Today's guest blog is authored by Peppercom receptionist, raconteur and all-around good guy, Ray Carroll.
The World Series matchup has been set. And, while the average Yankees fans is mourning the team’s unexpected playoff exit, many are somewhat oblivious to three much larger loses. This past season, a tyrannical boss, a legendary stadium voice, and an unofficial team mascot all relocated to the field of dreams in the sky. Revered by many (and, in the boss’s case, despised by even more), the trio’s starkly contrasting personalities made each a Big Apple institution.
Temporarily curbing my preference for the Mets’ blue and orange, and as a lifelong fan of our national pastime and the city itself, I feel compelled to pay homage and commemorate the lives of the ‘Pinstripe Three’.
The first is, of course, George Michael Steinbrenner III. As everyone knows, ‘the boss’ was a maniacal owner and domineering sports figure whose antics will never be duplicated. His intensity and single-minded focus on winning resulted in adoration and hatred alike. A curt and shrewd businessman, GMS was who he was. He held no punches even as his image plummeted.
I’m interested to see if his surviving family members (most notably, son, Hank) can extend the winning tradition that George had returned to the franchise (note: prior to the boss becoming owner, the Yankees had languished for many years as an also-ran). I give the Texas Rangers credit for superior hitting and outplaying the Yank in their just-concluded American League Championship Series. But, after witnessing owner Nolan Ryan’s laughter as his Rangers catapulted towards victory in the 9th inning of Game 4, I wondered how GMS would have reacted. One thing’s for sure. It wouldn’t have been pretty.
Praised and loathed by fans, George’s achievements are undeniable. His distinguished vision for success boasts seven World Series rings and the creation of Yankee Global Enterprises, LLC. By departing the scene in 2010, the cagey businessman neatly dodged some serious estate taxes, saving his family one-half billion dollars.
The second great Yankees loss this past year came with the passing of Bob Sheppard. Sheppard was the orator’s orator who emulated the voice of god and exemplified
elegance from a century past. For five-plus decades, he’d been the unforgettable stadium voice for the Yankees & New York’s football Giants alike (note: the Giants had played all of their home games at Yankee Stadium prior to the creation of Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands of New Jersey). Sheppard’s pronunciation was perfect and his elocution expressed pure class.
In fact, opposing players eagerly anticipated hearing their names introduced with Sheppard’s remarkable diction. In an interview, Sheppard said he focused on the Three C’s: “clear, concise, and correct” – an outlook shared with PR. Watch Bob remark on his time-honored career here.
Last, but certainly , not least, is Freddy Schuman (a.k.a. Freddy Sez). Unlike Steinbrenner or Sheppard, Schuman was a humble man who graced Yankees home games with a witty sign, spoon and shamrock clad pan. His moniker derived from the signs he created for each and every game. Freddy was a fixture at the stadium, and brought a great deal of joy to the other faithful in the stands. As a matter of fact, Freddy rarely, if ever, missed a game. As sure as the Yanks’ were outfitted in pinstripes, so, too, was Freddy with his paraphernalia.
For two decades, Freddy was not only seen at every home game and championship parade, but also as an unofficial ambassador at the St. Patrick’s Day Parades (see: House of Pain’s Jump Around video – 3:34 mark). He also cheered local university basketball games and even starred in Nike commercial (here at 0:52 mark). Freddy Sez was a living asset to the stadium. His memory was honored prior to ALCS Game 3, and his name and image illuminated on the center field scoreboard.
The Yankees will pursue their 28th championship next season. But, they’ll have to do so without “The Boss”, “the Voice”, and “Freddy Sez”. For me, though, they’ll always live on as three of the New York’s sports scene’s most memorable and charismatic characters.
I’m confident the Yankees will be in contention next season, but will a loss of non-athletic influencers affect their team culture? Will they absorb the multiple losses or begin a long downward spiral of soul searching? What are your thoughts? How do you think Steinbrenner, Sheppard and Freddy Sez stack up against some of New York’s other legendary sports figures of past eras?