Ambassador Arthur: The Passing of a Family Friend
Arthur Richman passed away on Wednesday ending what was an incredible journey of a lifetime; a lifetime in and around Major League Baseball spanning over 70 years. In an instant he was gone, reunited with his boyhood heroes of the St. Louis Browns. But the memories of himâ€¦they will last forever.
Following in his brotherâ€™s footsteps as a writer, Arthur began his career in 1942 with the Daily Mirror where he penned a weekly column called “The Armchair Manager.” He did that for 21 years until the paper folded and he went to work as an executive for the New York Mets in 1963. Stories about Arthur have been well documented over the years like the time he and Don Larsen enjoyed a few â€œtoddiesâ€ the night before perfection entered the history books. Or how as a fourteen-year-old boy, he would travel with his beloved St. Louis Browns where the players would often hide him in the upper berths on the Pullman cars. Or when he visited the umpireâ€™s dressing room after Game Six of the 1986 World Series, he was handed the infamous baseball that went through Bill Bucknerâ€™s legs. A ball he later sold to Charlie Sheen for a cool $93,500, of which Arthur gave entirely to charity. Then thereâ€™s the one of how he persuaded George Steinbrenner to hire his good friend Joe Torre after the 1995 season. All of these are great stories and Arthur had hundreds them. He once told me that he wanted to write a book about his life in baseball. And what a life that was. What a book that would have been.
I first met Arthur Richman when I was eight years old. It was June 20, 1979, when my grandfather, Babe, took me, my dad and brother back to New York to attend a reunion for his 1937 Newark Bears club. The event was held at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Charlie Keller, Joe Collins, Spud Chandler, Atley Donald, Marius Russo, Joe Beggs and Jim Gleeson were all there. Sadly, Joe Gordon had passed away the year before or Iâ€™m sure he would have been there too. It was really neat to watch my grandfather interact with his old friends, his teammates from years gone by. It was as if they had just seen each other a few months before.
After a cocktail session we were all seated at a long table that seemed to stretch through time. Elderly men wearing coats and ties; some balding, all of them graying, were sharing stories and reminiscing. For hours laughter filled the room. Sitting across from me were Milton and Arthur Richman. Being only eight years old, I really didnâ€™t have a lot to say, but I can remember my dad and grandfather talking with Milton and Arthur throughout the dinner as I listened in. To this day, I can still taste the fillet I had that night, it was perfect, like the evening. I never saw Milton Richman again. He died seven years later of a heart attack at the age of 64; a crushing blow to Arthur. In 1981 Milton was voted into the Writersâ€™ Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, something Arthur was extremely proud of and showed it daily by wearing his brothersâ€™ Hall of Fame ring.
It wasnâ€™t until over a decade later that I saw Arthur again. After a long stint with the New York Mets as a traveling secretary he went to work for the Yankees in 1989 holding positions of Senior Vice President and advisor to George Steinbrenner. Whenever the Yankees came to Anaheim, Iâ€™d have my Dad call Arthur to see if heâ€™d leave some tickets for me and my brothers. He never let us down! And it was usually around the fifth inning that heâ€™d come to our seats to make sure we were okay. Heâ€™d spend half an inning with us before going back to work, but not before asking us if we needed any money. I canâ€™t remember ever being around Arthur when he didnâ€™t ask me that. Perhaps it was because he was a child of the depression; growing up without much in Manhattan and knew what it was like not to have money. Of course I never accepted his offer through the years, but I believe it was his way of making sure I was taken care of â€“ making sure I was happyâ€¦that was Arthur.
Long after my grandfatherâ€™s playing days, he stayed close with both Arthur and Milton. So when he passed away in 1996, my dad and his brother called Arthur to let him know. He was traveling with the Yankees who were in Oakland at the time and he stopped what he was doing to make sure a press release got out to the AP and other media outlets. A few days later at my grandfather’s funeral, there was a beautiful floral wreath with a small card stuffed inside â€“ I still have the card. It has two words on it: George Steinbrenner. I have no doubt that somehow Arthur was behind that very thoughtful and classy gesture.
