He was the instrumental piece of a franchise in desperate need of a facelift and reconciliation of image. George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees for $8.8 million on January 3rd, 1973 and feverishly began the process of renewal and renovation.
He was a looming presence transfixed by a clear vision to restore the reputation of a storied team enriched by their successful history. Though most believe he was feared due to his post- dramatic temperament and military background, serving two years in the Air Force, those closest to him mainly his family and team of managers, coaches, players and other affiliates of the Yankee organization would frown at that notion and rather regard him as a warm-hearted, and caring individual.
His grand commitment to the game and his stern ideologies concerning utilizing his team’s resources and upholding the mystique of Yankee pride and tradition were highly respected and when fiscally capable, emulated. His plan was simple to grasp yet difficult for other teams to replicate due to a scarcity of financial resources. Most could not afford to implement that very efficient strategy. What he wanted was the best of everything. The best players, the best coaches, the best doctors and the best front office. It did not end there. Steinbrenner had an extensive approach in all facets of his billion-dollar industry. From the stadium’s personnel and ensuring their commitment to perfection to converting the Yankees into the most well-known sports franchise in the world through their unparalleled vision of expanding through merchandising, television and radio broadcasting and other outlets which undoubtedly made their logo as considerably well-known as any household fixture. Steinbrenner was a genius in modern sports ownership. The Yankees’ principal owner did not see eye to eye with some of his team managers though; most notably the late Billy Martin who served five stints as Yankee manager being relieved of his duties and resigning as well for insubordination and the inability to follow “The Boss” orders. Another was a controversial firing of Buck Showalter who led the team to the playoffs in 1995 after more than a decade in subtle mediocrity and even embarrassing seasons of more than 90 losses at times. Albeit these adverse occurrences, Steinbrenner still managed to be the most successful owner in sports winning 11 pennants and 7 championships in his tenure.
After winning four out of five championships to end the century, George was suffering from bad health and in 2003 he collapsed and fainted in his home in Florida. When he was considered incapable to handle the demands of his position he passed on his legacy to his sons Hal and Hank who are now part owners of the team and shared the success of the last championship in 2009 in dedication of their father. Exactly midway through the 2010 season during the All-Star break on July 13, baseball lost its most valuable principal owner when George suffered a heart attack in his home. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at the age of 80. Those who were able to play and work for him will remember him for his passion and will to win at all costs and for his famous quote: “lead, follow, or get out of the way”. May you rest in peace Mr. Steinbrenner.
By Leonardo Lopez