra would ever work. Yogi is so funny in this film that you forget that it is an animation. On the set he is so hilarious that Reggie Jackson and Willie Randolph just could not stop laughing.
Even general manager Brian Cashman has a cameo in this film.
Finally, the PA announcer, known as the voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard insisted that he do his own voice even though he was very sick at the time and knowing that he would die shortly. Ironically he and our beloved Boss George Steinbrenner would die within days of each other.
Every true baseball fan should own a copy of this film.
This should be in your film library next to “The Pride of the Yankees: and “The Natural.” This Christmas let’s make 2016 a “Henry and Me” Christmas. When the film ends watch the special segment on George Steinbrenner as the spirits of Ruth and Gehrig come to get him. Also listen to the closing credit song written and sang by nine-time Grammy winner and all-time good guy Jose Feliciano. It is called “Keep the Faith.”
I wish everyone a Feliz Navidad. Purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and wherever films are sold.
Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes from 11 am to 1 pm and also can be read on Newsmax.