Bronx Native Ray Negron Produces First Yankee Animated Film

Howard Goldin

Anyone who knows Ray Negron, the community relations consultant of the New York Yankees would not be surprised that the motion picture he is so integrally involved in concerns baseball, the New York Yankees and children. The uplifting film is one that will appeal to both young and old.

The film, “Henry & Me”, centers on a young boy who is very ill and how Yankees of the past and present try to instill a positive attitude within him. The Henry in the motion picture will be shocking to audiences.Not only was Negron the executive producer, but the film was based on his children’s books. It was produced by Joe Avallon, directed by Barrett Esposito and the film editor was Emmy Award winner Joe Castallano. Aris Sakellaridis was the technical advisor. Without his efforts, the entire project would not have been successfully completed.The hard working team was in sync with one another and with all the stars whose voices were heard in the motion picture.

A behind the scenes influence on Negron in this project and throughout Negron’s life was the Yankees’ principal owner, George M. Steinbrenner.When Negron first informed Steinbrenner of the film, he was told, “You must get A-list actors.” Negron told Steinbrenner he would get Richard Gere to portray Gehrig. Negron recalled the conversation,

“He [Steinbrenner] was astounded. He didn’t remember that I worked in a film with Gere in 1984, “The Cotton Club”.”

Gere looked back after the film’s completion, “When Ray first asked me to do this movie, I was going to do it as a favor because of our long relationship, but when I read the script, I knew it was something I had to do.” Gere has on several occasions in the past several years come to the Bronx to work with children in activities that Negron planned.

Several Bronx natives also appeared in the movie. ChazzPalminteri, a highly respected actor and writer, played Babe Ruth. He has called the film, “The children’s equivalent of “The Pride of the Yankees”, that will be long remembered.” Distinguished actor Danny Aiello played one of the doctors. Luis Guzmán, a native of Cayey in Puerto Rico, but raised in the Bronx was the voice of Lefty Gomez, a great Yankee hurler.

Although it was a baseball film, there were important parts for females in the movie.  Cyndi Lauper, the famed vocalist, did a wonderful job as the nurse. She portrays a nurse that has total empathy for her patient.

Negron, a big fan of the great Lucille Ball, was able to obtain her talented daughter Lucy Arnaz to play Jack’s mother. Former Knot’s Landing heartthrob Joey Gian did a fine job as Jack’s father.

Baseball Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson added humor to the film in their roles in the production.

Negron recalled, “As the announcer, I wanted the legendary Bob Sheppard, but he felt he was too weak and suggested his brother. At the last moment he said he wanted to try to do it. We bought the equipment to his home and he performed superbly. He also recorded the dedication of the film to Steinbrenner.”

Negron initially wanted George Steinbrenner to do his own voice, but the Yankee owner was not in the best of health, so he suggested his son, Hank, to do the recording. It worked out perfectly except that Steinbrenner passed away in 2010, “My biggest regret in an otherwise happy and thrilling experience is that George Steinbrenner is not here to see it and share the experience with me. He was the one who gave his approval and encouragement for me to do this project. Without “the Boss” this film would never have been made.”

Negron never rests on his accomplishments. Before “Henry & Me” will have  its premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on August 18, Negron’s next project was already in the works. He has written a Christmas story with CC Sabathia, currently entitled, “CC Claus”.

This book is also planned to be the basis for an animated film.