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To many in the Boston area, he was one of the most hated men. We despised the way he built his teams and formed a Nation to counter his Empire. Still, George Steinbrenner should be respected as one of the greatest owners in baseball history.
George passed away today at the age of 80 after suffering a massive heart attack. His health had been in decline for some time, but remained owner even after passing along his baseball operations to his son Hank.
His legacy will be remembered for one thing: winning. Steinbrenner did whatever it took to make sure he had a winner on his hand. “The Boss” was a legendary owner who was known to butt heads with his managers, (especially Billy Martin) and ran his team by his rules, (not long hair or facial hair).
Since buying the Yankees in 1973, for ten million dollars, Steinbrenner’s Yankees won seven World Series in eleven trips. The legendary players under him are staggering: Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neil, Daven Winfield, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens are just some of the players who referred to their boss as Mr. Steinbrenner.
What George did was staggering. He changed the game of Baseball. Steinbrenner made the Yankees more then a team, they became a business. From the creation of YES, the first of it’s kind, to ridiculous player salaries, George changed baseball into the game it is today. Some would say it’s for the better, others the worse.
He was also a figure in pop culture. Many don’t realize that he once hosted Saturday Night Live, but I’m sure a lot of us recall George Costanza reporting to “The Boss” on Seinfeld. If you have never seen it, try watching ESPN’s “The Bronx is Burning,” about the heated three way battle between George, Billiy Martin, and Reggie Jackson. It’s a fairly accurate of the passion George had for the game, even if it meant going head-to-head with the people who worked for him.
I don’t think many in Boston realize the impact he had on the Red Sox. We were loyal fans before George came along, but when George’s Yankees were dominating the AL, people needed a team to rise up and take them down. The 2004 Red Sox were the anti-Yanks. With long hair and grody beards, they were a team anyone could get behind who disliked the Yankees. It was all because George spent the money to make his team so good, people despised them.
He was Donald Trump combined with Al Davis. Someone who once said “Winning is first, breathing is second.” Many hated him to the point where when he was banned from baseball in the early 90s, and people in Yankee Stadium cheered. When he returned, he became the consummate owner and, behind Derek Jeter, built a dynasty by the end of the millennium.
Baseball will miss it’s greatest owner and the game will never be the same again.
On a personal note:
George Steinbrenner made me a better baseball fan. I was born in Queens into a Mets family. At a young age I moved to New England, where I became a full fledged Red Sox fans. I criticized every move George made and said things like, “he buys his championships”. I hate the Yankees and avoid dress shirts that have pin stripes to this day. My love for baseball comes from hating the way Steinbrenner did his business.
Still, I wanted an owner like that. A man who didn’t care and did whatever it took to win. Making difficult, passionate decisions for the better of the team. We in Boston now have John Henry and Robert Kraft, two men who love to win and have that public ownership that George perfected.
I offer my condolences to the Steinbrenner family and hope the impact he had on the game of baseball does not get forgotten.