Tuesday, July 13, 2010

RIP: George Steinbrenner

I've updated and condensed an earlier post about the death of George Steinbrenner because the original was rather impersonal. I grew up a baseball fan--a Yankee fan--and I have long memories of The Boss, with a twist...

The first thought I had when I read about George Steinbrenner's death was of the back page of the New York Daily News. Of course, I read it on my laptop, which was more immediate, but I still tend to miss the ink on my fingers.
From the mid-70s until I left New York State in 1987--every day--I bought a copy of the New York Daily News. And many summer days during that time, a blaring headline--back page or front--screamed something about The Boss.
I ate it up.
George bought ballplayers, but he sold newspapers, too.
Newspapers have always meant the world to me--literally. It was a newspaper, after all, that introduced me to New York's Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill and to Chicago's Mike Royko and Studs Terkel and to many other writers in newspapers all over the world. It was a newspaper that exposed me to writers who in several hundred words a few times a week taught me the importance of paying attention to the world around me, because those writers did--be it from the cities they wrote about every day or in dispatches from places I couldn't pronounce.
In a strange bit of alchemy, I suppose I should thank George Steinbrenner for some of that.
George bought ballplayers, but he sold newspapers, too.

George Steinbrenner, who forged the Yankees in his own larger-than-life, bombastic image from the day he assumed control in 1973 to his death on Tuesday, was almost his own era in sports. News of his death spread across baseball on the day of the All-Star Game, prompting reaction from all corners of the sports world:

Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and Jeff Wilpon of the New York Mets: “The passing of George Steinbrenner marks the end of an era in New York City baseball history. George was a larger than life figure and a force in the industry. The rise and success of his teams on the field and in the business marketplace under his leadership are a testament to his skill, drive, and determination.”
Mayor Michael R. 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.”
Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, via Twitter: “We all suffered a huge loss today! Mr. Steinbrenner was a great man, great owner, that did so many amazing things. You will truly be missed!”
The former Yankees coach Don Zimmer: “Baseball will miss him. He did a lot of great things – and some not so great – but it’s a sad day for baseball, no doubt about it. He was a winner, and he made the Yankees a winner. Any Yankee fan had to love George Steinbrenner because he put the best team on the field.”
The Hall of Famer Yogi Berra: “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.”
The Giants’ president, John Mara: “The passing of George Steinbrenner leaves a significant void in the fabric of the sports world and New York City. The thoughts and prayers of our organization are with the Steinbrenner and Yankees families. George’s energy and his commitment and devotion to the Yankees were unmatched, and he was as generous and charitable a person as has ever been in sports. His was a unique, special and unforgettable presence.”
The Dallas Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban: “He did ownership right. He loved what he did and did things the way he loved to do them.”
Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida: “He had that image of a tough boss but there was a different side to him. He had a big heart a caring heart, a generous soul.”
Cubs Manager Lou Piniella: “George was a demanding owner, but very caring, very supportive. He bought a struggling franchise and turned it into a dynasty. He’s going to be known as the most influential owner in the history of sports.”
Mario Cuomo, former New York governor: “Everyone knows George Steinbrenner went from loser to legend by taking a second division team with a struggling franchise in 1973 and turning it into a champion again. But he was much more than a winner and a celebrity. There was no falseness in him. He did everything with his heart: his family, his friends, his team, his nation and his community. I’m not surprised that in the end he died by wearing it out.”
Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx borough president: “During his tenure as owner of the New York Yankees, Mr. Steinbrenner did everything in his power to create his own winning tradition in the Bronx, an effort that resulted in seven World Series championships. While other baseball fans were jealous of this success, Yankee fans, like myself, loved him for it. Both the Bronx and New York City have lost a giant today – in baseball and in charity.”

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