Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Sinatra and Scognamillo… Legends in more ways than one. Especially at Patsy’s

One December night in 1977 I walked into what I thought was just an ordinary Italian restaurant with Yankees manager Billy Martin. Being your average Hispanic kid that was born in the Bronx I didn’t know any better.

I had done many favors for Billy throughout the year so this was sort of a reward.

When we walked in I knew right away that this wasn’t just your typical Italian restaurant.

There were hundreds of pictures all over the walls of very famous movie stars that frequented the place.

As we walked in a distinguished no nonsense looking guy came over to Billy and whispered in his ear. His name was Joe Scognamillo and he was the owner of the place. Billy turned to me and told me to wait here.

The two of them disappeared up a flight of stairs in the back of the restaurant.

I stood there and nervously chatted with a very nice lady that was standing by the coat check area. I would later find out that she was married to Joe.

After about ten minutes Joe came down walked over to me and said your with Billy right? I said yes. Joe said to follow him. He stared at my then big Afro hair do and with a big smile said, nice hair.

We walked up the stairs and it was like another restaurant. We walked to the back and it was set up like a private room.

In the left corner of the room there was a little party going on. Naturally, I saw Billy right away screaming out to come over. My heart skipped a beat when I noticed two very striking figures. One was the legendary showman Sammy Davis jr. who I have admired forever and then at the very corner of the table sat a man known as The chairman of the board Frank Sinatra.

There were others at the table and the respect all seemed to gravitate towards Mr. Sinatra. At the same time I noticed the incredible amount of respect that Mr. Sinatra threw at Joe Scognamillo. It was almost like Joe was his little brother. Joe himself took care of Mr. Sinatra even though there was a waiter taking care of the table.

Even though Mr. Sinatra lived in Los Angeles and was big time friends with Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda you could see the great admiration that Mr. Sinatra had for Billy. It was mentioned that Mr. Sinatra had first met Billy through his onetime friendship with Joe DiMaggio.

Sammy Davis Jr. was absolutely wonderful and he even talked to me in Spanish a couple of times. He told me that his mom was Puerto Rican and still lived in Spanish Harlem. After this meeting, I would remain friends with Sammy and a couple of times during Spring Training Sammy performed at the Sunrise Theater in Fort Lauderdale so I would bring some of the Yankees including Dave Winfield to meet him.

Mr. Sinatra held court that night, told us wonderful stories about Joe, his Father Patsy, and how great they had always been to him. He said that Joe was family and what ever he needed in life all he had to do was ask.

The thing that impressed me about their relationship was how the eye contact they shared with each other was so personal and powerful.

There was so much I can say about that night, but I would have to write a book to cover the whole story.

The one thing I will say is that that night was important for me because I would get a chance to meet one of the most amazing man in the world in Frank Sinatra and like George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin , he to emphasized to me that I too am somebody!

During that period my self esteem was at an all time low so Billy knew that this night could help me grow up. He was so right!

As for Joe Scognamillo, he would become a lifelong friend who on several other occasions had me join Mr. Sinatra for dinner.

To this date he and his son Sal keep a beautiful painting of that initial dinner with that great group on the second floor in the Sinatra room . I like to call the picture … Patsy’s Summit!

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