She sent “Freddy the Fan” an e-mail wondering why he had disappeared. The Manhattan College cheerleader and her basketball team were in the midst of a sterling season. The Jaspers were on their way to a 23-7 year and a NCAA bid. And Freddy, the ultimate Yankees and Jaspers fan, hadn’t been to Draddy Gymnasium for as many as 10 games.
“We were having a great season, we really wanted him there with us,” said the cheerleader, who found Freddy’s e-mail address on his website. “I’ll admit part of me wondered if Freddy was okay. ‘Oh, boy, I hope he didn’t die.’”
Though Elizabeth Dowd grew up in Lawrence, Mass. adoring the Red Sox — the Yankees’ most bitter rival — she had much in common with the 85-year-old Bronx man, having spent much of her 20s cheering on the Jaspers green and white.
“He probably came to our games because he liked seeing the expressions on the young people’s faces,” said Tom McCarthy, a 2006 alumni, and assistant director of annual giving in the college’s development office. “One of the nice things about going to a game in our gym was that you got to see Freddy up close instead of with the 50,000 plus that go to Yankee stadium.”
The man whose real name was Freddy Schuman — aka Freddy the Fan and Freddy Sez — lived most of his life in the Bronx. He lost the use of his right eye at the age of 9 when he had a stickball accident. Some said he ran an upholstery shop for a living, others said he drove a truck.
Unassuming by nature, it is not entirely clear why Freddy Sez adopted or developed his alter ego. Several Manhattan students and staff who came in contact with him at Jaspers games can barely recall him uttering a word.
He spoke and gave voice to others, with the shamrock-adorned frying pan and metal spoon he brought to virtually every Yankee game starting in 1988.
Bob Byrnes, Manhattan’s longtime athletic director, remembers seeing Freddy at a Yankees playoff game against Baltimore. Seated in the right field bleachers, he said he watched Freddy carry his gear from the very top of the old Yankee Stadium down to the fancy seats, engaging dozens of fans along the way.
Most fans recognized Freddy at the Stadium, or at least knew of his legend. But a few wondered who this homeless-looking man, toting eccentric signs and houseware was.