1977, yankees, world, champs
The 1977 World Champion New York Yankees. Batboy Joe D’Ambrosio is seated in front, at left.

The Boss Is Gone, Long Live The Boss:
By Joe D’Ambrosio
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Thirty four years ago, three months and some odd days ago, I first walked into an empty-of-fans but chock full of carpenters, painters, executives and ballplayers, nearly-completed, refurbished ballpark in the Bronx. Eyes wide, senses heightened, I glided down the dark, gloomy hallways, traversing the concrete floors of the catacomb-like underbelly of Yankee Stadium, determined to find the clubhouse. It was Wednesday April 14, 1976. I was all of 18 years old and starting a two-year tenure as a New York Yankees batboy. I had grown up loving the Yankees, wanting to be a Yankee, and though that was not to be my fate as a player, I did wear the pinstripes for two incredible seasons in my impressionable years. I worked for George Steinbrenner.

All I knew about Steinbrenner was that a year earlier, 1975, he added one of the best pitchers of our time/one of the very first free agents, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, to the Yankee roster.  I also came to know that he was incredibly disliked in the clubhouse.

Billy Martin, the Yankee manager, and most of the players on that ’76 team reveled in ripping the “fat man,” as they referred to Steinbrenner. From his rah-rah tactics to his incessant calls to his private, direct line phone on the dugout wall to his legendary verbal battles with Martin, George was the subject of daily—make it hourly—invective by those in uniform. As a wide-eyed batboy on that ’76 team, it was a lot to absorb.

steinbrenner, billy, martin
George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, celebrating in the locker room after the Yankees won the 1977 World Series.

After a heartbreaking, four-in-a-row sweep in the 1976 World Series to the business-like Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds, and a dreamlike regular season, post-season, World Championship year in 1977, I headed back to finish my Mass Communications degree at Lehman College in the Bronx. Then the call came.  Would you like to take a job answering Yankee fan mail? In the time it takes you to finish this sentence, I drove down to 161st Street and took my place in the 10' x 10' concrete box basement office.

Through the frigid winter of '77, I answered literally thousands of fan letters, stuffing pre-autographed 4” x 4” black and white photos of the Yankee players into envelope after envelope. From nine a.m. to five p.m., five days a week, non-stop. In March of 1978, I received what may have been my first visitor in five months, stadium manager Pat Kelly, peeking his head in and checking up on my progress.

The next morning, Jimmy Conte, the wonderfully acerbic “mailman” of Yankee Stadium, came bounding into my office yelling, “I don’t know what you did, but Pat (Kelly) wants to see you upstairs!” I grabbed my shoulder bag and hustled the 100 or so feet toward River Avenue to the shiny aluminum-encased elevators taking me to a place I rarely visited, the Executive Offices three floors above.

I walked into Pat’s office and found him red-faced and full of venom. He spouted, “What happened to all the mail?  Where did the fan mail go? Why did you throw them out?” 

Completely dumbfounded, I asked, “What are you talking about? Throw what out? I answered all that mail!”

“Bullshit!” he snapped. “How could you? There were five thousand-plus letters in there!”

I could see my words fell on deaf ears. There was no argument here. There was accusation and denial. It was getting loud and I was getting my head handed to me. Wandering in from the hall, Jimmy Conte crashed into Pat’s tirade telling him, “The kid did the work, Mr. Kelly, the kid did the work!” Looking ruffled, Pat dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

I jetted down the hallway wondering, What just happened? What was I going to tell my mom? I wondered, as I hurriedly took the elevator down to gather my stuff and get out of the building. As I’m closing the lights and shutting the door Kelly stormed in and said, “Get your stuff, you’re coming upstairs! We’ve got room for you.”

It seems that in the 20 minutes it took me to leave Pat’s office, get to the elevator, walk back to my office and pack up, George heard what had happened and felt that he could use one more person in his overworked, undermanned public relations department. An act of kindness? A goddamn miracle, if you ask me. It was The Boss, overriding the mistaken accusations of his right hand man who ran the Stadium.

In the years that passed, I became very good friends with Pat Kelly. I also went on to assist the heads of both the Public Relations and Promotions departments, write three yearbooks (1979 to 1981), produce and write radio commercials, write TV spots, become the unofficial liaison between the players and the front office and the official Yankee rep hosting special guests from Richard Nixon to Jimmy Buffett to Gregg Allman to Billy Joel as well as maintain the title Director of the Speakers Bureau. I went on to see so much more than I ever wanted to see, both good and bad, involving Mr. Steinbrenner, yet it was his act of kindness that took me “from the field to the front office” and Act II of my six-year career working with the New York Yankees.

joe dJoe D’Ambrosio is the CEO of Joe D’Ambrosio Management, a full-service talent management firm offering true, hands-on representation. Leaning on his nearly 35 years in the sports and entertainment industries representing both athletes and entertainers and 28 years in the music business, D’Ambrosio’s company offers producers, writers, composers, arrangers, engineers, mixers and remixers concise career direction and honest personal management. Each day, the company focuses on the specific needs of each individual and works incessantly to assist all in realizing their goals. In this year’s Grammy nominations, Joe D’Ambrosio Management clients garnered 13 nominations in multiple genres. The company’s website is at; send email to

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