February Edition: Getting To Know... Gene Monahan
Gene, “Geno,” “Doc,” Monahan worked as a bat boy, clubhouse attendant and trainer in the Yankee organization for 49 years and described himself as a “hired hand, helper-outer guy.” Monahan never thought of himself as part of the tradition until he was honored by the Yankees after he retired from the game.
When George Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973, Monahan was hired as an athletic trainer for the New York Yankees and for the next 39 seasons was entrusted with the health and strength of players from Reggie Jackson to Derek Jeter. During his time with the team, they won seven World Series Championships in 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. Monahan was one of only three members of the Yankee organization to serve the entire length of George Steinbrenner’s ownership.
Longtime Yankees Communication Advisor Ray Negron wrote that “The Boss respected Gene Monahan as much as any employee that he has ever had and I never heard him utter a single negative word about him.”
Not only trusted and valued by Mr. Steinbrenner, Monahan was so greatly trusted by the players that they left their wallets and valuables with him during game time and often spoke with him in confidence, so much so that Negron wrote that he served as the team “psychologist.”
At the end of the 2010 season, Monahan and his long-time assistant Steve Donohue were named best athletic trainers in Major League Baseball by the Professional Athletic Trainer Society. Monahan then retired after the 2011 season.
Since retiring from the Yankees, Monahan has worked as a consultant for Hendrick Motorsports, where he serves as an athletic trainer for Hendrick’s pit crew members, most of which have athletic backgrounds.
In 2011, he was inducted into the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame.
It's time to get to know the beloved, former Head Athletic Trainer of the New York Yankees, Mr. Gene Monahan.
Our Interview with Gene Monahan...
NYY Sports Talk: Being the oldest of 8 children, we’re sure life as a child was sometimes hectic and filled with responsibility. Did you have time to enjoy the game of baseball growing up? If so, which team were you a fan of? Gene Monahan: Naturally my life as a child maturing was filled with responsibility and dedication. That meant a great deal to me, although I did not comprehend that at the time. But, my parents and siblings were so very special, and we did ok. We were poor. But rich in love and compassion for one another. Today we reflect on how our wonderful parents were able to raise us so very well.
NYYST: What year did you begin your career in the Yankees’ organization and what was the first job you were hired for? Monahan: I began working as a bat boy for the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees in 1962, my senior year of high school. I wrote a letter to the Minor League team exec and he interviewed me and said I could be the bat boy and help with the clubhouse man. The clubhouse man quit halfway through the summer season and they asked me if I could do both jobs. I said "yes", of course, and finished the summer with the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees. Over the winter they asked me if I would be interested in learning the job of the Minor League Athletic Trainer, and I obviously said "yes".
NYYST: You made your MLB debut as a trainer in 1973 with the New York Yankees. Moving up from the minor leagues, what was the transition like having to then work with big league super stars such as Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson? Monahan: Fortunately, I was asked to assist each spring training with the Major League team before our Minor League teams began their spring workouts. I was able to meet, and somewhat get to know, a host of those players. I worked very smart and diligently, as well as politely, and that helped me with knowing these players. Pete Sheehy, the Major League Clubhouse Manager, taught me so much, how to conduct myself, remain humble, listen, and not speak. He taught me how to communicate in a professional manner with the staff and players. Although somewhat scary and difficult, I feel I was well prepared to handle the position of head athletic trainer in the spring of 1973. It was a wonderful acceptance.
NYYST: In 2010 you announced that you had been diagnosed with throat and neck cancer. We hope you are in good health since your battle. On Opening Day of that year, the fans at the stadium let you know how much you meant to them, giving you an extended standing ovation. Where would you rank that moment among all of your memorable personal moments with the Yankees? Monahan: That moment meant the world to me. There are many aspects of our lives, loves, children, associates, relationships that are more than meaningful. But what those fans in New York bestowed on me personally, was a shock, a reality, and validated what many other guys who starred for our team would relate. That..... the New York fans were, are, and always will be....... personally kind, loving and true.
