"Breathing First, Winning Next."

Patrick StapletonContributor IIJuly 13, 2010

The world changed forever for George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees, and the sports landscape on January 3, 1973.  That date 37 years ago marked the day that George Michael Steinbrenner III bought the Yankees in a deal with CBS.  He originally said that he would not be involved much because he had a shipping company to worry about back in Cleveland.  His exact line was, "We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned."  Well, if there could ever be a more opposite truth in life, that was it.  From 1973 to the past few years, when his health started to decline, Steinbrenner was the king of the sports-world.

Steinbrenner once said, "Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next."  He certainly ran his life under that motto and treated others as if they should feel the same way.  The tears that would roll down his eyes after every Yankees World Series Championship showed how overjoyed he was by receiving the greatest trophy in all of sports.  He had revived the Yankees to their glory and was hated by those who said, "He spent too much" and revered by overjoyed Yankee fans.  

Many people saw Steinbrenner's legendary brash persona in public, but in his private life, he gave more money to charity on a yearly basis than most make in a lifetime.   He also sent many kids, who weren't his own, to college.  The Boss also gave second chances to Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe, and countless others.  Despite the typical Steinbrenner tirades that you would read about or see on television, he was a giving man who cared about those in his life.  

Never has there been an owner who invested more money into his team for the fans than Mr. Steinbrenner.  The 11 AL Pennants and 7 World Series Titles his teams won in 37 years showed not only how successful he was as an owner, but also his unending mission to deliver a championship to the Yankee fans.  One of the biggest blunders in baseball history has to be the Hall of Fame not voting in George Steinbrenner, one of the most successful and legendary owners in sports history.  I think that he will be voted into the Hall before long, but they missed many years where he could have and should have been inducted.  Many of the voters on the Veterans Committee did not care for Mr. Steinbrenner, but personal feuds should not keep one of the most well recognized owners out of the Hall of Fame. 

Sure, Billy Martin was never fired more than as a Yankee manager, and Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, Joe Torre, and many others got into it with Steinbrenner.  However, Mr. Steinbrenner dealt with all those people and was still committed to the ultimate goal: Winning a World Series Title.

The 27th World Series last season was for Mr. Steinbrenner.  All seemed right in the baseball universe again as the various Yankee players and executives raised the World Series Trophy high above their heads.  For all the sports fans out there who hate the Yankees, Steinbrenner was the ire of their disdain.  Mr. Steinbrenner simply did not care.  He was willing to spend in order to produce a championship team and he accomplished that task many times.  He'd pay the luxury tax time and time again in order to produce a team that would be standing alone of the top of the mountain. 

Steinbrenner grew the Yankees into more than a championship winning sports team, but a billion dollar industry as well.  Yes, he fired a few people along the way and created some enemies, but his main concern was always to be successful and raise yet another World Series trophy for Yankee fans.  He was brilliant in the latter goal and will be forever remembered as a legend of not only the sports world, but one of the most recognized figures in American history.

37 years later: Billions of his dollars spent, many managers fired (and rehired), 7 World Series titles won, and millions of people who respect him more than he will ever know.

Rest in Peace Boss.  

The best owner there ever was


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