George Steinbrenner: The Empire Strikes Back


BY: Jacob Walters


You can hate the New York Yankees for being successful. That comes with winning 27 World Series titles, after all. But you can not hate the man responsible for bringing the Yankees back to prominence. His unrelenting commitment to scooping up your favorite players to win along with his philanthropic efforts outside of the diamond, have earned him praise among his baseball colleagues and sports historians alike. You may hate him, but he has shown a lighter side to him, making appearances on Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live. Meet the man behind the empire. His name is George Steinbrenner.


Born on July 4, 1930, in Bay Village, Ohio, Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973. Steinbrenner graduated from Ohio State University in his post-graduate studies and earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Williams College. Steinbrenner was an assistant to Woody Hayes for Ohio State’s football team and got to go to the Rose Bowl as an assistant. Steinbrenner has also served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University in 1955 and at Purdue University from 1956 to 1957. Steinbrenner joined Kinsman Marine Transit Company and purchased the company from his family. His first foray into sports business was buying the Cleveland Pipers of the National Industrial Basketball League, where he hired professional basketball’s first African American coach in John McClendon.


During Steinbrenner’s tenure as the owner of the “Evil Empire”, the Yankees have won seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants. While most sports owners have become notorious for pocketing money for themselves instead of spending it on superstars, Steinbrenner was the opposite. If you had a favorite baseball player, Steinbrenner would have likely signed or traded for him. The list is endless: Jason Giambi, Reggie Jackson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, you name it. Whoever was out there was going to be signed by Steinbrenner and it paid off with those seven World Series titles. Under Steinbrenner’s tenure, the Yankees were the first team with a $200 million payroll. There are also numerous Yankee legends that were homegrown as well, such as Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Mariano Rivera. By naming Brian Cashman as the general manager, Steinbrenner proved that he also had a knack for finding the best talent.


There are also legends of Steinbrenner taking good care of his players. Yes, he was a bit harsh as “The Boss”, often leaving stadium employees with the fear of the almighty in them every time he entered the room. However, there are times where he put his players first. For example, when Dwight Gooden’s father was hospitalized, Steinbrenner got out of a meeting to meet with Gooden and his father. In fact, the Yankees have recently offered to pay for any necessary treatment for Dwight Gooden’s drug issues. There is also the sterling (not John) friendship he had with Jeter, often talking about Ohio State vs. Michigan and making small wagers on the “Big Game”.


There are also legends of Steinbrenner’s philanthropic work. As mentioned earlier, Steinbrenner was not like most sports owners, who tend to be thrifty. Often, he gave to charity with one stipulation: that no one knew who made the donation. However, there were numerous philanthropic works that Steinbrenner was known for, ranging from doing work with the Boys & Girls Club to founding the Silver Shield Foundation in 1982, a non-profit organization that supports the families and children of slain NYPD officers. Steinbrenner has also made donations to Catholic Relief Services ($225,000), covering medical bills for Lorraine Blakely ($13,000) after an accident in 1977, and founded the Gold Shield Foundation in 1982. Steinbrenner even helped a Tampa high school renovate their football field!


Steinbrenner has also received numerous awards and achievements during his lifetime. In 1996, 1998-2000, and 2002, Steinbrenner won the top National Football Foundation honor, the Gold Medal Award. Steinbrenner has also won the Flying Wedge Award, the Tampa Metro Civitan Club’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award in 1992, a three-time Outstanding Team ESPY Award as owner of the Yankees (1997, 1999, and 2001), and even won the Stanley Cup twice as an owner of the New Jersey Devils. Steinbrenner has had numerous venues named in his honor, ranging from the Steinbrenner Band Hall at the University of Florida to the Yankees spring training field, George M. Steinbrenner Field. Steinbrenner has even had a life-size bronze statue erected of himself in front of Yankee Stadium in his honor!


People may know Bruce Springsteen as “The Boss”. But the real “Boss” is the one who ran the New York Yankees and made them into an unstoppable empire. The Yankees are not like the Dallas Cowboys who are all hype, either; even after Steinbrenner’s death, his sons still carry out that dominant vision with signings like Gerrit Cole. Whenever the Yankees were doing terrible, Steinbrenner owned up to the mistakes and apologized. Shortly after, the Yankees would come back stronger than ever with a World Series title or a pennant in tow. That, along with his bombastic, yet caring, nature is why Steinbrenner is the best sports owner of the 21st century.

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