Freddy “Freddy Sez” Schuman has died. He was a friend of mine from Yankee Stadium and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I would often run into him on the street and share a few words about the team. Obviously, I banged his trademark frying pan sign at the park many times, and once on 72nd Street, when he was recognized by a group of kids who didn’t know the procedure. Freddy shared his fork, and people would give his frying pan/sign assemblage a couple of taps. It was well-audible on most Yankee Stadium broadcasts, and he will be sorely missed as the team heads into a steeper round of playoffs tonight against Texas.
Freddy was a big Fordham basketball fan and by extension, was a bit interested in my team, Stony Brook, because there is a coach there from the Bronx with them. I never got very deep with him about the Yankees, but what’s important is he was a fixture in New York City, and scientifically, a great example of Fan Interaction. He wasn’t hired by the team, and although he had a printed newsletter (that’s a collector’s item now) and website, the frying pan was how he did most of his connecting. Walking through the stands in his seventies and eighties, as the team became a dynasty and more corporate than anyone could have imagined, and even into the new stadium.
Freddy’s frying pan, fork and sign should go to the Hall of Fame, if they haven’t already been sent there. He was an important part of the Torre era and the transition from the old park and beginning of the new one. I think it’s fair to say the Yankees gave some meaning to his later years, but he gave some meaning to them too. Think of the positive messages of his signs… “Freddy Sez: …” they were from another era, and one that has gone by. Who says “sez” anymore? (UPDATE from the Daily News: As it turns out, there is already a Freddy sign pan in Cooperstown and another at the Yogi Berra Museum!)
Who will pick up the frying pan? What are the chances that a retired New Yorker on a fixed income would be able to go to so many games? Freddy had benefactors, ticket-wise, including the Yankees themselves. I get the impression that the Yankees will create their next mascot in the stands. Maybe a Yankee fan will start something on their own like the Shea/Citi Cowbell Man. Let’s hope the person doesn’t have a cowbell! There’s a big difference in volume and approach. Freddy’s axe was participatory, not predatory. He wasn’t admonishing other fans for not cheering enough. He was giving them a mechanism to cheer with! We all felt like that frying pan gave us good luck and I miss his clank already.