Aside from traveling to Anaheim with the Yankees, the only time Arthur would come out to Southern California was for an annual banquet in Anaheim for the Association of Professional Ballplayerâ€™s of America. Arthur was on the Board of Directors and would often have my dad and his brother (both ex-professional ball players) as his guests. There were a couple of years where my brothers and I went too.
In 2001, I went to work for a friend of mine who started a licensed apparel company called Moonlight Graham. The business would take us to New York at least once a year, usually during baseball season. Iâ€™d call Arthur in advance and let him know I was coming. Heâ€™d always set aside two tickets and would meet us before the game to take us up to his office. For anybody who loved baseball, his office was an absolute treat.
There were countless pictures of Arthur posing with some of the greats. Even letters from ex- presidents adorned the walls. It was something else â€“ a mini baseball shrine. He knew it, and thatâ€™s why he loved to take us in there. He was proud of it. If the Yankees were on the road when we came to town, weâ€™d meet at Monteâ€™s, his favorite restaurant in the heart of Greenwich Village not far from where he lived in the city. Monteâ€™s was his home away from home; a place to enjoy a â€œtoddyâ€ or two and tell stories. The back wall of the restaurant had framed pictures of Arthur with various ball players past and present.
In August of 2003, I called Arthur with a monumental favor. I told him that I was going to be traveling to New York with my girlfriend Jenny and that it would mean the world to me if I could propose to her at first base in Yankee Stadium (I wanted my grandfather to be there in spirit). Without hesitating, he told me heâ€™d take care of it. That was an understatementâ€¦that was Arthur.
On September 5, we arrived at the ballpark around 2:00 PM. Arthur was waiting at the gate and immediately whisked us off towards the field. Jenny couldnâ€™t figure out why we were getting to the ballpark so early and why we were being led down to such sacred grounds. I told her that Arthur was going to give us a tour and maybe even take us on the field. It was a beautiful day. The massive cathedral was empty. The only base on the field was first base and I noticed a photographer standing inconspicuously next to the Yankees dugout with a large camera around his neck. Once on the field, Jenny and Arthur lagged behind when the photographer approached me and said that he was ready, and that whenever the moment presented itself, heâ€™d catch it for me. I couldnâ€™t believe it; Arthur had arranged it for him to be there. A few moments later, I asked Jenny to stand over by first base with me. I told her I wanted a picture of where my grandfather used to play. When she joined me, I immediately dropped to a knee and asked her to marry me. She was shocked and the photographer captured the moment perfectly. I couldnâ€™t help but notice Arthur. He was standing off to the side with his little camera snapping pictures â€“ he wanted his own shots. In fact every time I was ever around Arthur, he had his camera and asked the closest person to take our picture which Iâ€™d usually receive in the mail a few weeks later. The day didnâ€™t end there. He proceeded to take us up to his office, introduce us to the â€œBoss,â€ take us in the clubhouse where he introduced us to Yogi Berra and countless other players. But just when I thought it couldnâ€™t get any better, he called us down onto the field while the Yankees were taking batting practice. He escorted us into the Yankees dugout where Joe Torre was being mobbed by the media talking about the game that night with the Red Sox. When Torre finally came up for air, Arthur called him over where we spoke for a few seconds and had our pictures taken. The photos from that day are priceless; most of them from Arthurâ€™s camera. From there, he took us below the stadium, not far from the clubhouse where there was a dinning room with a full scale buffet set up for members of the media. He instructed a woman working in there that we were with him and to â€œtake care of them.â€ He then handed me two tickets that were four rows behind the Red Sox dugout and said heâ€™d be down during the game to say hello. The Red Sox rolled over the Yankees that night but I couldn’t have cared less. It was a day into night that my wife and I will never forgetâ€¦all because of Arthur.
I only saw him one more time after that, though we exchanged holiday cards every year.
I knew his health was declining these last several years. The news of his passing did not come as a surprise. Arthur lived an incredible life; one worthy of celebration. I was just one of hundreds, more like thousands of people who got to know Arthur Richman through the years. In my mind, he was more than just an advisor to the Yankees â€“ he was an Ambassador to all of baseball. And I consider myself very lucky to have known him.
He was one of a kind, a sweetheart of a man. I will miss Arthur and so too will Major League Baseball.