I would see him at Yankee Stadium once or twice a year, almost always on the infield during stretching or BP. I'd walk up, tap him on the shoulder and say, "Arthur, I'm
Without fail, Richman, a short wrinkly man with a scratchy voice, would immediately step back and smile. "Shawnie Green?" he'd say. "Let me tell you about Shawnie Green. I told
I heard the story once. Twice. Three times. I loved that story -- loved all the stories Arthur Richman, Steinbrenner's longtime special assistant, pulled out from beneath the dust and mildew of his 40-plus years in the game. Yes, the tales could go on and on and on and on. And yes, depending on the day, he would tell the same one repeatedly, whether you asked or not.
But listening to Richman, who died Wednesday at age 83, was never a chore. It was akin to sitting at a table with your Jewish grandparents, hearing them kibitz on about Henry Schwartz, the accountant who plays a mean hand of Canasta, or how the early bird special at Guggenheimer's Cafeteria isn't quite what it used to be. There was a comforting orneriness to Richman; a genuineness that, in this corporate-dominated era of professional sports, is woefully hard to come by. As
A copy boy with
Montague extended his hand, which held a soiled baseball. "What's that?" Richman asked.
"It's the last ball of the game," he said. "You're with the Mets. Go get
Shortly thereafter. Wilson signed the ball: "To Arthur: This is the ball that won it. Mookie Wilson."
The baseball sat on a shelf in Richman's apartment for years until, in 1992, actor
Richman left the Mets three seasons later to join the cross-town Yankees. Although his main task often seemed, simply, to keep people happy and entertained (which he did very well), he also played a major role in one of the most important decisions in franchise history. Following the 1995 season, as Steinbrenner sought out a managerial replacement for
Steinbrenner's reaction was simple: Why would anyone want a retread like Joe Torre? But Richman was insistent. Torre was a winner, he swore; a communicator; a champion.
The results speak for themselves.
Approximately 200 people turned out for Richman's funeral yesterday at New York's Riverside Memorial Chapel, ranging from
Sadly, no one there was telling the story of Shawnie Green.