Freddy Schuman, better known as “Freddy Sez” around Yankee Stadium, died on Sunday at the age of 85. Freddy Sez will never get a plaque in Monument Park, and his place in Yankee Stadium lore and Yankee team history is not precisely documented, but Freddy Sez played a significant role in the Yankee Stadium experience for over twenty years.
To edify those not fortunate enough to have met him or, more accurately, heard him, Freddy Sez roamed the Stadium with a pan bolted onto a stick, a spoon and a colorful handmade sign with crudely drawn letters spelling out a statement of encouragement to his beloved Yankees. In fact, his nickname, “Freddy Sez” was derived from the sign itself as the top line on the sign said, “Freddy Sez, ” followed by what was often, frankly, unimaginative message of support for the team. “Freddy Sez, Nobody beats the Yanks”, would be a typical example. And the fans loved it.
Freddy Sez seemed to be there for virtually every game. He would cover much of the Stadium, handing the spoon to fans so that they could ‘clink’ the pan as a means of supporting the Yankees. Over the years he became a fixture at the Stadium and was probably the only fan in the building that could move freely from section to section without being asked to show his ticket. While I never heard definitively, I like to think Freddy Sez, born and bred in the Bronx, stopped paying for a ticket some time ago.
Nobody is exactly sure when Freddy Sez became a regular at the Stadium, though by most memories his appearances became regular in the late 1980’s; at the beginning of an era when the Yankees and their fans really needed a little extra spirit and fun at the ballgame. The glory years of the late 1990’s were still far off and the Yankees regularly played to relatively small crowds that often had little to cheer loudly about.
While piped in rock and dance music had become standard at the Stadium some years before, the full on sensory assault that marked the later years of the old Yankee Stadium, and that certainly is part of the new one, had not yet been introduced. Between the small crowds and relative silence between pitches and outs, Freddy Sez’s pan and the ‘clinking’ sound could be loud and clear throughout the ballpark. It was a simpler era in both baseball as well as the country and then he was really just fan with a pan; as the years passed, he became something more.
Particularly special to me was when I would watch the Yankees on television home, hours away from the ballpark, and hear fans hitting Freddy Sez’s pan with a spoon. The faint ‘clink’ brought a comfort to me on some indescribable level.
As the years went on, the Yankee team and franchise became more successful and ultimately more corporate. The crowds grew, bandwagon fans signed up and eventually Freddy Sez’s original ‘home’, Yankee Stadium, was prepared for demolition and the team moved across the street to a modern and luxurious version of the old place. Freddy Sez made it across the street for two seasons and saw the Yankees win a World Series, though he missed being at the ticker tape parade that he was invited to be a part of as he was sick.
In addition to the sign, stick, pan and spoon, a signature Freddy Sez trademark was a missing left eye. On his website (which seems to have last been updated about ten years ago), Freddy Sez explained that a stickball accident in his youth caused him to lose his eye.
They say deaths come in threes. While Freddie Sez will not be remembered with the same level of magnitude that owner George Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard will be (both of whom died this year), he will forever hold a small piece of Yankee Stadium history.
Rest in Peace, Freddy Sez.
New York Daily News