I may get kicked out of The Nation for this and my membership revoked forever, but today I will remember one of baseball's legends.
Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner was the New York Yankees. George Steinbrenner is the New York Yankees. The Boss will always be synonymous with the pinstripes. And all he cared about was winning.
"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next. "
Word is that Steinbrenner was the lead partner of an ownership group who bought the struggling New York Yankees from CBS for $8.8 million in 1973. His investment? Less than a million. In the 37 years that followed, The Boss turned the organization into one that he recently passed on to his sons worth over $1 billion.
So how did he manage to do that? Steinbrenner was tough, controversial, pushy, outrageous and passionate about his team, and he lived to win. George saw his team win 11 pennants and 7 world titles, most recently in the last year of his life. He was even banned from baseball for life in 1990 only to be reinstated three years later. The Boss made it clear: you played his way or you took the highway and his way was winning, plain and simple. During the Steinbrenner years he fired managers 21 times and changed general managers more that half of that, because The Boss played by his own rules and because he could.
"Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa."
He made baseball his business and he earned a handsome profit for that business. He turned the New York Yankees into one of the most valuable baseball franchises ever. He was loved, hated, loved again, and hated again but all the while respected. He did things for charity, and would surprise people with his acts of kindness. Word is that when Jon Lester was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, a large arrangement of flowers were sent from the only team to acknowledge his battle, the New York Yankees. Insiders say it was a direct order from The Boss.
When I heard the news of his passing, I felt a sadness in my heart. That same heart that bleeds red and blue for my beloved Red Sox. To us, he was Darth Vader Steinbrenner. The imperious leader of the Evil Empire, and Sox fans may never live to hate another owner with such a fervor.
"I will never have a heart attack. I give them."
Somewhere up there today, we know that God must be wearing pinstripes.