The principal owner of the Yankees once said: “You measure the value of a ballplayer by how many fannies he puts in the seats.” Apparently, he has changed his mind on that.
The $200 million New York Yankees are still putting fannies in seats in record numbers. But the winning is no longer as easy. “The players have to want to win as much as I do,” the Boss snapped.
“My patience is a little short by the fact that the team is not performing up to its great capabilities,” Steinbrenner said in a statement put out by spokesman Howard Rubenstein who said the Yankees owner dictated the statement to him while lifting weights. “He hasn’t lost his fighting spirit,” Rubenstein said. “He said, `We’ll never give up.’ He wants this message to be conveyed.”
Through the years, George Steinbrenner has delivered many messages - some of them mixed. His reign began on a rainy morning in January of 1973. The young Cleveland industrialist stood at the entrance to Manhattan’s ‘21′ Club. The new principal owner of the Yankees said he would be too busy with his shipyard business to be that involved in the day-to-day affairs of running the team.
Born July 4th, 1930, in Rocky River, Ohio, George Michael Steinbrenner III was a multi sport athlete at Culver Military Academy and went on to be an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Purdue universities. Steinbrenner made his money as owner and chief operating officer of the American Shipbuilding Company, a Cleveland-based firm. One of Steinbrenner’s most prominent characteristics has always been unpredictability. It is not the kind of behavior one would expect from a Williams College graduate, an English major whose senior thesis was the heroines in the novels of Thomas Hardy.
With the Yankees he was called “the Boss” almost from the start. In his first 17 years Steinbrenner changed managers 17 times. And as the years have gone on he upped that stat - 21 managers and 11 GMs moved in and out in 27 years. Steinbrenner gave Billy Martin five separate terms as manager.
“Nothing is more limited,” limited partner John McMullen pointed out, “than being a limited partner of George’s.” Center stage, top of the heap, pulling the strings - all of these things have been Steinbrenner’s way.
“I am dead set against free agency,” Steinbrenner said. “It can ruin baseball.” That is another part of his profile. He says things he doesn’t mean. Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, and on and on - have been rewarded with millions and millions of George Steinbrenner Yankee dollars. There have been times when the Yankees were so stuffed with free agent superstars, there was barely room in the lineup for all them.
Suspension for his dealings with small-time gamblers, reinstatement, feuds with players - “issues” galore for Steinbrenner. But no one can quarrel with his success and dedication to the franchise. As the 2005 season got underway, Steinbrenner’s tenure as Yankee owner - thirty-two seasons was the all time best. And there are no signs that he is letting go of the reins any time soon. Despite his pronouncement that son-in-law Steve Swindal will succeed him, “the Boss” won’t tip his hand when he will let go.
“I love what I am doing, so I will not speculate,'’ he said.
Harvey Frommer is the author of 34 sports books, including the classics: “New York City Baseball,” “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” “Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball’s Color Line,” “The New York Yankee Encyclopedia,” “A Yankee Century: A Celebration of the First Hundred Years of Baseball’s Greatest Team,” and the updated and revised 2005 edition of “Red Sox Vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry” (with Frederic J. Frommer). Frommer sports books are available - discounted and autographed - direct from the author.