George Steinbrenner, the often polarizing, but nonetheless iconic owner of the New York Yankees since 1973, died this morning of a massive heart attack at the age of 80. Steinbrenner has been quite ill in recent years, allegedly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He turned over full control of the team to his son, Hank, over two years ago.
While in his prime, Steinbrenner was one of the most hands-on, and possibly famous owners in all of sports. He was to the Yankees what Jerry Jones is to the Dallas Cowboys is today. Hands on and very much in control of day to day decisions. There was no doubt who was in charge, ever, and he wanted people to know it. He was, The Boss, and he seemed to revel in the name and the persona and he commanded respect wherever he went.
By all accounts, he ruled the team with an iron fist, but at the same time, he was loved as much as he was feared. He was known for never backing down, and he was known for his pride. He fired manager Billy Martin five times, hiring him back each time. Talk about a love/hate relationship.
His fued with former Yankee great Yogi Berra was also well documented. At one point, they had completely stopped talking and The Boss had the former player, manager and Yankee legend banned from the Yankee clubhouse. They had reconciled in recent years and Berra not only was on hand during the ceremony honoring former Yankees during the All-Star Game at old Yankee Stadium two years ago, he easily received the loudest and longest ovation from the crowd.
Under Steinbrenner’s rule, the New York Yankees became the epitome of success, winning the World Series 7 times, going to the World Series 4 other times and not winning, and taking the American League East 16 times.
He gave the phrase “buying championships” a whole new meaning, and showed the rest of the sports world just how to do it. He brought in superstar after superstar, making the New York Yankees the most loathed, and feared, team in all of sports. He brought in players like Reggie Jackson, who he paid an astronomical $3 million over 5 years, unheard of at the time. He brought in stars from other teams and allowed them to become superstars on the Yankees.
Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973 for just under $9 million. Today, it’s the richest franchises in baseball, valued at over a billion dollars.
Steinbrenner’s passing comes just two days after the Yankees suffered the loss of their long-time stadium announcer Bob Sheppard who died Sunday at the age of 99. Sheppard is long regarded as one of the best stadium announcers in all of sports and had been dubbed “The Voice of God” by Reggie Jackson. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter continues to use Sheppard’s voice announcing his plate appearances.