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David Brown

The Steinbrenner letters the Yankees don't want us to read

David Brown
Big League Stew

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To most of the world, a 60-year-old correspondence between George Steinbrenner and Mary Jane Elster might provide fresh insight into what shaped the man who later became "The Boss."

To the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner's letters as a young man remain the intellectual property of the Steinbrenner family and its business interests, blah, blah, blah, etc.

To wit, the suits who run the Yankees won't give permission for the woman — who's now called Mary Jane Schriner — to use 19 letters she received from Steinbrenner and publish them in a small book about their relationship.

Well, there goes the monolithic Yankees empire again, crushing dreams.

Richard Sandomir in the New York Times writes that, despite the letters being completely free of anything salacious — even by the standards of the late 1940s and early '50s when they were written — the Yankees won't budge.

From the New York Times:

Lonn Trost, the Yankees' chief operating officer, told Schriner's son Michael in an e-mail last month that "regardless of anyone's intent," publication of the letters "will cause untold embarrassment and damages to the Steinbrenner family and the Steinbrenner's business interests." Trost declined to say what offended the family.

The letters were written years before Steinbrenner's marriage, so it doesn't appear that Schriner was "another woman" as it relates to George's widow, Joan Steinbrenner.

The Yankees also asked the Hall of Fame to not use the letters in any kind of exhibit.

What could possibly be in these letters that the Steinbrenner reps don't want the world to see?

In what were usually two-page letters, the young Steinbrenner comes off as gentlemanly and impatient; hopeful that he could spend time with Schriner on trips home from Williams College and wishing that she wrote back as frequently as he wrote to her.

Gentlemanly and impatient. That second part, especially, sounds a LOT like Steinbrenner.

He wondered once why she did not seem crazy about him.

"I don't know if it was a friendship or a romance," she said Wednesday from her home in Westlake, Ohio. "One problem is, I was Catholic and he wasn't."

Oh, unrequited love. It can be damaging.

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Steinbrenner died in July, but that doesn't mean the Yankees have stopped bossing people around in George's name.

"Lonn could not have been more of a bully," Michael Schriner said. "George looks so great in the letters. We wanted his kids to see the letters. But no one wants to mess with the Steinbrenners. People are afraid of them."

Trost (right) presumably is doing the will of the family. Under copyright laws, the Yankees are within their legal rights to prevent publication. In all other ways, not as much.

That's OK. If you'd like to read more about the public figure George Steinbrenner and how he tried to get his swerve on back in the day, check out Schriner's blog (she's 77!) or an earlier story in the Times.

The Yankees can't stop her from talking about her own relationship, although I hear their legal people looked into it.

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