RAY NEGRON was writing when George Steinbrenner first met him, in 1973. The 17-year-old Negron, Bronx born and raised, was spray painting graffiti on a wall outside Yankee Stadium. Fortunately for Negron, the Boss was in a benevolent mood. Instead of calling the police, he dragged Negron into his office, gave him a job as a batboy and told him, "Make me feel proud of you."
Now 51 and a special assistant to the Yankees' owner, Negron is still scribbling. Last year he published The Boy of Steel, a children's book about a young cancer patient who becomes a batboy and meets Yankees greats who have also fought the disease; next month the story comes to the stage. A one-act play adapted from the book will be performed on Aug. 18 at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx to benefit a children's charity. It's not quite Broadway, but the production will have star power: Negron's friend Darryl Strawberry will make his stage debut, playing a character in the book named Strawberry, who bears a striking resemblance to Darryl himself.
Strawberry's acting résumé is short—guest appearances on the sitcoms Between Brothers and Doctor Doctor and a voice-over on The Simpsons—but Negron had no reservations about casting him. He thought Strawberry's experience as a colon cancer survivor made him perfect for the play. "He seemed very comfortable," director Rich Ramirez said after Strawberry's first read-through last week. "He's just drawing from his own personal experience."
The production will also feature actor Luis Guzmàn, Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay and former catcher Jim Leyritz. "If you allow me to be myself, I'll be natural," says Strawberry. "I could just be me and act as a patient with cancer because I've been there and I've experienced it for myself." Negron has another kids' book hitting shelves next year, but don't expect Straw to show up if it's adapted to the stage. "I don't have the stomach for it," Strawberry says.
THE DOCUMENTARY Impossible to Forget—about Carl Yastrzemski (right) and the 1967 Red Sox, who resurrected baseball in Boston—is an entertaining enough video, and Sox fans should enjoy it. But what makes the DVD relevant outside the Hub is the bonus disc, which contains the Sox' penultimate game of the '67 season, against the Twins (who led Boston by a game), in its entirety. It's believed to be the oldest surviving complete regular-season MLB color broadcast. There are virtually no graphics or catch phrases. At one point, play-by-play man Ken Coleman marvels that the media horde at Fenway has necessitated the setting up of "all kinds of Western Union machines and telephones" in the pressroom. And Minnesota's leadoff hitter, Zoilo Versalles, entered the game hitting .201. In short, it's a mesmerizing reminder of how much baseball and broadcasting have changed—for better and worse—in the past 40 years.
CERTAIN ATHLETES just don't seem all there with a clean upper lip. The biggest story at the 1999 Brickyard 400 was Dale Earnhardt, who showed up without his mustache, which he had shaved because it was interfering with his ability to snorkel. The Intimidator's soup strainer (right) is one of the nominees for the Greatest Sports Mustache, a contest at americanmustacheinstitute.org. The competition spans several sports and whisker styles: The field also includes Al Hrabosky's Fu Manchu (left, top) and Lanny McDonald's walrus number (bottom).
BRYAN YABLONSKY/WIREIMAGE.COM (NEGRON AND STRAWBERRY)
BRONX BUDS Negron (left) handed his pal Strawberry another starring role.
ART SHAY (YAZ)
ART SHAY (HRABOSKY)
JAY SAILORS/AP (EARNHARDT)
BRUCE BENNETT STUDIOS/GETTY IMAGES (MCDONALD)