How to succeed as a batboy
by Joe Carrieri
Back in the 40s and 50s a batboy could stay with a team for awhile. My brother Ralph had been the Yankee batboy from 1946 to 1949 and the Yankee management, was open to us maintaining the family tradition. They contacted Brother Columbo, the principal at St. Jerome's Grammar School, about their willingness to offer me the position. He called the people at the Board of Education to see if I could be let out early to make the 2:00 games.
Brother Columbo brought me into his office to give me the scoop. "Joe," he said, "I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that I called the Board of Education today and they told me that is was against the rules to let you leave school early, regardless of the reason. The good news is that I'm going to use experience to teach you a lesson. Rules are just guidelines, they can be bent when it's the right thing to do. I'll let you be a batboy as long as you meet two conditions. One, you've got to maintain your grades. Two, you've got to learn what makes the Yankees succeed and what makes Joe DiMaggio such a great player."
For the next seven years (1949-1955), I was the Yankee bat boy. I got to meet and hang around with all the great players, during the period when they established an unprecedented five consecutive World Series. I saw DiMaggio and Mantle overlap their major league careers and had a birds eye view of some of the greatest players and rivalries in the history of baseball.
I tried to stay true to the wishes of Brother Columbo. I worked hard in school and my grades actually went up, but I just couldn't get an interview with Joe. Every so often I'd bring over my pad and inquire if I could ask him some questions, but I'd always be politely rebuffed . "Not today kid" Joe would say or "I'm too tired, let's do it some other time." This went on for a couple of years, then in November of 1951, I got a call from Pete Sheehy, the clubhouse manager, that Joe DiMaggio was in the clubhouse and wanted to talk with me.
I dashed out of the house and ran the mile and a half to the stadium. Joe was sitting in the locker room drinking a coffee with Pete. He told me he was going to retire and that he wanted to keep his word and grant me my interview.
For those of us who believed that Joe was probably the greatest ball player ever to grace the game, the December retirement announcement was a deeply sad event. But for me, it was also tinged with the memory of our recent conversation and the knowledge that I'd learned part of the man's secret to success; to keep the love of the game close to your heart and whatever you do, remember there is always more to learn.
Read Joe's book!
Joe wrote a book about his experiences as a Yankee batboy called Searching for Heroes: The Quest of a Yankee Batboy. If you are interested in purchasing the book, please use this link to buy it from Amazon: you'll get the book, we'll get a commission (read more).
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