Love him or hate him Steinbrenner improved the game
The baseball people called him “The Boss” and for a good reason—that’s the way he ran whatever he owned. George Steinbrenner was the man in charge—and everybody knew it. The secret to his success came from opening his mouth and his wallet.
In 1973, after failing in his bid to buy the Cleveland Indians, Steinbrenner headed a group of investors that bought the New York Yankees from CBS for $8.7 million.
The struggling franchise began to turn things around when Steinbrenner began to acquire some of the top names in the game at the time—Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles and relief pitcher Sparky Lyle.
He then sought out the top managers and hired former Yankee infielder Billy Martin five times, also firing the pesky skipper the same number of times.
Steinbrenner hired Yankee idol Yogi Berra for the 1984 season and promised not to fire him after the season. But 16 games into the 1985 season, after the Yankees posted a 93-85 record, Steinbrenner sent word to Yogi by one of the coaches that he was fired. Berra was livid and didn’t speak to Steinbrenner or set foot into Yankee Stadium for 13 years.
“George and I had our differences, but who didn’t?” Berra said in a statement in last week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly after Steinbrenner’s death July 13. “We became great friends over the last decade, and I will miss him very much.”
Steinbrenner, who turned 80 on July 4, under his ownership since 1973 saw the Yankees win seven World Series, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles. And as the USA weekly magazine points out “he did it with money and with a swagger that his best teams emulated.”
Before getting into baseball Steinbrenner made his fortune after taking over for his father as chairman of the American Shipbuilding Company of Cleveland. His first adventure into sports ownership was with the Cleveland Pipers of the short-lived American Basketball League.
Steinbrenner had his share of problems as the Yankees’ owner off the field. He pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to President Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1974 and was suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for two years.
He was banned from baseball for life in 1990 by Commissioner Fay Vincent for hiring Howard Spira to dig up dirt on Yankees’ star Dave Winfield. However, Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993 and enjoyed his greatest run of success beginning in 1995 when the Yankees returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1981.
He was the first team owner to field a team with a $200 million payroll and it paid huge dividends as the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.
Steinbrenner also was very generous and gave millions to charities large and small and was not afraid to poke fun at himself. He appeared in a beer commercial with Billy Martin that mocked their sometimes tempestuous relationship.
“George was the type of guy that just loved to win,” said Yankees’ bench coach Tony Pena in an interview by USA Today Sports Weekly. The former Boston Red Sox catcher added, “I know a lot of people said he was controversial, but his ‘controversial’ was about winning. It didn’t matter how much he was going to spend on the franchise, he just wanted to win.”
Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter said last week after Steinbrenner died of a heart attack, “It’s tough, because he was more than just an owner to me. I think he was a father figure to everyone who was in our organization in the past or present because he really took care of his players, whether it’s someone on the team now or someone who played for a week 30 years ago.”
Steinbrenner, who once said that owning the New York Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa, turned the $8.7 million investment in 1973 into an enterprise according to Forbes magazine worth $1.6 billion in 2009.
During his tenure The Boss hired…and fired…15 different managers including Ralph Houk, Dick Howser twice, Gene Michael twice, Bob Lemon twice, Lou Piniella twice, Bill Virdon, Dallas Green, Bucky Dent, Stump Merrill, Buck Showalter and Joe Torre just to name a few.
Steinbrenner’s final legacy was the brand new Yankee Stadium, which opened last year. But failing health caused him to leave the operations of the team in the hands of his sons Hank and Hal.
As far as this Korner is concerned, we didn’t care for many of the things George Steinbrenner did, but we must admit he was a true capitalist that wasn’t afraid to spend money on free agent players or available managers to help the New York Yankees win.
KWICKIES…Terrell Owens is concerned that no teams have offered him a 2010 contract as the NFL training camps are less than two weeks from starting. Four good reasons why teams aren’t clamoring to his doorstep is (1) He’s got the reputation of being a cancer (troublemaker) on previous teams (2) He commands a high salary (3) He had a very mediocre year on a very mediocre team in Buffalo last season and (4) He’s 36 years old.
Football certainly is in the air even on the state and local level as high school coaches throughout the Lone Star State are gathering in San Antonio this week for the annual Texas High School Coaches Association convention that precedes the start of the grueling two-a-day practice sessions that begin the first week of August.
Milwaukee Brewers’ manager Ken Macha complained to major league baseball officials about his players being hit by pitches too often. He wants action to be taken to protect his Brewers, who have been hit by 47 pitches, the most in the major leagues. Last weekend Atlanta pitchers hit first baseman Prince Fielder in consecutive games on Friday and Saturday. On Fielder’s first at-bat after hitting a homer Saturday, Atlanta’s Jonny Venters threw a pitch over Fielder’s head and then was ejected when he hit Fielder with the next pitch.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 27-year-old South African, took the lead on the seventh hole of Friday’s second round, and never looked back as he cruised to a seven-stroke victory in last weekend’s British Open played at The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. The closest Americans were Nick Watney and Sean O’Hair who tied for seventh place, 10 shots off the winning pace. The pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods finished in 23rd place 13 shots behind Oosthuizen, who reeled in a winner’s check of $1.305 million. Watney and O’Hair earned $186,239 each while Tiger had to settle for $64,511.
Chris Berman, who was hired by ESPN in October 1979—one month after its inception—is the 2010 recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. He will receive the award Aug. 6 during the Enshrinees Dinner. That is where the Class of 2010 headed by former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith will receive their gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jackets. Other inductees include Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, John Randle and Jerry Rice.
The Houston Astros dropped two of three games in Pittsburgh last weekend to the Pirates—the worst team in the National League. The Pirates—also the worst hitting team in the majors– pounded the Houston pitching for 17 hits Saturday and 19 on Sunday winning both games 12-6 and 9-0, respectively. Sunday’s shutout thwarted Astros ace Roy Oswalt from tying the franchise record of 144 wins set by Joe Niekro. Oswalt was rolling along until he was hit on the ankle by a line drive. He continued, but gave up three more consecutive hits, complaining that he couldn’t finish his pitches. His exit came after the fourth inning when he was called on to bunt and then ran up the first baseline like Chester in Gunsmoke. Roy O. left the game trailing 2-0, but was slapped with the loss, sinking his record to a dismal 6-11. As usual, Oswalt got no run support from his teammates.
JUST BETWEEN US…And while on the subject of the Houston Astros, the No. 1 priority for the team is to rid itself of overpaid and under-producing left-fielder Carlos Lee. The straw that broke the camel’s back occurred last Thursday when Lee didn’t show up for a scheduled workout. It spoke volumes about how much he cares for the Astros. His alibi was that he couldn’t find a pilot for his private jet. He had this same attitude when he played for the White Sox in Chicago, Milwaukee and Texas. There are only 10 days before the trading deadline and Houston will owe Lee $37 million when his no-trade clause expires at the end of this season. To give a nine-figure salary to a player with a “What Me Worry?’ attitude merely epitomizes the organization’s stupidity.