Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George Steinbrenner, 1930-2010. R.I.P.

The New York Daily News is reporting that George Steinbrenner, who was the principal owner of the New York Yankees for more than 30 years, died this morning of a massive heart attack. He was 80.

Steinbrenner's death comes only 48 hours after the death of Yankees longtime PA announcer Bob Sheppard. It also comes the morning of the All-Star Game. Sheppard will be honored at the All-Star Game when Derek Jeter comes to bat. I imagine there will probably be a moment of silence for Steinbrenner before the game. I also imagine that Yankee Stadium will be quite emotional this Friday when both Sheppard and Steinbrenner are sure to be honored.

Steinbrenner was a shipbuilder from Cleveland who bought the Yankees in 1973. At the time of the purchase, he said he would not be involved in the day to day operations of the club.

During his tenure, Steinbrenner made twenty different managerial changes often hiring and firing managers on multiple occasions - Billy Martin (five times), Bob Lemon (twice), Gene Michael (twice), Lou Piniella (twice).

However, this would stabilize in the 1990s with Buck Showalter who managed the Yankees for four seasons before leaving to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks. Showalter was succeeded by Joe Torre in 1996 and Torre did not leave the Yankees until after Steinbrenner handed over the reigns to his sons, Hank and Hal.

Between 1976 and 1981, the Yankees appeared in four World Series and won back to back Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977-1978. Steinbrenner spent money on free agents like Reggie Jackson. But between 1982 and 1994, the Yankees made no post-season appearances. After winning the AL Wild Card in 1995 in Showalter's last season as manager, the Yankees would win four World Series in five years under Torre. Given Steinbrenner's decline in health in recent years I'm sure winning the World Series last year was quite special.

Steinbrenner was known for his volatile personality arbitrarily hiring and firing personnel at a moment's notice. I remember reading about Graig Nettles' time with the Yankees in his book Balls and believe me Steinbrenner did not come off well.

Yet Steinbrenner was incredibily generous. In recent years, Steinbrenner would donate $100,000 to the Jimmy Fund- the Boston Red Sox charity for children with cancer. He also did not mind poking fun at his own image as he did in Miller Lite commercials with Billy Martin and VISA card commercials with Derek Jeter as well as a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1990.

Suffice it to say there will be never be another of his kind.

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