R.I.P - The Boss

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Thursday, July 15, 2010

George Michael Steinbrenner III
(July 4, 1930 – July 13, 2010)

The Boss, Mr. Steinbrenner, Boss George...these are the names by which the principal owner of the NY Yankees was known as over the course of the 39 years he owned the team...nearly half his life.

Mr. Steinbrenner was born in Rocky River, Ohio, the only son of Rita and Henry George Steinbrenner, who had been a world-class track and field hurdler while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The elder Steinbrenner later became a wealthy shipping magnate who ran the family firm operating freight ships hauling ore and grain on the Great Lakes.

Steinbrenner graduated from Culver Military Academy, in Northern Indiana, in 1948. He received his B.A. from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1952. Mr. Steinbrenner was more of a social success then an academic success as a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He was an accomplished hurdler on the varsity track and field team, and served as sports editor of The Williams Record, played piano in the band, and played halfback on the football team in his senior year.

He joined the United States Air Force after graduation, was commissioned a second lieutenant and was posted to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. Following honorable discharge in 1954, he did post-graduate study at Ohio State University, earning his master's degree in physical education in 1955.

While at Ohio State, Mr. Steinbrenner was graduate assistant to Buckeye football coach Woody Hayes. It was the year the team went undefeated and competed in the Rose Bowl. Steinbrenner served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University in 1955, and at Purdue University from 1956-1957.

In 1957, Steinbrenner joined Kinsman Marine Transit Company, the Great Lakes shipping company that his great-grandfather had purchased in 1901. Mr. Steinbrenner worked hard to successfully revitalize the company, which was suffering hardship during difficult market conditions.

A few years later, with the help of a loan from a New York bank, Steinbrenner purchased the company from his family. He later became part of a group that purchased the American Shipbuilding Company, and, in 1967, he became its chairman and chief executive officer. By 1972, the company's gross sales were more than $100 million annually.

In 1960, against his father's wishes, Steinbrenner purchased the Cleveland Pipers, of the ABL. The Pipers won the ABL championship in 1961-62 but the ABL folded in December 1962, just months into its second season. Steinbrenner and his partners lost significant money on the venture, but Steinbrenner paid off all of his creditors and partners over the next few years - a trend he held to the end.

In 1971, Mr. Steinbrenner made a failed attempt to get back into sports by buying the Cleveland Indians. History would have been very different if that had happened. The next year he was approached by Yankee team president E. Michael Burke who told George he was putting a group together to buy the NY Yankees from CBS who had run the once storied franchise into the ground.

Steinbrenner became principal owner along with Burke, Lester Crown, John DeLorean and Nelson Bunker Hunt. For years the purchase price was reported at $10-million, but later on it was revealed that the original deal included two parking garages near the stadium and after the deal closed CBS bought back the parking structures for $1.2-million meaning the total purchase price for the Yankees was $8.8-million!

Mr. Steinbrenner's difficult times began immediately when he and newly named team president Gabe Paul tried to hire Oakland A's manager Billy Williams. The problem is that, even though Williams had quit after the A's won the World Series, he was still under contract and A's owner Charlie Finley fought the hiring and won.

Mr. Steinbrenner has a legacy of hiring and firing managers - and in the case of the late Billy Martin, hiring and firing him 5 times!

He also went through General managers, racking up 11 in the first 30 years of ownership.

But he is best known...good or bad...as going after free-agents and spending money to get the Yankees back to the top of the baseball world.

Many from outside NY complain about his spending, but in all instances, he paid the additional taxes required for doing so. In fact, it can be said that he forced those 'small-market' teams to grow up and join the 20th centruy. They could not compete with their pocketbooks, but many of those smaller teams spent money rebuilding their farm systems.

Baseball is unique in the fact it has farm systems to develop talent. Many teams had let their farm systems fall into shambles and now, they all realized that the way to compete with teams like the Yankees was to develop their own talents.

Upon taking over the team a new grooming policy was instated, which stands to this day. Players and office staff were not allowed to have hair below the top of their collar and there was to be no facial hair below the mouth.

There are some stories about incidents that occurred and even the consummate Yankee, Don Mattingly, was suspended in the 1991 for having a mullet. I think the funniest story, was one spring training when Lou Pinella, Yankee outfielder, was called into the trailer used as Mr. Steinbrenner's office. He told Pinella to cut his hair. Pinella responded that Jesus had long hair, so why couldn't he. Mr. Steinbrenner walked to the door of the trailer, opened it and pointed to one of the lakes on the property, "You go walk across that lake on top of the water and you can grow your hair to your waist". Pinella was clean cut later that day.

In 1978 after the Yankees had acquired Reggie Jackson. Billy Martin was in his first term as yankee manager. After quarreling with both of the men, Martin declared to the press, "The two were meant for each other. One's a born liar, and the other's convicted." End term one of Martin's career as Yankee manager.

The statement "...the others convicted" came from Mr. Steinbrenner's first suspension from baseball. In 1974 Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Nixon's re-election campaign, and to a felony charge of obstruction of justice. He was personally fined $15,000 and his company was assessed an additional $20,000. On November 27, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him for two years, but later reduced it to fifteen months. Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner in January 1989, one of the final acts of his presidency.

