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George Steinbrenner - "The Boss"
July 4, 1930 - July 13, 2010
George Steinbrenner was born on July 4, 1930 in Rocky River, Ohio. He died in Tampa, Florida on July 13, 2010 at the age of 80.
He was educated at Williams College where he received his B.A., and The Ohio State University, where he received his M.A.
His spouse was Elizabeth Joan Zieg. His children are Hank, Hal, Jessica, and Jennifer.
His parents were Henry G. Steinbrenner II and Rita Haley.
Click here for the George Steinbrenner Photo Gallery
George Steinbrenner Biography by www.Baseball-Almanac.com
George Steinbrenner was born on Friday, July 4, 1930, and began his Major League baseball executive position on January 3, 1973, with the New York Yankees. The 42 year-old businessman had just purchased the Bronx Bombers from CBS for $10 million and changes were about to take place. He passes away at the age of 80 on July 13, 2010.
Baseball Almanac is pleased to present a comprehensive page for George Steinbrenner which includes his biographical data, links to other similar pages, and a biography.
George Steinbrenner Photo Gallery
Famous George Steinbrenner Quotes
The Quotes below were obtained from Catherine Galioto.
“When you're entrusted with a tradition, you've got to protect it.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)
Steinbrenner on Public Service
“They may call me the Boss, but in the end, to succeed as owner of the Yankees, you have to be a servant — a servant to the history and legacy of the Yankees.” (New York Post interview, Oct. 31, 2009)
Steinbrenner on Business
“My dad never let me have an allowance. He gave me chickens. I had to feed them, gather the eggs, and sell them. I kept ledgers. I had to run it like a business. When I went off to military school, I sold the business to my sisters for too much, and they haven't liked me since.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)
Steinbrenner on Leadership
“If you can't sit in the saddle, you can't lead the charge.” (USA Today interview, Feb. 27, 2006)
Steinbrenner on Hard Work
“If you haven't got a hernia yet, you ain't pulling your share.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)
Steinbrenner on Broccoli
"Every single day of my life I try to do two things that I don't like doing," he says. "[Eating] broccoli is one of them." (Sports Illustrated interview, May 10, 2004 edition)
Steinbrenner on Leadership
"The rate of the pack is determined by the speed of the leader." (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)
Steinbrenner on Inspiration
“I like every cab driver, every guy that stops the car and honks, every truck driver. I feed on that. That keeps me working hard to be able to afford to do the things that we do." (Sports Illustrated interview, published May 10, 2004)
Steinbrenner on Humor
“Don't ever get so serious that you can't laugh at yourself.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)
Steinbrenner on Yankee Fans
“Think of those 50,000 people in the stands and everybody watching on TV. They are the most loyal and dedicated fans in sports.” (New York Post interview, published Oct. 31, 2009)
Steinbrenner on Yankee Stadium
”The original Yankee Stadium will always be a cathedral of baseball, but everything changes.” (New York Daily News interview, published July 1, 2007)
Steinbrenner on Charity
“I believe the good you do for others comes back to you," he says. "But if you do something good for some person and more than two people know about it—you and the other person—then you didn't do it for the right reason.” (Sports Illustrated interview, published May 10, 2004)
Few business owners enjoyed the accident of appreciation more than George Steinbrenner. His $8.8 million investment in 1973 (actually, as principal owner, he ponied up just $168,000 of the family shipbuilding fortune) is now worth more than $3 billion. Or maybe his was the accident of geography. The New York Yankees were a mythic, if wildly undervalued, asset but also uniquely situated in the world's biggest media market. The team's cable-TV contracts became so rich during his tenure that the rest of major league baseball felt a subsidy was not only fair but also downright necessary.
Steinbrenner's critics, of whom there are legion, might well argue that any buffoon could have done as well, and that less of one could have done better. All he did was put a coat of paint on a faded property and ride a kind of real estate bubble, during which all sports franchises soared mightily in value. While there is a lot more arithmetic in support of his stewardship—those Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Series championships in Steinbrenner's 37 years of ownership—those same critics could easily find ways to discount it. Didn't the Yankees, after, all lay the foundation for two World Series runs (1977--78 and 1996--2000) during those years when he was forced from the owner's box? And for that matter, during those final seasons of absentee ownership, right up to his death at the age of 80 last week?
But that misses the point. Steinbrenner's legacy is only partly about the team's absurd run-up in value, which in any case was not entirely accidental. And it is only partly about the restoration of Yankees glamour, which likewise was hardly inevitable, so tarnished was the sport's jewel on his purchase. Rather, we have to consider his ego (yes, we have to) and how it changed the way we enjoy sports today. Without the force of personality, without the permission of arrogance, without the allowance of an owner's desperation—the template of ownership that he created—well, these teams we're so damn interested in would almost certainly be a lot less interesting. And maybe not as good.
