On January 3rd, 1973, the ownership of the New York Yankees changed hands from CBS (which had owned them since 1965) to a group led by majority owner George Steinbrenner. With that change in ownership came a change in fortune for a once proud franchise that had fallen into a period of eight years without a hint of postseason—the longest time period in the history of the organization.
Steinbrenner immediately started getting rid of the "old guard" (alienating many as he did so), and by 1976, the team had won its first American League championship in 12 years.
George was a tight-fisted owner who enjoyed micromanaging all levels of the organization (he'd call to the dugout to ask the manager why a particular move was made while the game was still underway). He demanded excellence and was not satisfied with finishing second.
After that championship in 1976, the Yankees lost the World Series and George immediately went after the best available player—Reggie Jackson (No. 3 on this list). Many criticized him for his unlimited spending and his controlling ways within the organization. Often he was out-spoken in the media, frequently criticizing his managers and players. He felt that since it was his money that was paying their salaries, he had every right to make remarks regarding their success or failure.
If George Steinbrenner felt a piece wasn't working, he'd get rid of it and replace it. He actually fired and re-hired Billy Martin as manager five times!
Yet, through it all, the Yankees won. Back-to-back titles in '77 and '78 put George at the top of the heap in Major League Baseball.
Those titles were followed by two years without a World Series appearance, so Steinbrenner again went out and signed the best available player—Dave Winfield—after the 1980 season. The following year, the Yankees returned to the Fall Classic only to be felled by the Los Angeles Dodgers. That loss led to one of George's most famous public tirades as he called Winfield "Mr. May" and criticized some of the other most popular Yankees. It over-shadowed an otherwise successful season.
The 1981 season would be the last trip to the Fall Classic for the New York Yankees until 1996. In fact, the team would win 90 or more games only three times in the next 14 seasons. Over that time, Steinbrenner continued to pour his money into player after player, desperately trying to find the right formula to get the club back to the top of the baseball world.
Finally, in 1996, the team reached the postseason. Ironically, it was a team known as much for its young "home-grown" players (Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera) as it was for its free agents (Paul O'Neill, Wade Boggs, Tino Martinez and David Cone).
The 1996 season would mark the beginning of a new era for George Steinbrenner. While he would continue to set records with contracts that he would award to free agents, he would also spend most of his money on keeping the "new generation" of Yankee greats in pinstripes. This resulted in four championships in five years.
The entry into the 21st century saw George Steinbrenner's health begin to decline. By the time the New Yankee Stadium was built (a dream he had worked on for years), he was merely a shell of his old self, and his sons—Hank and Hal—had taken over the daily operations of the franchise.
George Steinbrenner managed to see the team he so dearly loved win one more World Championship in 2009, in his new stadium. The team dedicated the title to him, and on July 10th, 2010, of the following year (one week after his 80th birthday), he died.
George Michael Steinbrenner III forever endeared himself to Yankee fans with his "never settle for second best" attitude and his willingness to put the highest quality product on the field no matter the cost. In purchasing the team from CBS, he re-established the high standard set by Yankee teams long ago. And while some may not agree with his methods, the results will stand the test of time.