We come to figuratively bury, and to a degree, to honor George Steinbrenner on the day of his death.
But sometimes, Steinbrenner was less than honorable. He paid gambler Howard Spira as part of an attempt to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. He was convicted for making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's presidential campaign.
There also was Steinbrenner's inability to not meddle. When he fired Billy Martin five times, it was funny — at least to the public. But in 1980 when he fired Dick Howser (above, right) after the Yankees won 103 games in the regular season before getting swept from the playoffs by the Royals, it was much more gruesome.
Dave Anderson of the New York Times was in the room when Steinbrenner announced it. At first, Steinbrenner offered sandwiches to the intimate media who had gathered. It would have been like dining at a man's execution, Anderson said.
Via the New York Times:
"Dick has decided," George began, "that he will not be returning to the Yankees next year. I should say, not returning to the Yankees as manager."
Dick has decided. Ostensibly, Howser had decided to go into the real estate business in Tallahassee, Fla., rather than continue as the Yankees manager. When George was asked if Howser could have returned as manager, he said yes. But when Howser was asked why he didn't want to continue as manager, he said, "I have to be cautious here." When he was asked if he had been fired, he said, "I'm not going to comment on that."
"I didn't fire the man," Steinbrenner barked.
A lie. Also a delusion.
The principal owner even added, "I think it's safe to say that Dick Howser wants to be a Florida resident year round, right, Dick?”
Dick Howser didn't even answer that one.
This was an execution, not a news conference, and when it was over, as everybody was walking out of his office, the principal owner looked around and said, "Nobody ate any sandwiches." He didn't seem to realize that nobody believed that "Dick had decided."
Howser landed on his feet, eventually going to the Royals and winning the World Series in 1985. And Steinbrenner had reputation for "taking care" of those whom he fired. Some of that ethos, probably and hopefully, came from Steinbrenner's guilty conscience.
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It also should be noted: Winfield is part of ESPN's coverage of the All-Star Game and said today that he and Steinbrenner became "good friends" in recent years. Steinbrenner even "apologized" for some of his transgressions, Winfield said.