by Patrick Stapleton
I wrote a post today about my five favorite quotes of the Boss. My favorite one was spoken at the introductory press conference after he bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973. He said, "We [ownership group] plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned." Well, I can confidently say that the Boss was not being entirely truthful that day.
It is not often that ESPN will stop running practically every sports story because they are covering the death of someone from the sports world. However, Mr. Steinbrenner was an American legend. Due to his work as owner of the New York Yankees, the brand has stretched from America to Japan and seemingly everywhere else in the world. The Yankees are easily the most recognized American sports team around the world and that is because of the Boss.
I was watching videos throughout the day that were remembering him, and I came across a different quote from the one mentioned above. The following quote epitomized his drive to win a World Series title every season. Steinbrenner said, "The only thing I care about is the Yankees fans. I could care less what the other people or detractors say. It really doesn't bother me." That statement is how I will remember George M. Steinbrenner III. Not only did Steinbrenner return the Yankees to prominence over his 37 years at the helm, but he also expanded upon the great Yankee tradition. He bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973, along with a few other businessmen, for $8.8 million, and the Yankees are now worth a reported $1.5 billion! It is not often in the sports world that the owner's legacy matches that of the players, past and present, especially when it comes to the Yankees. However, the Boss accomplished just that as he will be remembered in the same breath as Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Berra, and countless others, as a Yankee legend.
George Steinbrenner's father, Henry, instilled in his son the necessity to win. His father died in 1983 and was unable to see how much of a global icon his son would become over the next 20 plus years. The "win at all costs" mentality that Henry Steinbrenner demanded from George had clearly been maximized in the biggest market with the biggest franchise in all of sports. I would say that Mr. Steinbrenner's father, at times his biggest detractor, would be very proud of what his son accomplished as owner of the Yankees.
Many people don't know that Steinbrenner was arguably the most philanthropic sportsmen of all-time. The reason is because his father once told him, "If you do something good for someone, and more than two people know about it, you didn't do it for the right reason." He sent countless kids to college, gave millions of dollars to the Jimmy Fund (official charity of the Red Sox), continued to pay former Yankee managers and executives who had been long retired, gave second chances to players that had fallen on hard times (Strawberry, Gooden, Howe), and gave more money to New York City than most of us will earn in a lifetime.
He was also a very patriotic man, and loved America, even more than he did his Yankees. Among the many tributes from people around the country today, one significant message came from Larry Probst, Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who said, "Today we mourn the loss of one of this country's most iconic sports figures. His impact on sports supersedes baseball and the New York Yankees. His work on behalf of the U.S. Olympic Committee and in particular U.S. Olympic athletes continues to affect the way the USOC conducts business today. The Steinbrenner report in 1989 revolutionized the USOC's sport performance philosophy, and a generation of Olympians have benefited as a result. His influence on the U.S. Olympic Movement, his devotion to sport and the pursuit of excellence will forever be remembered." If you didn't think he was an American icon before you read that quote, then it is easy to understand after reading it how much he loved this country and how he would do whatever was possible to bring greatness to the U.S.
Looking back on the first quote Mr. Steinbrenner is known for as owner of the Yankees, in which said that he would not be involved much, makes you think what it would have been like if he had held true to that statement. I was born in 1989 and because of that, all I have ever known is Yankees success at the highest level. So the original statement made by Mr. Steinbrenner, about not being involved, does not resonate with me and I am thankful that he didn't keep his word. For if he did remain truthful on that fateful day, the world would have missed out on getting to know a great man.
By winning 16 division titles, 11 American League pennants, and 7 World Series Championships, Steinbrenner gained the respect of millions around the world. Everyone from Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani to John Henry (Red Sox Owner), Bud Selig, and countless others sent in tributes to the Boss. Many of them spoke to how much of a giant Steinbrenner was in the sports world and a fixture in the history of America. Mr. Steinbrenner epitomized the American spirit in every way and I am proud to be a Yankees fan because of him.
Mr. Steinbrenner once said of New York City and Yankee fans, "This is the greatest city in the world, and its people are the greatest people in the world. And I just hope they like me." The Boss said those words in October of '77. Well, Mr. Steinbrenner, there are many people crying over your loss today. I think it is pretty evident through those tears that we didn't just like you, we loved you, and you will be forever missed.