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The Passing of a Legend       Share

13 July 2010

On Tuesday morning the owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner, passed away at the age of 80.  Why is this significant?  Why doesn’t every major news organization cover the passing of owners of major sports franchises?  The answer is simple—there are not many owners like George Steinbrenner.  Nicknamed “The Boss,” Steinbrenner’s actions lived up to his nickname and then some.  Steinbrenner built his wealth in the ship business, but he became fully involved in professional sports when he bought the New York Yankees franchise 38 years ago.  At the time, the Yankees were struggling to regain their old glory as a habitual championship winner.  Over his time as the owner of the Yankees, the team won 7 World Series titles and went to the playoffs 19 times, a record that beats any other major league team over that time period.  Steinbrenner paid $8.7 million for the Yankees in 1973 and increased the value of the franchise about a hundred fold over the tenure of his ownership.

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How did he do it?  A bulldog-like tenacity and a thirst for winning that permeated every decision he made as the Yankees’ owner.  In those 38 years, Steinbrenner went through 15 managers, hiring one, Billy Martin, on five separate occasions!  He was loathed by many, but you can’t argue with his results.  He introduced the era of the enormous payrolls for Major League Baseball, using huge revenues from deals with New York television and radio outlets to buy the contracts of baseball’s best players.  Even though baseball instituted a salary cap so that teams would have to pay a luxury tax once their payroll hit a certain amount, that decision did not deter Steinbrenner.  He paid the luxury tax and kept on winning, including bringing New York another World Series title last season. 

Few owners reach the notoriety of “The Boss” who was a recurring character on the TV show “Seinfeld” and even hosted “Saturday Night Live.”  He was in poor health over the past few years and began turning over the reins to his sons Hal and Hank.  When people discuss George Steinbrenner, words like “arrogant,” “cocky,” and “hated” will be tossed about by those outside of New York, but to those words one must also include “winner.” 

One Liner:  “Love him or hate him, Steinbrenner was probably the most successful sports owner of all time.”