When you’re a little boy and you are a baseball fan and you go to games the first thing you look at is the players.
You fantasize about someday possibly becoming a major leaguer.
In the process of looking out on the field, you always notice the little kids in uniform with no number on his back.
You find out that these kids are the team mascots, as they were known in the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and later on the Batboys.
To say that being the Yankees batboy was the greatest job I ever had, would truly be an understatement.
The very best people that I have ever known in the game have always been the Batboys.
It’s always wonderful to hear the stories of how these kids became batboys.
Everyone has heard my story of George Steinbrenner grabbing me from the streets a million times. I however find the stories of some of the other kids just fascinating.
I love the one of the Boss being at the 21 club. The busboy was cleaning up a table and accidentally dropped some dishes. The maitre’d started screaming at the kid. Steinbrenner took notice, gave the maitre’d a look, and spoke to the kid with words of encouragement. He told the kid to come to Yankee Stadium the next day that he might have a better job for him. The next day the Boss would make Neil Herbst a batboy. Ironically five years earlier Neil’s older brother Seth had been a batboy on the 1974 Yankee team.
One day Mr. Steinbrenner would get to the old Yankee Stadium very early as was customary for him. There had been a gang fight in the parking lot across the street from the park. The boss was disgusted with all the broken glass on the ground and decided to get brooms and we started to sweep up the mess. In the process he noticed a little African American kid staring at us. The boss in turn started staring back. He then walked over to the kid and asked him why he wasn’t in school. The kid said because it’s a Jewish holiday. The boss could be funny sometimes and said, you don’t look Jewish to me. The kid didn’t know what to say. The boss patted him on the head and asked him if he wanted to help us. The kid said sure so I had to get him a broom. If you knew George Steinbrenner at all then you know that he was very hands-on on everything. After we finished the Boss complimented the kid and asked him what was his name and if he wanted a job. The boy said his name was Sam Carey and he would love a job. Mr. Steinbrenner said follow me. He took Sam to the visitors’ locker room and he told Lou Cucuzza Sr the clubhouse manager to put Sam to work. Sam would become the next batboy. It got to the point where the boss would want to have his hand on the hiring of all batboys because he got to understand that the position could truly impact a kids life forever. Sam would stay on as a Yankees batboy for four years. One day I was called to the Boss’s office. He wanted to know why Sam had not been around. I had to tell him that Sam had joined the circus. The Boss said ‘ stop kidding. I said Boss Sam did join the circus. The Boss laughed hysterically. I asked him what was so funny. He said ‘ didn’t Sam realize that he was already in the Circus!
Years pass and there are so many stories about these kids. Incredible stories about how they get the opportunity.
I will never forget the kid that use to sit in the bleachers with the bleacher creatures. Luis Castillo was a tiny thing that use to imagine being Yanks great David Cone. He impressed the head of the Bleacher Creatures so much that she ( Tina Lewis) used her contacts to push for Castillo to become a batboy. I remember Castillo telling me that while he was being fitted for his Yankee uniform his hero Cone would walk by him and welcome him to the Yanks. Castillo said that it took every strength in him not to cry because his dream of being a Yankee and meeting his hero came true.
The very first Yankees batboy was a kid named Eddie Bennet. He was a kid who’s parents died during the first pandemic of 1918. His whole life was being a Yankee batboy. The Bronx Bombers would be his family. That’s all he had but he always said that that was more than enough.
Some of these batboys went on to accomplish some incredible things. Thad Mumford was a batboy who would go on to fame and fortune as a great creative writer in Hollywood. He would win several Emmy awards for the great T. V. Series Mash. Seth Herbst would become one of America’s top gynecologist who has delivered so many of this next generation of children. Castillo has gone on to be a great activist for children’s causes. Hector Pagan was one of this countries top drug enforcement agents for 33 years. Errol Toulon would historically become the first African American Sherriff on Long Island. However to a man they always said that the greatest job they have ever had was that of being a Yankees batboy.
To show you how wonderful they are, I was having a very difficult week during spring training. Neil Herbst somehow found out. He called me to see if I was ok. Why is this so strange you ask? Because Neil is suffering from ALS. Lou Gehrig disease. He is in a wheelchair and it is very difficult for him to talk, but he used whatever strength he had that day to comfort and encourage me to never give up because too many kids need our help. When he got too weak to talk he texted me. Reminding me that we were once one of those kids. We must always be a positive example to all kids.
I to say that the greatest job I ever had was that of being The Yankee Batboy.
On behalf of all batboys, We forever thank the Yankees for this wonderful opportunity that we have had.
YANKEE BATBOYS FOREVER!