Now, to forestall some immediate argument, we can all agree that Steinbrenner may have had too much ego, more than was strictly required for the job. He more or less agreed himself, although too late in life to do many of his minions any good. He mostly mistook ownership for a sort of absolute authority, an imperiousness that was not always wonderful to behold. Certainly he wouldn't have that legion of critics if he didn't so often behave like "Patton in pinstripes," as Howard Cosell once complained.
In his first 20 years he changed managers 20 times (five-timer Billy Martin needlessly inflating that figure), suggesting he wasn't so much interested in creating a baseball juggernaut as in asserting a rather hysterical dictatorship. And while it is possible to claim competitive zeal in defense of almost any management mistake, it does not excuse the almost capricious cruelty he made famous. Like firing Yankees legend Yogi Berra in 1985. After 16 games. With a phone call. Through an underling.
To be fair, Steinbrenner admitted the ritual "poor judgment" of those early years—"You could sit and write a huge volume about the mistakes I've made"—and in time even repaired his relationship with Berra, if not quite all the aggrieved. Some gaffes were probably beyond apology anyway, like the hounding of star Dave Winfield. (As it turned out, paying a known gambler to find some dirt on his rightfielder was also beyond the rules, resulting in Steinbrenner's second suspension from baseball.) But either age or better advice somewhat modulated his impulsiveness, and he was far less trigger-happy in his later years, even retaining Joe Torre as manager for 12 of them. (Although, perhaps predictably, that didn't end so great either.)
This meddling was so extreme, even for a hands-on owner, that Steinbrenner became cartoonish, The Boss, a tabloid fixture. It was not a caricature he went out of his way to avoid, even agreeing to pose for an SI cover dressed as Napoleon. Nor was it something he tried overly hard to reform (further than was required by law). Because he understood that his bombastic bossiness, however exaggerated, was actually the fan's prerogative. And for all his high remove, he was never anything but the fan's proxy.
He was this new kind of owner, after all, who exercised his self-importance on behalf of his fans, flexing his ego for their satisfaction. What is more forgivable than that? If Steinbrenner seemed childish in his impatience, it made him all the more lovable among his patrons, who were also legion. They merely wished they could fire Billy. George would actually do it. Again. And again.
Keep in mind that the Yankees, before Steinbrenner, were owned by CBS, a colorless corporation of no known temperament or agenda. While big business might guarantee a certain decorum or dignity, it did not tend to identify with the fans' anxiety or create much in the way of hope. For Steinbrenner, it was all a bit more personal. How is baseball not personal?
Perhaps only someone with as colossal a self-assurance as Steinbrenner's could dare address the needs of all those fans. He was largely devoid of doubt and plunged into deals before their danger could be truly assessed. Beginning in 1974, he exploited the developing free-agency market, signing Catfish Hunter to a game-shaking $3.35 million contract. With a maddening bravura he collected every player he could, pioneering the unpopular but modern idea that titles could be bought. Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage, Tommy John, Winfield—if Steinbrenner thought the Yankees needed somebody, he paid for him.
Critics (them again) complained that Steinbrenner was using that checkbook in place of any real vision and were happy to point out that results were not always commensurate with the payroll. Steinbrenner, in establishing his Bronx Zoo, was buying dysfunction as much as he was championships. But, again, this ignored his role as surrogate fan. He was simply enacting their wishes, sometimes before they could even form them. The Yankees, once Steinbrenner was in charge, became fantasy baseball for a pretty big city.
Steinbrenner managed to represent his people, the blue-collar demographic that underwrote his own dreams, even as he was creating this new baseball royalty. It was wicked fun to watch him have it both ways, promoting his players' celebrity, then removing it at the first sign of disappointment. But he understood that the fans could not long appreciate Yankees arrogance without the possibility of comeuppance, or at least accountability. "Mr. May" is what he called Winfield after a galling World Series failure, shrewdly anticipating fan backlash.
There is probably zero tolerance for an owner exactly like Steinbrenner, but there is more and more a sense that his is the only type that can truly succeed these days. You see that type in all of sports now—flighty, nervous, driven types like Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, now Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers—men whose need to win is rivaled only by their need to please. They're plungers, gamers, acutely attuned to the needs of the marketplace, self-appointed (critics might say) by accidents of wealth. And they don't operate with much reservation, or require much approval or agreement or even consensus. They know what's best—for the team, for you.
Steinbrenner was the first among them to recognize how a
sports franchise, just during his time, had grown in importance,
even beyond a dollar figure. He was the first to realize that
teams had become public trusts, civic preserves that must be
tended with sure and confident hands. He was the first to
appreciate how sacred, how vital these things had become to a
community. He was the first to understand—and he'd also be the
first to tell you—that running one was not a job for just
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