He was also suspended on July 30, 1990. Steinbrenner received a lifetime ban from Commissioner Fay Vincent after he paid a gambler named Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up "dirt" on Winfield, who had sued the Yankees for failing to pay Winfield's foundation $300,000, a guaranteed stipulation in his contract.

The lifetime ban was reduced to a suspension and Steinbrenner was back running the Yankees in 1993.

Without Steinbrenner's stewardship, the Yankees would have floundered for many years. BUT, I do not believe all of their success is his doing. Let's look at the two suspensions and presume he really was not pulling the strings from behind the curtain.

Suspended in 1974. The last time the team had won a World Series was 1962. The Yankees then won in 1977 and 1978. 3 years...just the amount of time to build your farm system and bring in some players who could contribute.

Suspended in 1990. Last time they won the World Series was in 1978. The Yankees then won in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000. They won with a core group of players who were developed in their farm system...Jeter, Williams, Posada, Rivera, Leyritz, Pettitte with gene Michaels as GM.

When he was suspended, an announcement was made at a Yankee home game. The fans stood and CHEERED for a full 90-seconds.

When Steinbrenner came back in 1993 he was different. He took a back seat to his advisers...he hired Joe Torre in 1995 and in 1998 hired Brian Cashman as GM. For the next 13 years there was stability in the dugout and the front office (where Cashman still runs the show).

Mr. Steinbrenner took a backseat to his two sons in 2007 after his health began to cause him troubles.

The team is the most successful franchise in the history of sports with 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants.

Love him, hate him, love to hate him, George Steinbrenner made a mark on sports like few owners ever have.

Does he deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame? With two suspensions under his belt? I think he does, with his plaque noting both suspensions for history.

He was a mean S.O.B. and many free-agents refused to come to the Yankees during the lean years of the 80's, mostly due to his meddling attitude. In the end, all he wanted to do was win.

He also respected the tradition of the Yankees. never changing the uniform they wear. The same one they wore when the team was born back in 1913. To him, being a Yankee meant looking clean...dressing correctly and acting like a professional. he did not ask for any more than that.

He also took care of those people he abused. One story is of a high school friend who worked for mr. Steinbrenner. After an altercation between the two, this friend was fired. Some six years later, this man received a call from an assistant to mr. Steinbrenner who informed the man he was being put on the payroll as a scout. His name was listed in the media guide, he received a paycheck every two weeks, but he never did a bit of scouting. Steinbrenner heard the man was struggling and decided to help.

He brought Dwight Gooden back to baseball and Gooden pitched a no hitter as a Yankee. Then left to go to two other teams before George brought him back again in 2000, before Gooden retired. Steinbrenner even gave Darryl Strawberry another chance to redeem himself.

Mr. Steinbrenner left us on July 13th after suffering a massive heart attack. He left this earth with a World Series in his pocket and a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium...as it should be.

He was the first owner to sell TV rights to a cable network. he then started his won network. He made lots of money. LOTS of money...but he poured much of it back into the Yankees. Many owners in sports cry poverty and that they can not compete, yet they do make millions of dollars a year, and hoard it for themselves.

What will happen to the team? Will his sons own it forever? will they eventually sell the team? Time will tell.

In the end, George Steinbrenner went from being loathed to loved by the fans of the Yankees. That is something not many people can do.

Sources: wikipedia.com, nyyankees.com, my personal knowledge

10 Of Your Sparks

  1. LAC Says:
  2. Even though the AAA Baby Yankees are in our town, I admit to being a little baseball inept. But, I loved the Seinfeld spoofs with Mr. Steinbrenner. Was never sure it was really him, if it was he was a good sport!!! RIP

  3. ...Jeter certainly thought highly of him...

  4. Jay Says:
  5. He's already made Jesus cut his hair and shave the beard.

  6. LISA: No him on Seinfeld, just an actor

    PHFRANKIE: As did others...

    JAY: But Jesus can walk on water!

  7. CiCi Says:
  8. You wrote a wonderful post in tribute to Mr Steinbrenner.

  9. Travis Cody Says:
  10. Having experienced my entire existence in Raider Nation under the reigns of Mr Davis, I definitely understand trying to reconcile mixed emotions regarding the passing of Mr Steinbrenner. There's just no easy way to sum up the man. And maybe that's as it should be.

  11. DrillerAA09 Says:
  12. While I may admire his accomplishments as an owner, I am of the firm belief that nothing give anyone the right to be a horses butt toward others. That's just me.

  13. Mimi Lenox Says:
  14. Wonderful recap of his complicated life, Vinny. An icon for sure.

  15. Unknown Says:
  16. Great write up, Vinny. I'm not much of a sports fan, and being a New England gal, I sort of default to the Boston teams...but that doesn't change the impact he had on the Yankees or the sport, IMHO. May he Rest in Peace.

    I learned a lot from reading this. :) Thanks & enjoy the weekend!

  17. Tug Says:
  18. Tough week for Yankee fans... what an awesome post Vinny.

    R.I.P. Boss.


Music On The Couch