Anthony Florio was “the luckiest kid in New York” when he sat amongst his favorite players as bat boy for the New York Yankees. For three years, Anthony witnessed a World Series Championship and two American League pennant runs. Those successful three years provided 15-year-old Anthony Florio with memories of a lifetime that he decided to turn into a book.
Yankee Batboy by Anthony Florio and John Sinclare is the story of a local New York boy from Little Italy living the dream as a Yankee batboy. The book features stories of Florio interacting with legends like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra and other memories that would make any baseball fan jealous.
Anthony Florio is the common New Yorker. His father, Sabato Florio, immigrated to New York when he was three and Anthony grew up in Little Italy. His accent is unmistakable New Yorker, and his love for baseball runs deep in Yankee territory.
There were three teams, including the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, competing for the top of the New York mountain during the 1950s.
“For me the New York Yankees were a religion, a nation, a continent and a planet,” Florio says in his book.
Florio’s interest in baseball was fed from his own father’s love for the sport. His father loved baseball and coached sandlot teams like the New York Red Wings. Florio and his father’s involvement in the Red Wings brought him closer to interacting with his favorite ballplayers.
In the book, Florio explains how the Red Wings connected him with Chicago White Sox scout Steve Ray, who helped Florio get into public school in the Bronx and eventually provided him with the opportunity to be the third baseline ball boy in Yankee Stadium.
The opportunity to become ball boy for the 1962 season opened the door for a New York kid’s dream job, not to mention stacks of stories to tell.
Florio’s experience is rare for many sports fans who pray for one chance to meet their favorite players. He eventually decided to embark on a six-year writing process to tell his story and the memories he made.
“I have an expression I use. Don’t make your mouth write a check your ass ain’t gonna cash,’” Florio said. “I wanted to prove to my two sons, I said ‘I’m gonna do it’ and I did it.”
Anthony would recounted the stories and sent them to John Sinclare to put it into words. The two worked together to edit the stories and make them sound like Anthony narrating.
“I mean, I’m just a regular guy, you know. I don’t have a college education. I finished high school, but I don’t have a college education,” Florio said. “John, on the other hand, very well-written college graduate, degrees, and when we were first writing the book, John was using these words that I couldn’t even pronounce.”
Many of the stories in the book revolve around Florio’s interactions with the players. The players are the highlight of the batboy/ball boy gig, especially around legends like Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle.
One such story is the first time Florio saw his favorite player, Mickey Mantle, in his first year as ball boy.
“I think we settled on the only curse word in the book, ‘holy sh!t,’” said Florio, referring to his reaction upon seeing Mantle. “That was one of the corrections we made with John’s writing.”
Florio established a stuffed poodle as a good luck charm in the 1964 season. Frank Crosetti played pranks on him. He traveled with the team and talked to players. One of Florio’s favorite stories is about Mantle and Yogi Berra using him to play a prank on Johnny Blanchard.
Blanch was terrified of getting traded. The two Hall-of-Famers called Florio over to tell Blanchard the manager wanted to see him in the office.
“Just seeing that Mickey Mantle called me over just to say that. There are Hall of Fame ballplayers calling the batboy,” Florio said.
More than just being a batboy for a team, Florio was batboy for a successful Yankees team. He witnessed championship celebrations with them.
“Yeah celebrating with the champagne and everything, so I got to do that a few times. That was really cool,” Florio said.
As an up close and personal witness, Florio emphasizes their talent, but insists on the humanity of the players.
“They think school teachers live in school, they don’t understand they [teachers] go home. Ballplayers are the same thing,” said Florio. “They’re just people that have an incredible talent and that’s what it is.”
Florio also has plenty of memories of interactions with the fans, including receiving fan mail and giving away balls and broken bats.
“I gave friends souvenirs and cracked bats and things like that. As a matter of fact, I must’ve given away at least 4 or 5 Mickey Mantle cracked bats that are worth $30,000,” Florio said.
The job provided Florio with a lot of things, but he says the players had the biggest impact on him. He was able to socialize with players only six or seven years older than him, like Joe Pepitone.
“Being able to go out to dinner with the ball players when we were on the road, getting to meet them, knowing them personally,” said Florio.
Anthony Florio was able to stand in the outfield with Mickey Mantle and socialize with Hall of Fame ballplayers like Whitey Ford.
“Like I said, it’s a dream every kid has and I got to live the dream. So, I think that’s the best part. And the memories. Nobody can take the memories away from me.”