10 Non-Player Yankee Legends
There are plenty of Yankee legends that have worn the pinstripes, names that we recall with little cognitive effort: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle… But there have been other Yankee legends who never hit an October home run, or made a running catch in the outfield, or even laced up a pair of spikes. They may not be as oft-remembered as Reggie and Donnie Baseball, but they are an undeniable piece of the fabric of Yankee lore.
* * * * *
#10 | Stan’s Sports Bar
Since the 1970s, Stan’s, located just down the street from the Stadium on River Ave, is the self-proclaimed “home of the diehard Yankee fan.” It’s hard to argue with that when you see people jammed against walls plastered with legendary visages from pinstriped past on each and every game day. It was founded by Stan Martucci and is currently manned by his son and two New York City firemen.
#9 | Little Eddie
Eddie Bennett was born in 1903 in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. When he was just a todler he suffered a severe spinal injury when he fell out of his baby carriage, stunting his growth and leaving him with a hunched back. He was left an orphan when both of his parents died in the flu epidemic of 1918, but was able to support himself by becoming Happy Felsch‘s personal mascot, convincing him that he had supernatural powers due to his diminutive size. When Felsch saw an upswing in his pitching, the entire Chicago White Sox team took him on as a mascot in 1919. In the wake of the “Black Sox” scandal, that involved 8 players including Felsch, to become the mascot of the Brooklyn Robins. His hometown team won the pennant in 1920, but after winning the first 2 games of the World Series, Bennett was not invited to join the team in Cleveland, and Brooklyn lost the next 4 games and the series. Bennett left the team over the slight.
Bennett became the Yankees’ bat boy at 18 upon the request of owner Jacob Ruppert. Many on the team believed that he was a good luck charm, and he grew particularly close to Babe Ruth, who played catch with him in the field almost every game. In a role similar to a bench coach, Bennett perched himself right beside Miller Huggins on the bench and brought pertinent information to his attention throughout the game. He remained at his post until the middle of the 1933 when problems arising from being hit by a taxi the previous year forced him to retire. He passed away not long after and Ruppert paid for his funeral.
#8 | Jeffrey Maier
On October 9, 1996, in the 8th inning of game 1 of the ALCS, the Yanks’ rookie shortstop strode to the plate with the Bombers trailing 4-3 and down to their last 5 outs. On the first pitch Derek Jeter saw from Armando Benitez he poked a pitch to deep right field. That’s when one of the most memorable and controversial moments in postseason history occurred.
Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco settled under the ball with his back against the wall, but as he reached up to catch it a black glove appeared out of nowhere and snatched it away. It was Jeffrey Maier’s glove and the 12-year-old had inadvertently redirected the momentum of the series. Tarasco pleaded with umpire Richie Garcia, manager Davey Johnson was ejected, and the old Stadium rocked with new life as Jeter’s first magical moment knotted the game. The Yanks would go on to win the game 5-4 in the 11th on a Bernie Williams home run and the Birds have cried foul ever since. In the days following the incident, Maier had a steady stream of appearances on seemingly every talk show and news program, becoming an instant celebrity and an oft-remembered part of Yankee lore.
#7 | Beau the Horse
After the final of the 1996 World Series at Yankee Stadium, Wade Boggs hopped on the horse of a New York City cop for one of the most memorable images in Fall Classic history. Boggs, after being bitten on the back by a horse when he was 5, was actually deathly afraid of them, but in the euphoria of the moment he overcame his fear. ”Beau was a trouper,” Boggs remembered. ”He allowed two people on his back and didn’t try to buck me off. I just saw the horse at a card show in Yonkers two years ago. It was a nice reunion.” Beau is currently retired, living on a farm upstate, and “lovin’ life” according to one of New York’s Finest.
#6 | Freddy Sez
Freddy Schuman was born in 1925 and spent most of his 85 years in the Bronx. Beginning around 1988, Freddy became a fixture at Yankee Stadium and could be seen, and heard, with a frying pan embossed with a 4-leaf clover, a spoon, and a sign preceded by the words, “Freddy Sez” and a comment on the day’s game. Freddy would begin in the upper deck and slowly work his way down the the lower levels, offering his spoon and pan to Yankees fans to bring the Yankees luck. His notoriety grew so much that he made cameos in commercials for MasterCard and Nike, and even House of Pain’s music video for “Jump Around.” One of his pans resides in Cooperstown. When Freddy passed away in 2010, the Yankees held a moment of silence prior to game 3 of the ALCS.
