There is probably not another person associated with sports that has been equally loved and hated in the last three and a half decades as much as George M. Steinbrenner III. When the principal owner and chairperson of the New York Yankees passed away less than two weeks after his 80th birthday, the outpouring of sentiment proved that the majority was in the former of those two categories.
During the last few years, the elder Steinbrenner had given up the day-to-day duties with the organization in favor of his two sons, Hal and Hank, due to his failing health. But it always seemed as if ‘The Boss’ was still a major part of the team with the frequent statements credited to him in the form of press releases. Regardless of how much input he may or may not have had with them, it was still reassuring to hear from the man who turned around the franchise after purchasing them in 1973 for $10 million.
“He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports,” the Steinbrenner family said in a statement. “He took on a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.”
The Yankees won the American League pennant three consecutive seasons, the last two resulting in back-to-back World Series championships (1977 and 1978). Steinbrenner and his loose wallet mainly brought in the players that compromised of this mini dynasty. He would spare no expense in bettering his team and putting together a winning ball club for the fans.
Sure, he made enemies over the years. But a man like Steinbrenner was not too big to admit some mistakes and make good on them. “George was ‘The Boss,’ make no mistake about it,” said Yogi Berra, who stayed away from Yankee Stadium for years before patching things up with Steinbrenner. “He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t?
“We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much.”
Steinbrenner reigned over seven titles, and it is only fitting that when he passed away he did so as the owner of the defending world champions. If the Bombers can make it two in a row this fall, then they will have built on their third run of rings since the late 1970s. There are not many sports organizations that can say that, and the credit must be given to Steinbrenner.
Things will not be the same around Yankee Stadium without Steinbrenner, even though he has spent most of his time in Tampa the last few years. It was just knowing that he was there and his legacy will be remembered with a commemorative patch on the Yankee’s uniforms for the remainder of the season.
“George had a deep love for New York and his steely determination to succeed – combined with his deep respect and appreciation for talent and hard work – made him a quintessential New Yorker,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “George invested his heart and soul into the Yankees, and his competitive fire helped usher in new eras of Yankee greatness, reclaiming the team’s long tradition of excellence and its position as the most successful franchise in the history of American sports.”
There will be an even bigger void in the Bronx than there has been with the loss of ‘The Boss.’