At last night’s BBWAA New York chapter dinner, retired Yankees trainer Gene Monahan received the final award of the night. Honored for his longtime service to the game, Monahan was introduced by two different people: His close friend Kevin Harvick — a surprise guest — and his closer, Mariano Rivera. When he spoke, Monahan was as gracious as ever with a fitting sendoff. Here’s his acceptance speech, which started with a look toward the heavens and promise to his late friend George Steinbrenner.
“I promise Boss, I won’t talk too long.
‘I miss The Boss very much. Kevin, I don’t know what the hell you’re doing here, but I love you and I love your team and all that stuff. Mo, six years you’ve never worn a grey uniform in spring training. He’s never pitched a road game in spring. Every bus ride, he’s never there. He pitches his eight, ten innings and he’s ready to go. Season opens up, bingo, 42 saves every year. It’s crazy.”
“I have a couple of notes, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get through them. Obviously I respect and love all of these people. It’s going to be tough. I’ll start with my Mom and Dad, and my sisters and brothers, and my daughters Kelley and Amanda. The love of my life Liz, she’s at table 37 somewhere. We have a lot of families in our lives. Sometimes it’s immediate family, sometimes it’s extended family. My extended family is the Yankee family. It’s been my family since 1962. Once we got that all together with me and Mr. Steinbrenner, it took us three or four years before we finally figured each other out. He decided he loved me, and I knew I loved him. I loved his family, and I’ll always be there for you people no matter what, even though I’m done working. It’s time, you know? One member of my family, who has his own family, who is now my successor, is Steve Donohue, and he’s somewhere in this room. He’s the new head trainer for the Yankees, and he’s my brother and I love him very much. I told you this wasn’t going to be easy, so let me try to get through this, and I’ll try to be brief because I know the old man’s looking down at me and saying, ‘Get off the stage.’
“Some of you writers can go back to Bob Fishel, Dick Young, all them guys way back then. Those are the guys that taught me how to be and how to act along with our ownership and the organization. They really drove home that we have nothing but class here in New York, and that was the New York Yankees, and they all taught me one thing: The athletic trainer doesn’t give out any information. He doesn’t talk about player and all that stuff. That’s up to the front office, the Brian Cashmans, the ownership, the Mr. Steinbrenners and all that stuff. That wasn’t our department, and it had nothing to do with us. But I want to tell you something, all of those years, all of those 39 years I was here in New York, the city I love and I’ll cherish forever – I wept when I flew in her yesterday – and I will tell you one thing about you all writers, I know you’re out there all over this place. I’ll tell you right now, the last year and a half, with my personal stuff, the things that you showed me, gave to me, embellished my family and did for me, I will never, ever, ever forget. You were kind, supportive, and willing to support our organization, what I did for this team, and what it means to be a successful athletic trainer. And I’ll never forget that, and I appreciate it every much. I’ll never forget it.
“You know, we have a lot of changes in our lives. I just went through a big bunch of changes. Sometimes they’re good. Sometimes they’re not so good. What you have to do sometimes, you have to fight through it and make it right. Make it go. Make it important to you. Make it successful, because if you don’t, you go into a depression, you don’t do good. There were times when I wasn’t doing so good the last month or so, but I tell you right now, if you – no matter what it is that’s going on — you have something that you have to face and make changes for, and you find it in your will and your way to make it successful. If you wake up in the morning, maybe you’ve got a new puppy dog, maybe you’ve got a new car or truck, maybe you’ve got a new whatever, you fight through those things and you make them work for you. It’s all successful. We have to do what we have to do, no matter what our changes are.
“I will miss this game so much that is unbelievable. I entered this game in 1962. I knew who Don Newcombe was and is (Newcomb was at the dinner). I know who Don Zimmer was and is. I know all the people up and down the line. I was a young kid who grew up in Pittsburgh. My dad used do drive in his little ’41 Ford. We would see the lights of the stadium at Forbes Field, and I knew in my heart, some day, no matter where I grew up or where I’d be, I wanted to be somewhere involved with this game that I love and cherish so much. And somehow it worked out.
“The last thing I want to say is, and this is really important: When I was a youngster in high school, in 1960 or 1961… I read an article in a magazine called Sport Magazine. I think it was 1961. It was an article about Brooks Robinson, and Brooks Robinson said, ‘To be able to do what you do the best and love the most, that is the real definition of true happiness.’ So I cut that little piece out at the bottom of that article, and I put it in my wallet. I was a high school kid, and it stayed with me through all of my minor leagues, 10 years in the minor leagues. I went to the Major Leagues and all of a sudden, I guess it was worn out or whatever, but I’ll never forget it. ‘To be able to do what you do and love the most, that’s the definition of real success.’ I put a footnote to that a year and a half ago when I decided it was time for me – for whatever reason – I needed to do something else, I’ve got to make some changes.
“To be able to do what you do the best and love the most, and make a little bit of difference, that’s what happiness is really all about. Thank you all.”