The Boss

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 14, 2010 in General Discussion | 2 Comments >>

Some folks just leave an impression. I was much younger, and had the opportunity to see a man who walked with authority. He was the kind of guy who made you feel intimidated if you were in the same zip code. I couldn’t imagine what my boss was feeling, so I guess I now understand the reason he had been drinking heavily in secret the night that Mr. Steinbrenner came to our track.

I was nearing 30, and was in charge of valet, and all parking. I also had the best job of taking the stars to the airport a few miles away. I liked it because they tipped well, and they would always talk the secret talk of the night…. For a young man, it was kinda cool….

This night the private room was packed. I was always on hand if my boss gave me the signal to take someone to a hotel or the airport. It wasn’t the passion of my life, but it was a great job for a young guy in college. There were no ballplayers on hand, but Mr. “S” had plenty to talk about in the room. He commanded the floor like a Senator…. He made E.F. Hutton look silly, and everyone listened to him… I just got to say hello and get a strong handshake, as he gave me an autograph that went to the wall of fame in the parking office. The best part of the signature was it came with a $50 tip. He told me I was his man, and not to drift too far away as he didn’t know how long he wanted to stay. His horse was running in the Lane’s End Stakes, and he wanted some sleep. I was his man, and for a $50, I would have taken him to Timbuktu that night.

The Boss took over Florida Downs and renamed it Tampa Bay Downs. You may have heard of it, and it has only gotten better over the years. He didn’t care if it had a past filled with corruption and wrong-doing. Hell, he would have punched out someone for not doing their job, or if they were on the take. He ran Kinsman Farm in Ocala with an iron fist. He had victories in the: Illnois Derby, Hollywood Park Derby, Hialeah Turf Cup, Debutante Stakes at Churchill, and the Lafayette at Keeneland. It would be later the next day, that his runner took the big race at Turfway Park. He liked his horses, and they ran well for him. They were probably scared……

It was a brief run-in with the man. I was “Cato” for the night, and I kinda liked it.  Where could a kid have been in the room and watched so many money people kiss his ass and buddy up to him?  They were just glad to say they had the honor. But he didn’t care. He was tough, and if things got out of line, he could have taken care of things himself. I liked that, and he wasn’t as cheap as I thought he would be. I used to hate picking up the Nashville visitors. They were in the music industry, and never gave a hard-working man a buck. But, that’s the way it went back then. The Boss wasn’t like that. He was tough, but he seemed fair. He didn’t care about the fanfare, and danced to his own music. Funny how much you see watching folks mingle in a room with a powerful man. He had the juice, and everyone knew it. Men wanted to be him, and women watched this pale white man hold court with a stare. He was big, and he knew it. He didn’t care if you liked it, and God forbid if you disagreed with him, you may have walked out with a black eye. He would have probably taken you to court for bruising his hand……

His runner won the 1997 Jim Beam Stakes, and he wanted out as soon as the race was over. I took him over to the airport as he had a private jet. I congratulated him, and he gave me a $20 this time, and a $5 win ticket. He said cash it, and get a bite to eat…. Nothing more than that, and the Boss was gone…. I never saw him again, and today when I read about him passing on to that big backstretch in the sky, I thought about him. Not like everybody else that read about his Yankees, or his famous firings. But, how he commanded the room, and the others looked like they were his valet drivers as well. I can’t say that I really thought he defined baseball, even though he bought and put together a dynasty. He had a Midas touch, and walked as if he was untouchable. That was the part I liked. I didn’t try to kiss up, but I was respectable to the man. He treated me fairly in his time at the track. I wonder how many drinks it took my boss to get confidence enough to talk to him.  The Nashville crowd didn’t impress him with stories of Elvis, or the many legends of country they played with. He was a cool customer, and for a day or so I got to see him in action. It was a pleasure, and pretty profitable for me. The money I spent, but the ticket I kept. I wanted to remember the Boss, and his big victory. So be careful St. Peter. He may have you drive him to the main house if you’re not careful.