NYYST: We don't mean to put you on the spot, but who was your favorite player to work with, and why? Monahan: I personally cannot ever reveal a personal favorite. There is no such thing when you cheviot yourself to being a complete and unbiased athletic trainer for the sport you love. Yes, I have had many, very many, wonderful personal relationships with certain players, but as I handled my profession, my training room, and my demeanor, you cannot have a favorite. However, I could name a hundred or so, the folks that were with us for the entire "journey" could tell you. I loved them all.
NYYST: Out of all of the incredible players you worked with over your years with the team, who impressed you the most from a physical stand point? Who seemed to be the most durable and resilient? Monahan: If I had to pick two guys, instead of one, ha, I would tell you that athletic-wise and overall athleticism, etc., Dave Winfield and Derek Jeter. But close by, there are a magnitude of others.
NYYST: Not limited to Yankee players, being you had a front row seat your entire career, who was the most talented MLB player to step onto the diamond during your tenure? Monahan: There were many. Depends on their expertise and position. Hitting wise I would say that Rod Carew, Don Mattingly, and George Brett were the best I have witnessed regularly, in our league. Pitching, that is tough. I remain partial to the late Jim "Catfish" Hunter and Nolan Ryan.
NYYST: Being that 81 games are played away from Yankee Stadium, we have to imagine you’ve visited almost every big league ballpark. Which visiting stadium was your favorite? What made it special? Monahan: They were all my favorite because I was in the Major Leagues and I never lost track of that fact and reality. However, I will forever reflect that Boston's Fenway Park has a very special place in my heart and soul. It remains authentic, cozy, spectacular, and VERY special. We have some wonderful memories there. I love that place.
NYYST: You were part of 7 World Series Championship teams in 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. Which year, if any one year in particular, do you cherish the most? Monahan: Obviously, 1977 was the most special. The first one. The big one. And Mr. Steinbrenner loved every minute and he should be remembered for always putting together a great team to win. He was wonderful. Tough and wonderful. The 1998 team, under my wonderful friend, Joe Torre, and that spectacular season, remains right there.
NYYST: What would you say was the most drastic change in your responsibilities as a trainer from when you started in 1973 to when you retired in 2011? Was there more pressure to do your job correctly as the technology and research advanced each year? Monahan: I actually did not experience additional pressure as technology increased. We all remained up to speed with this. However, I was taught by a tremendous group of people who unselfishly shared great things. I eventually became an "old-school" guy, but the newer technology came naturally. The computerized tracking, descriptions, shared info, etc., is now a major aspect of the position, and at times, I personally feel this takes away from the time that a great athletic trainer can spend with his or her athletes.
NYYST: This last question is one we plan on asking all of our guests we interview for this column. NYY Sports Talk requested to feature you for this piece because we view you as someone who has been truly influential in the Yankee Universe. In your opinion, what impact have you made on your fans, on Yankee fans, for all of us to consider "Gene Monahan" an influential name in Yankees’ history? Monahan: First of all, I do not feel I have fans. Fans are fans of the "game" and their player heroes, etc. When I come back "home" to New York for Old Timer's Weekend, we do this thing where we walk the walk with the fans. They have asked me to participate. I am astounded by the number of folks who actually are so very kind and sweet towards me personally. They ask me how I feel, how it's going, etc. This means the world to me as well. I cannot describe the feeling. The vocal and written media have provided this relationship between the fans and myself. I do not need nor desire "fans". But in reality, the "FANS" are the entire deal. They are the foundation for what folks like myself realize, make our great game, great. I simply wish to be remembered as a guy who devoted his life and energy to providing the very best he could for his players and staff. I have forever loved the game and the people.
NYY Sports Talk would like to thank Gene Monahan for taking the time out of his busy schedule to work with us on this piece. Gene Monahan will always be considered a "fan favorite" and a beloved member of the New York Yankees' family. Mr. Monahan, we wish you nothing but health and happiness as you continue to enjoy retirement with your family. Thank you for everything you've given to the team we all love. FOLLOW NYY SPORTS TALK ON TWITTER @NYYSPORTSTALK
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March Edition: "Getting To Know... Jim Abbott"
Release Date - 03/26/2018