When pro basketball phenom, Lebron James, bolted to the Miami Heat like a freshman on his first year away from home, the city of Cleveland wept and tried desperately to pick up the pieces. Devoid of any real baseball contender this season due to the woeful Indians, the proprietors of this working-class city have been made to concentrate on other forms of entertainment. Holed up in their neighborhood diners and dives, the will to soldier on grows worse under the spell of, “could it get any worse?”
After organizing voice mails and sorting through sheets of paper, a co-worker of mine ruined my second-cup-of-coffee with oh, by the way, George Steinbrenner died. The most infamous man of Rocky River, Ohio, a suburb east of Cleveland, was no longer among us.
I proceeded to walk back to my desk, half-cup-coffee in hand, and began to search the web for anything I could find pertaining to the man. As the former principle owner of the New York Yankees, he was suspended by the commissioner of baseball for two years in 1974 for illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign. Not to throw salt on the man’s grave but he also did fire Billy Martin a total of, oh, I don’t know, we all stopped counting.
With all due respect to Cleveland, Steinbrenner, labeled as a prodigal son, was raised on broad shoulders but yearned for the temptations that the Big City had to offer. With $8.7 million he negotiated a deal to purchase the Yankees from CBS, the outright owners at the time. He brought his brute and blunt strength to the negotiating table and that is how he ran his team: no facial hair, no long hair, —like Mickey Mantle, one could say.
Despite the tenacious and relentless pursuit of the best players money could buy, Steinbrenner was once asked to resign as the organization’s general partner for paying a self-described gambler to uncover some dirt on the Yankee Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield.
Oh, the memories, of seven World Championships and eleven pennants, the launch of the Yankees very own cable network, YES, and the tell-all book by their former skipper, Joe Torre, Steinbrenner’s diminishing presence still loomed large.
With the approval of major league baseball, the “Boss” was allowed to give full autonomy to his two sons, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, of one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
“He built the Yankees into champions, and that’s something nobody can deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man,” Yogi Berra said of the elder Steinbrenner.
Even though I’m an avid Mets fan, I can still admire what he accomplished.