Today is a sad day as we found out this morning that the owner of the New York Yankees, George M. Steinbrenner III had passed away after having a massive heart attack. He was 80 years old.
In the past few years “The Boss” had slowly allowed his sons to take control of the Yankee organization, but his legacy is all over the ballclub and the building that they play in. For those that live outside of the New York area or who are not Yankees fans will only see the man who spent $200 million per season or the man who spent over $1 billion to build “The House That George Built”
In 1973, Steinbrenner led a group that bought the New York Yankees from CBS for $8.7 million dollars. He led an ownership group who failed to purchase the Cleveland Indians to purchase a once proud organization with only $168,000 out of his own pocket. Within only a few years, Steinbrenner started the free agency era with signing of players such as Don Gullett, Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. Within five years, he had won two World Championships and did everything he could to win every season. Through his time in the 80s, he was well known for signing high-priced free agents and trading away young talent for older established players. Although the Yankees had the best record for any team during the decade of the 80s, they failed to win any World Series rings. It was not until his suspension in the 1990s that forced Steinbrenner away from his beloved team. It was during his absence that the baseball staff left in place helped grow the organization through smart trades and signings while growing the Yankee talent from the farm system. Players such as Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were able to flourish as young players during the absence of “The Boss” instead of being traded away for some aging pitcher or Designated Hitter.
The Yankees history since is well documented. The Yankees have won five championships in the past 14 years, while appearing in the playoffs in every year, but one. During the past decade, the Yankees payroll has escalated to over $200 million and many of the top salaries are being paid by the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, C.C Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and others have all benefitted from the financial abilities of the Yankees. However, it is not just “The Boss” that we remember today.
Listening to ESPN Radio in New York all day today, the airwaves were filled by former Yankees who each have stories to tell about Steinbrenner. Dave Winfield told stories about how he and George had lunch ten years after he left the Yankees to mend the rift between them. Derek Jeter called George a friend. Stories were told how George would call a player down on his luck and tell them how they are now employees of the Yankees that they have a salary and he will always help them. Over the next few days you will hear stories about the man that Steinbrenner was and the things that you would never hear about him, until now that he is gone.
George had some contentious relationships with his managers. He had hired and fired Billy Martin five times. Although they had a relationship that very few could understand. They both wanted to win and deep inside they both understood that. They made fun of themselves with Miller Lite commercials and press conferences in which they fought and George fired Billy in which Billy replied “But you didn’t even hire me yet.” Another former manager, Lou Pinella, considered Steinbrenner a father and Buck Showalter has always been grateful for the opportunities that George gave him.
Steinbrenner hosted Saturday Night Live. He did credit card commercials, dancing on the screen. He allowed himself to be part of the Seinfeld legacy. He was a man who seemed to understand who he was, and what his role was in society. We should all be so lucky.
Personally, I am grateful to George Steinbrenner for having his desire to win and always giving my favorite team the chance to win. I have been at over 200 games in the old and new ballpark. Although I had concerns about the tearing down of the old stadium, every time I walk into the “House That George Built” I smile as the new place still feels like home. I was there April 3, 2009 against the Cubs on the first night the building was open. I have taken tours of the stadium. I was there nearly every home playoff game last year and I have been there a few times this season. I will always thank him for having the ability and desire to spend money to help the Yankees win. Instead of putting the money in his pockets, he put it back into the organization and into the building of the YES Network. He did all he could to win. What more could a fan ask for?
Finally, I will be at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon for Old Timer’s Day. I will be there as the Yankees players from the past and present and all Yankees fans honor the memory of “The Boss”. I was there in 1982, when in his first game as a member of the California Angels Reggie Jackson hit a home run and the fans chanted in unison “Steinbrenner S*cks”. I have a feeling there will be numerous chants this weekend celebrating the man who turned $168,000 to billions and to the man who brought a once proud organization back to the glory it once had and still continues to have.
Rest in peace, Mr. Steinbrenner. Thank you.
Tags: Baseball, New York Yankees