In the spring of 1997 Derek Jeter asked me half jokingly to tell George Steinbrenner to give him a multi year contract just like what the Cleveland Indians were doing for thier young players. Derek knew that I worked directly for the boss but didn’t really think that I would say anything.
I told Derek that I would.
When I got back to the office I did mention it to the Boss. He uncomfortable stared at me then stared at the ceiling for a long time then instructed me to tell Jeter to meet him a block away from the auditorium where we were having a baseball fan festival there in Tampa.
After the festival Jeter and I went to the spot a block from where the Boss said. All of a sudden the Boss pulled up.
In Tampa, the Boss usually drove himself but that day someone drove him. He jumped out of the car like if he was doing a movie. He was as cool as cool aid. He said let’s walk. We probably walked for a block before he said anything.
Then all of a sudden he asked Jeter if he wanted a multi year deal. Jeter said, “Yes sir I do.” The Boss then said that he thought long and hard about it and decided that he wasn’t going to do it because he would really be taking advantage of Jeter and two years from now Jeter would be angry and the trust angle between the two of them would not be good.
He told Jeter that he should be patient at this time because Jeter was going to make more money than he dreamed of. After saying some other things he patted Jeter on the back pulled his car, which had been following us then he jumped in and just like that he was gone.
Jeter looked at me, I looked at him and we smiled at each over and we never said a word about this historic meeting until the Boss died.
Two years after that meeting Jeter signed a ten year contract. Four years after that the Boss appointed Derek the Captain of the Yankees.
The Boss was very proud of that appointment because he felt Jeter would be a core Captain like Thurman Munson & Lou Gehrig. When the Boss was inducted into the Ted Williams Hall of Fame, Derek inscribed a baseball that said, “You deserve this honor because you have been so special.” That ball sat in the case at the museum for years.
This past weekend was July 4th, the birthday of the greatest country in the world and also the birthday of the Boss, the greatest owner in the history of all sports. I want to thank the Steinbrenner family for sharing this man with us. I hate to think of where I would have been without him and for that matter, a hell of a lot of us.
Today I send my condolences to the Steinbrenner family and also to the Yankees family. It is ten years since we lost George M Steinbrenner. This man revolutionized the game of baseball and sports in general. He was a lion who only wanted the best for his team and New York.
The thing that I will remember the most about him was his undying desire to help people in so many ways. He could be a very strong-willed person who wasn’t afraid to ever put you in your place and yet he wasn’t afraid to go into the worst neighborhood in the city and extend his heart and hand to help those in need. Yes, I did work for him for a very long time. Exactly what was my job description? Whatever he wanted and needed. From day one this man looked out for me and he knew that I would have taken a bullet for him. I mean that will all of my heart. My only regret is that I wish I could have repaid him for all that he did for me. One of the proudest scenarios in my life is that I can always say that I was truly a friend of George Michael Steinbrenner III and if he can hear me in Baseball Heaven…Thank you.