Daily News, July 15, 2010, "'Miracle Girl' All Grown Up, Thanks to Secret Gift From Boss"



BY ERIK BADIA and LARRY McSHANE


George Steinbrenner's death immediately brought Lorraine Blakely back to the year when The Boss helped save her life.

The Long Island mother of three was just a second-grader when the Yankee owner donated $13,000 to cover her medical bills after a freak 1977 accident nearly killed her.

Steinbrenner's contribution came with a caveat: The family could not discuss the gift. And Blakely, now 40, kept her part of the bargain until Steinbrenner died Tuesday.

"It just shows what a good man he was," Blakely said yesterday at her Lake Ronkonkoma, L.I., home. "He didn't want any notoriety for it he was just doing it out of the goodness of his heart."

Steinbrenner, despite a deserved reputation for bluster and bullying, often hid his softer side and philanthropic works: helping the kids of slain cops, funding hospitals, aiding terminally ill children.

And rescuing 7-year-old Lorraine after her skull was fractured by a flying chunk of wood in a botched Fire Department demonstration on Oct. 12,1977.


It was the same day as Game2 of the World Series between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers - which became the first championship season of the Steinbrenner era.

Three hours of emergency surgery saved her life, but a chunk of the bone protecting her brain was gone - forcing her to don a hockey helmet around the clock.

A delicate four-hour operation was needed to implant a plastic plate across her skull. That's when Steinbrenner stepped to tile plate, sending a limousine to bring the little girl and her parents to a meeting, where he handed over the check.

"It was a bit of an intimidating situation for me," she recalled. "But when I got there he was so kind - one of the nicest people you could ever meet."

The May 1978 surgery was a success, the Steinbrenner money helped pay the bills and the little girl grew up with her secret - a promise held so tightly that she never even called The Boss to say thank you.

But she never forgot his generosity or gentle demeanor. "It gave me a chance in life," she said. "It means a lot. Especially now, as a mother with children, to know what that must mean." Blakely and her husband, Brian, are the parents of three kids - all Yankee fans.

The oldest boy, Brian, is a second baseman and pitcher in Little League. While she kept her lips mostly sealed about Steinbrenner, she did let the story slip to her son. "Wow," he replied in awe. "You met him?"

When she watches her 9-year old lake the field, Blakely thinks about how fortunate she was to survive her near-fatal experience.

"They called me the miracle," she said. "And you know what? My life has been a miracle. Just to have the opportunity to lead a normal life."

Blakely was watching television Tuesday morning when she heard the sad news about Steinbrenner. But while The Boss may be gone, he will never be forgotten in one Long Island home.

"I'm a huge Yankees fan," the suburban mom said. "I'm also a huge Steinbrenner fan. And nothing will change."

With Lisa Lucas