Freddy’s Pan Will Bang No More for YankeesBy MANNY FERNANDEZ
Mr. Schuman had survived heart attacks in recent years. On Friday, he was playing bridge and dancing at a senior center on West 76th Street in Manhattan when he collapsed and was taken to the hospital, said Suzie Zakoian, his fiancée and longtime companion. Heart failure was the cause of death, Ms. Zakoian said.
Mr. Schuman attended hundreds of games at the old and the new Yankee Stadiums, roaming the stands with a frying pan and spoon for fans to whack as hard as they could. Mr. Schuman and the pan-banging tradition were so beloved that one of his pans was inducted into the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J. Another is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“I crave the excitement and the adulation of my fellow fans,” Mr. Schuman says in Gillian Zoe Segal’s 2001 book, “New York Characters.” “Because if not for the fans, then I’m nobody.”
Mr. Schuman hand-painted signs for each of the more than 1,500 home games he attended, never using the same sign twice, and he was the author of a newsletter for fans, past issues of which included his Yankee-themed poetry and Ms. Zakoian’s recipe for leg of lamb stew.
“Out of the 81 home games each year, you can count the games he missed on one hand,” said Chuck Frantz, 57, a friend of Mr. Schuman’s and the president of the largest Yankees fan club in the country, the 430-member Lehigh Valley Yankee Fan Club in Pennsylvania.
“A few weeks ago I called him. He was very sick. He had a very bad cold and he couldn’t shake it. Freddy was a guy who didn’t like doctors. I said, ‘Freddy, do me a favor. Please take a couple days off, relax, then you can go to the game when the Yankees are back.’ He said, ‘Chuck, I can’t. The players need me. The fans need me. I can’t stay home.’ And he went to the game.”
Mr. Schuman, a retired truck driver who was known as Freddy “Sez,” first took his pan to a Yankees game in 1988. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani once called Mr. Schuman the embodiment of the die-hard Yankee fan, saying that if Mr. Schuman is not at a game, “it feels like there’s something missing.” It was no idle compliment: In November 2001, at the mayor’s urging, Mr. Schuman, his pan and his spoon were rushed out of his Upper West Side apartment and put on a plane to Phoenix on an urgent mission: Help the Yankees win Game 7 of the World Series.
Few fans were as intimate with the old Yankee Stadium as Mr. Schuman, and he remained one of the last vestiges of the old ballpark at the Yankees’ new $1.5 billion home. “I even know where some of the best drinking water is,” he said in the days before the Yankees’ final game at the old stadium in September 2008. “There are some fountains that work very good and there are some fountains that need a plumbing job.”