Hail To the King (George Steinbrenner)

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Hail To the King (George Steinbrenner)
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He was larger than life, even in death.

George Steinbrenner. King George. The Boss.

Principal owner of the New York Yankees since 1973.

He wore all of those hats and countless others, many of which the world never saw.

Steinbrenner spent billions of dollars on the absolute best free agent players money could buy, and was revered for it in New York, but despised for it in smaller cities like Kansas City and Minnesota and Pittsburgh and Montreal.

But, as charitable as he was to the many free agents he signed, many to contracts that were mind-blowing at the time (e.g., Pascual Perez), he was equally as generous to countless underprivileged communities across the country, as well as former players who needed a break.

Thanks to The Boss, New York Yankees fans got to enjoy top-shelf talent the likes of which most other franchises would give their left arm just to acquire one player. From Catfish, Reggie and Winfield to A-Rod, CC and Teixeira, The Boss spared no expense when it came to painting his "Mona Lisa."

Sure, there was a pool of jealousy formed amongst the other franchise's owners and their fans, but it was hard to deny that because of Steinbrenner, many of those same owners were forced to step-up their game in order to remain competitive.

If there was ever a more polarizing sports figure than Steinbrenner, I'm having a difficult time figuring out just who that was, or is.

Strangely enough, despite all of the antics and publicity surrounding The Boss throughout his tumultuous tenure as Principal Owner, only one book chronicling his life was authored, and that was this year by Bill Madden, the authority on all things-Steinbrenner.

Now, that's not to say that there haven't been countless newspaper articles and magazine stories written about him and his tenure, but it's hard to believe that his story, as fascinating a story as you'll find in all of American history, was just recently told.

Ironically, for all that Steinbrenner publicly took from his employees like Billy Martin (fired five times), Yogi Berra (fired in 1985, which led to a 14-year spat that ended with the two becoming good friends) and Stick Michael (who I'm sure had endured some of the worst lashings of all the Yankees GMs), he was exponentially more generous to most others, like Ray Negron, his longtime Assistant, whom he hired after catching him vandalizing the old Yankees Stadium with spraypaint. He stuck with him for some 34-years and has become one of the all-time greatest Yankees front-office men.

From all accounts, Steinbrenner may have been an old curmedgeon to many who worked for him, but he had a soft-spot for those he begrudged over his own admitted stupidity, and he would make up for it later in life.

He would invite players back for Old Timer's Games that may have played for him for a week, or a month; or, he'd offer no-show "Scout" positions to ex-employees who retired, as an expression of eternal gratitude - or perhaps he was overwhelmed with guilt.

You will read all of the tributes penned by old Yankees beat-writers, who lived through the Bronx Zoo and the Columbus Shuttle right on up through the glory years of the late-1990s. Some will be glorious, but some will be harsh. That was the measure of this great Yankee.

And so with Steinbrenner's passing, his two sons will now assume full control of this team, as if they hadn't already. And a new era of Steinbrenner baseball will be born.

A new legacy continuing from where the last one left off.

All the great ones usually do.

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