10/19/10 1:20 AM ET
Freddy 'Sez' to be missed by all Yankees fans
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
Familiar, but not quite right. A little too loud sometimes, a little too soft other times. The rhythm of that bang-bang-bang was just a little off.
That's because the homespun instrument wasn't being played by its maker. Freddy Schuman, better known as Freddy "Sez," passed away on Sunday due to a heart attack at the age of 85.
On Monday, his signature spoon and pan were on display just inside Gate 4 of Yankee Stadium, along with his old Yankees jacket, Modell's hat and a sign -- characterized by his neat capital letters, outlined with a marker -- reading, "OK Yankees, Let's Get Going." Fans entering the ballpark could mimic the sound that became a trademark part of being at Yankee Stadium.
Everybody banged the spoon against the pan their own way, but nobody did it quite like Freddy.
"Sad," said Ralph Flannery outside the stadium. "Big-time Yankee fan."
"He was really a fun guy," said Paul Esatto. "We loved him. We loved seeing him. Every game we wondered, 'When are we going to see Freddy?'"
Schuman was a presence at Yankee Stadium for more than two decades, making his way around the park with his spoon, his pan and a custom sign of encouragement. Rocco Lucciola saw him at the final home game of the regular season just three weeks ago. The news of Schuman's passing caught him off guard on Sunday.
"We used to see him all the time," Lucciola said. "I couldn't believe it."
Queens resident Bob Pizzo heard the tribute to Freddy outside Gate 4 on Monday.
"I think they should take his pot and mount it on the wall of the museum," Pizzo said. "You can't do it for everybody, but there's a few people [who deserve it]."
Pizzo may have been on to something. The Yankees announced on Monday that they would place Schuman's signature spoon and pan -- along with articles of clothing and select signs -- on display at Gate 4 for the remainder of the postseason. Following the playoffs, the memorabilia will become part of a display at the Yankees Museum.
That isn't the only place his patented pan and spoon will be immortalized; one version is already held in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
In perhaps a bit of irony, the Yankees held a moment of silence to remember the man who punctuated their games with his homespun instrument. The team also released a statement.
"Freddy 'The Fan' Schuman was an iconic Yankees fan who brought life, youthful exuberance and cheer to Yankee Stadium," the statement read. "The energy and excitement that resonates throughout the Stadium during a Yankees game is made that way by our fans, and Freddy was one of the conductors that could be counted on to bring our orchestra of fans together. Freddy endeared himself to all those he came in contact with, and we send our deepest condolences to his family and his thousands of friends."
Bobby Blake had a picture taken with Freddy "Sez" when he was a year old in 1989; this year, when he showed it to Schuman at Yankee Stadium, it almost brought Schuman to tears.
"He was a great man and especially a great Yankee fan," Blake said by e-mail.
Charlie Speight called the personalized sign he got for his wedding from Freddy "the coolest gift anyone has ever given me."
Jared Weiss vividly remembered the first time he got the chance to bang the frying pan at the age of 12 as "a really special moment full of joy."
Esatto summed it all up the simplest: "He will be missed."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.