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R.I.P. George Steinbrenner

By Brian | July 14, 2010 | Share on Facebook

Quite a bad week for the New York Yankees. First they lost their voice, then they lost their leader. George Steinbrenner bought a flailing franchise with a rich history and returned it to its former glory. He was a brilliant businessman, a confident leader, a passionate sports fan, and a charitable benefactor.

He was also one mean sonofabitch, who let his passion for winning make him vindictive, and occasionally afoul of the law (he was suspended from baseball twice – and reinstated both times). He changed the game of baseball, changed the Yankees, and even changed The House that Ruth Built. In short, he changed just about everything he touched. Some people hated him for it while it was happening, but the baseball world is mourning him today.

My personal memories of George Steinbrenner, aside from all the “Bronx Zoo” antics of the late 70′s – the arguments, the firing of managers, the controversy-baiting game he played with the New York sportswriters – was how such a tough man could have such a big heart. In 1981, when I was twelve years old, Yankee pitcher Tommy John’s youngest son fell out of the third-story window of their home. He required brain surgery and then lay in a coma for 17 days before making a full recovery. I remember reading that George Steinbrenner paid all of the doctor’s bills, and offered to pay for Travis’ college education when he recovered. In later years, I read similar stories about him spending money to fund drug rehabilitation (for players like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry) and helping out Jorge Posada’s son, who was diagnosed with craniosynostosis at the age of ten days old. Over the years, he’s setup many charitable foundations, usually to fund scholarships for kids, particularly those who’s parents were police officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty. Thankfully, these charities, along with the New York Yankees, were a family business, and his four children have taken the reins ever since Mr. Steinbrenner’s health began to fail.

Thanks, Boss. Not just for all the championships, but for instilling the Yankees with the consistent expectation of excellence. Many reviled you for this trait, called you cut-throat or mercenary, and accused you of “buying championships.” But as you used to say, “Winning is important. It’s a way of life.” You taught your kids (and me, and eventually my kids) that it is important to set goals and it is okay to be disappointed when you don’t achieve them. Failure teaches lessons; it drives improvement. Trying hard is great, but it should never be the goal. Success should always be the goal. I get the feeling that this will be your legacy in the Bronx. I look forward to many more years of exciting baseball as a result of your tutelage.

Topics: New York, New York, Sports Talk | No Comments »

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