Yankees Mascot Ray Kelly, 83, Dies
.c The Associated Press
He died peacefully a few hours after visiting with the owner of the new Mickey Mantle's Restaurant at the Palisades Center in West Nyack. The restaurant opens on Thursday.
"I was having a catch with my father in a park along Riverside Drive," said Kelly, who was known as "Little Ray" throughout his life. "The Babe lived around the corner and stopped by to watch. I was a pretty good player for age 3, and Babe told my dad, 'I'm taking Little Ray with me to the Polo Grounds tomorrow. He's going to be my mascot.'"
The relationship lasted a decade, with Ray wearing his own Yankee uniform, and present for the opening of Yankee Stadium in 1923. "I wasn't the batboy -- that was Eddie Bennett. I was just there to sit on the bench and look cute."
The Yankees of the time included Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Tony Lazzeri, and manager Miller Huggins, all Hall of Famers.
Asked if the other players minded that Ruth had his own mascot, he would laugh and say "Are you kidding? Babe was making them a lot of money. He could do whatever he wanted."
When he was 13, Little Ray "retired," his school obligations growing more demanding. But Babe kept in touch, and had Ray and his father as his guest at the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field, when Ruth pointed to the bleachers before hitting his famous "called shot" home run.
"He absolutely did it," maintained Ray. "I was right there. Never in doubt."
After high school, Ray went into military service during World War II, serving in Guam. Upon his return, he graduated from Pace University, then joined Mobil Oil, where he was employed as an accountant for 35 years.
Long forgotten by baseball, recalled only for his famous pictures posing with the Babe, he was "rediscovered" when he was a guest speaker at a 1994 Hofstra University symposium on the centennial of Ruth's birth. The Yankees themselves were unaware that he was alive, and resided in suburban Rockland County. Immediately following that appearance, he began giving interviews, throwing out first pitches, and becomming a minor celebrity all over again.
He is survived by his wife Josephine, five children and 13 grandchildren.
Funeral services are set for Thursday in Congers.