October 17, 2010
Another elderly icon of Yankee Stadium has passed away.
First it was Bob Sheppard, then it was George Steinbrenner and this time the bad news pertains to Freddy "Sez" Schuman, the devoted and always noticeable Yankees super fan with the hand-printed signs of support and ever-present pot and spoon. He passed away on Sunday at the age of 85.
"At almost every Yankee game, Freddy could be seen outside Yankee Stadium with his daily message for the Yanks and a frying pan he banged like a drum. He also let other fans bang it as well.
"He became such an institution that his lucky frying pan and spoon, thanks to (friend Chuck) Frantz, were put into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Yogi Berra museum in 2004."
Benjamin Kabak at River Avenue Blues points us toward this 2006 New York Times feature Freddy Sez for his complete mythology. A resident of the Upper West Side, Schuman had only one eye (the result of a stickball accident), no teeth (he used to be a candy store owner) and a scratchy and raspy voice (from cheering for the Yankees, of course).
What he did have was an unmistakeable love for the Yankees and the NYT estimated in '06 that he had been to over 1,300 Yankees games. Everyone from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to George Steinbrenner has whacked on his pot for good luck.
Some Yankees fans didn't like the ruckus his cheers created, but others believed that no ballpark trip was complete without running into him. I first saw him in person at the 2008 All-Star Game and was amazed at how the sighting almost seemed to be an official benediction of my trip, like the ride on the subway or hearing the roll call.
The best thing about Freddy Sez, I think, is that he was one of those living and breathing examples that the baseball universe is big and enough to make anyone from any background a well-known star, whether he or she plays or not. Ronnie Woo Woo is a great example of the sport's non-judgmental atmosphere here in Chicago and Freddy Sez was that guy in the Bronx. There are many other people like them — lives who might have been long lost and forgotten were it not for the magnetism of baseball — across the major leagues.
As Manny Fernandez of the NYT so excellently put it:
"He is a real-life mascot with one eye, one tooth and a raspy voice, the unpolished and unlikely cheerleader of a baseball empire with a nearly $200 million payroll."
Indeed he was. So rest in peace, Freddy Sez. May you never be forgotten and may your noisy pot banging always make beautiful music at that great ballpark in the sky.