July 13, 2010
Since learning of George Steinbrenner's death at age 80, we've been collecting memories of "The Boss." Here are some:
"He's more than just an owner to me. He's a friend of mine.
"The thing with The Boss is, he's an old football coach. His way, he sort of looked at the baseball season liked we played 12 games and you had to win every single day. ... He expected perfection and that rubbed off on the organization."
"Opening day. I was actually planning on going back home to Tampa after the game tonight. I was planning on trying to see him when I was down there these next couple days. It's unfortunate that it happened today. The last time was when we got the chance to present him with the championship ring on opening day. ... I teased him because he had an Ohio State ring on, and I told him to take it off and replace it with the Yankee ring."
Jeter in the New York Times:
"He's arguably the most recognized owner in all of sports" — after Mr. Steinbrenner was driven onto the field in a golf cart in a ceremony before the 2008 All-Star game at the old stadium.
Jesse Spector of the N.Y. Daily News is collecting videos of Steinbrenner, including his hilarious Visa commercial with Jeter:
"Anytime you see anyone get older, it's tough," said Pettitte, a core, five-championship-ring Yankee, a player with access. "You see it with your own family, your grandparents and now your parents."
New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg:
"Few people have had a bigger impact on New York over the past four decades than George Steinbrenner. George had a deep love for New York, and his steely determination to succeed combined with his deep respect and appreciation for talent and hard work made him a quintessential New Yorker."
Richard Greener praises Steinbrenner's competitive drive in the Huffington Post:
There have been coaches and managers, and many players over time who have earned a reputation for seeing victory as their only salvation. That dedication to winning is a natural reaction for those whose lives are tied directly to the game on a daily basis. Few owners fit that category. And none ever with the verve and determination of George Steinbrenner.
Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post wonders if Redskins owner Dan Snyder is inheriting part of Steinbrenner's mantle:
If a brash new free-spending owner takes control of, say, the Los Angeles Clippers, will he be called "the Daniel Snyder of the NBA?" Is he pro sports's best example of the free-spending owner?
Darryl Strawberry said Steinbrenner was like the father he never had:
"We had a very personal relationship," Strawberry said today on ESPN. "Sometimes that's what people don't understand about him — he cares about people."
Yogi Berra worked for Steinbrenner and, of course, was fired by him:
"George was 'The Boss,' make no mistake. He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn't? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much."
Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner, but brought him back:
"He left baseball under pressure from me in 1990 and was out for two years. Then he begged me to let him back into our game and I did so because I thought he had made a silly deal for himself when he had asked me to let him leave baseball for life after having engaged in a vicious effort to discredit the Yankee player, David Winfield.
"This is not the place to revisit all that drama, but I let him back because I thought then and still believe he did not deserve to be banned for life."
Keith Olbermann, a longtime Yankees fan, is not surprised Steinbrenner died the same day as the All-Star game:
"And the end came this morning, with a legacy mixed between the best and worst of man's instinct, but consistent always in its quality of being larger-than-life."
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf did not get along with Steinbrenner at first, but became a good friend:
"George Steinbrenner was too complex a person to adequately describe in a short statement, but he was a great friend of mine and he will be missed. His impact on the game cannot be denied."
The Onion, the world's preeminent satirical publication, says that Steinbrenner, to the end, could not help himself:
"George Steinbrenner Dead After Firing Underperforming Heart."
Malio Iavarone, the owner of Malio's Steakhouse in Tampa — one of Steinbrenner's favorite eateries — said the Boss could be a big tipper. From Tampa Bay Online:
"Iavarone said Steinbrenner was extremely generous to him and everyone at Malio's, from handing out huge tips to the restaurant's staff to bankrolling Iavarone himself. One day, Steinbrenner asked Iavarone what he was paying on his business' loan, and the restauranteur told him 7 percent interest. So eager was Steinbrenner to help his friend that he offered to give Iavarone a $1.5 million loan with no interest."
Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Steinbrenner was the kind of owner any fan would want for his or her team:
Steinbrenner had control, wanted control and used that control to achieve his only objective: to win. He would do anything and spend anything. We can debate whether at times he strayed into the area of raving lunatic, but there was no questioning his passion or commitment. His team was his life.
How many owners can we say that about today?
"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing," Steinbrenner once said. "Breathing first, winning next."
Atlanta's Bobby Cox, who began his managerial career in the Yankees system, said Steinbrenner was always the life of the Winter Meetings:
"This is a huge loss for baseball. George was a true winner. I worked for him for 10 years and we got along great. He was tough guy, but he was also very nice and he had a big heart."
Commissioner Bud Selig, on the disarray the Yankees were in when Steinbrenner bought them from CBS:
"When you think of what the New York Yankees were in 1973 and you think about what the New York Yankees are today, I'm sorry this day happened."
Billy Martin "enjoyed" the most dysfunctional owner/manager relationship in the history of sports. It was partially captured on "Seinfield," via the voice of co-creator Larry David:
Yankees icon Don Mattingly said he and Steinbrenner enjoyed a mutual respect:
"I am deeply saddened to hear the news of George Steinbrenner's passing. His vision, passion and commitment to winning, recharged the New York Yankees and revolutionized the game. I remember a man driven to succeed. He was the owner, 'The Boss' and No. 1 fan of the Yankees. Our relationship was built on mutual respect. I will never forget and always be grateful for how he treated me and my family both during my playing days and after I retired. I will miss him very much and extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Joan, and all the members of the Steinbrenner family."
Mattingly also clashed with Steinbrenner over his own personal appearance, but understood where The Boss was coming from:
"[W]hen I came into the minor league system, it was no facial hair, no long hair, you had to blouse the pants. There was a discipline there from the beginning. He wanted certain things, and it was always that way. I remember certain times with Goose [Gossage] and his mustache and things like that. He always wanted things and felt like he needed to look neat and clean, and that was the image he wanted."
Finally, Dodgers skipper Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees from 1996-2007:
"I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, a great humanitarian and a dear friend. I will be forever grateful that he trusted me with his Yankees for 12 years."