He may have been born in Ohio, and his primary home base might have been in Florida, but George Steinbrenner was the personification of New York. Loud and blustery, but determined to win at all costs.
For better or worse, Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees for nearly 40 years, set the template for the modern day sports team owner. It would be hard to imagine, say…a Mark Cuban without George Steinbrenner. That letter than the Cavaliers owner sent out after LeBron left the team last week? A total Steinbrenner move. No, George wasn’t the most likable man in the world, but with 11 American League pennants and 7 World Series rings during his tenure as Yankees owner, he didn’t need to be terribly likable. He was winning.
Growing up in New York, seeing Steinbrenner on the front page of the newspaper (or lampooned inside it, thanks to Bill Gallo’s repeated drawings of “General Von Steingrabber”) was a regular occurrence, whether he was getting into it with his players during their Yankee career (Reggie Jackson), getting into it with former players after their Yankee career ended (Dave Winfield), even getting into it with fans (allegedly). Then there was his ongoing battle of wills with on-again, off-again manager Billy Martin, a relationship so complicated a movie should be made about it. Even getting suspended from Major League Baseball twice did nothing to tarnish his legacy or calm his desire to win at all costs.
George had been in poor health for several years, so hearing of his passing isn’t very surprising, although it’s an interesting twist of fate that the most notorious owner in baseball history passed away on the same day of the All-Star game. Here’s a tip of the cap to Mr. Steinbrenner. May we win another one this year in your honor.