#5 | Gene Monahan
From 1973 to 2011 Monahan was the faithful trainer of the Yanks. On his watch, the Bombers won 11 pennants and 7 World Series titles. At Old-Timers’ Day in 2011 he was honored by the Yanks after announcing he would retire following the season.
#4 | Pete Sheehy
Pete Sheehy’s career with the Yankees began in 1927 and would span the better part of the next seven decades as the Bombers’ clubhouse attendant and equipment manager. When Lou Gehrig walked off the field for the last time, knowing his career was over, it was Sheehy who Gehrig flipped his glove to, saying, “I’m done, Pete.” Sheehy was also in charge of doling out uniforms, giving Mickey Mantle his iconic #7 after returning from a stint in the minors. He was a fixture in the clubhouse and as much a part of Yankee culture as anyone throughout much of the franchise’s history. Willie Randolph described him as, “a second father.” Upon Sheehy’s death in August, 1985 Dan Mattingly said, “He was a great man. He was a symbol who reached all the way back to the past. Just think of all the players he’s known and seen. He treated everybody great.”
Sheehy worked for the Yankees from the age of 17 until his death at 75, witnessing 29 pennants and 21 World Championships. As a result of his legacy the home clubhouse is named for him and a plaque in the Yankee dugout reads, “Pete Sheehy, 1927-85, Keeper of the Pinstripes.”
#3 | Mel Allen
In 1939 “The Voice of the New York Yankees” began doing play-by-play for radio broadcasts of Yankee home games. Because of New York’s near perennial involvement in the Fall Classic, Allen became familiar not just to New Yorkers, but to the country at large, so much so that even when the Yanks didn’t make the World Series he was asked to call the game. Between 1946 and 1963 he announced 18 consecutive World Series on radio and television. Additionally, he was the play-by-play man for 24 All-Star Games. His iconic phrases included, “How ’bout that!” after a spectacular play and “Going, going, gone!” for a home run. In 1998 Allen was given a plaque in Monument Park and he was elected to the Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
#2 | The Bleacher Creatures
The “Bleacher Creatures” are a large group of season ticket holders who occupied section 39 of the old Stadium and continue on in section 203 of the new one. Creation of the Creatures is credited to Ali Ramirez whose cowbell infused passion in the bleachers during the doldrums of the late 80s and early 90s. When he passed away in 1996, the Yankees honored him with a plaque on his seat reading, “This seat is taken. In memory of Ali Ramirez, ‘The Original Bleacher Creature.’” During the pennant drought, fans in the bleachers also began chanting players’ names like Dave Winfield and Bernie Williams, a precursor of the roll call, in which each player’s name is chanted until they turn around (except for the pitcher and catcher), as much a fixture of Yankee Stadium as the facade. The chanting ends with, “Box seats suck!”
The chant is begun by “Bald” Vinny Milano and over the years players have interacted with the right field mob in different ways. Johnny Damon dropped to one knee and pointed, Nick Swisher saluted, and Scott Brosius sometimes good-naturedly let them go for close to a minute before finally acknowledging them. When Jason Giambi left New York he said the roll call was the thing he missed the most.
The Creatures are also infamous for their raucous and unruly behavior. They have been accused of throwing batteries, coins, and even a knife at opposing outfielders and are merciless to visiting fans who attempt to sit in the section. Despite the various criticisms over years, they are undeniably the heartbeat of Yankee Stadium, game in and game out, their undying passion helping to fill the void of the increasingly disengaged luxury box fans.
#1 | Bob Sheppard
On April 17, 1951, the same day Mickey Mantle made his debut in pinstripes, Bob Sheppard became the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium, a post he would fill until 2007. Mantle would later say that hearing Sheppard announce his name gave him the chills. Reggie Jackson dubbed his distinctive timbre, “The Voice of God.” George Steinbrenner, never one to lend praise easily, called him “the gold standard.”
After Sheppard’s retirement, Derek Jeter requested that Sheppard record his at bat announcement, which continues to be played each time the Captain comes to bat: “Der-ik Jee-tuh.” Aside from being a fixture at Yankee games, he was a PA announcer for New York Giants football games from 1956-2006 and is one of only two people awarded both a World Series ring and a Super Bowl ring. Over his 56 years perched above home plate, he became as much a part of Yankee history as the countless men he called to the plate. Sheppard passed away in 2010, but lives on in the memories of innumerable Yankee fans.