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George Steinbrenner

George Michael Steinbrenner III (born July 4, 1930 in Rocky River, Ohio) is an American billionaire businessman, and the principal owner of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees. His outspokenness and role in driving up player salaries have made him one of the sport's most controversial figures, though his willingness to spend money to rebuild the club, and the Yankees' post-season success since 1976, have earned him grudging respect from some baseball executives, while at the same time earning him contempt from some fans.

He is known as a hands-on executive, earning the nickname "The Boss". His tendency to hire and fire (and occasionally re-hire) managers led then-Yankees skipper Dallas Green to give him the derisive nickname "Manager George".

During Steinbrenner's ownership, since 1973, the longest in club history, the Yankees have earned 10 pennants and six World Series titles.

Biography

Early years

Steinbrenner is the son of Henry G. Steinbrenner II and Rita Haley. Henry G. Steinbrenner II had been a track and field star, a world-class hurdler, while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in engineering in 1927; he became a wealthy shipping businessman who ran the family firm, Kinsman Shipping, operating freight ships hauling ore and grain on the Great Lakes. George entered Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana in 1944, and graduated in 1948.

College, Air Force, marriage, football coach

He received his B.A. in English Literature from Williams College in 1952. While at Williams, George was an average student who led an active extracurricular life. A member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, he was an excellent hurdler on the varsity track and field team, served as sports editor of the student paper, played piano in the band, and played halfback on the football team in his senior year.

Steinbrenner joined the United States Air Force after graduation, was commissioned a second lieutenant, and was posted to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. Following discharge in 1954, he did post-graduate study at Ohio State University (1954-55), earning his master's degree in physical education. He served as a graduate assistant to legendary Buckeye football coach Woody Hayes; the Buckeyes were undefeated national champions that year, and won the Rose Bowl. He met his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Joan Zieg, in Columbus, and married her on May 12, 1956. The couple have been married ever since, and have two sons Hank Steinbrenner and Hal Steinbrenner, and two daughters Jessica Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal. Steinbrenner served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University from 1955-56, and at Purdue University from 1956-57.

Enters family business

In 1957, he joined his father at Kinsman Shipping, and worked hard to successfully revitalize the company, which was suffering through difficult market conditions. In its return to profitability, Kinsman emphasized grain shipments over ore. Steinbrenner made his money as chairman of the Cleveland-based firm known as the American Shipbuilding Company.

Boys basketball franchise

In 1960, against his father's wishes, Steinbrenner entered the sports franchise business for the first time with basketball's Cleveland Pipers, of the AAU. The Pipers were coached by John McClendon, who became the first African American coach in professional basketball. McClendon had led Tennessee A&I University to three straight small college championships in the late 1950s. The Pipers switched to the new professional American Basketball League in 1961; the new circuit was founded by Abe Saperstein, owner of the Harlem Globetrotters. The league and team experienced financial problems, and McClendon resigned in protest, halfway through the season; however, the Pipers had won the first half of a split season. Steinbrenner replaced McClendon with former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman, and the Pipers won the ABL championship in 1962. But the ABL folded in December 1962. Steinbrenner and his partners lost significant money on the venture, but Steinbrenner paid off all of his creditors and partners over the next few years.

Excursions into theatre

With his burgeoning sports aspirations put on hold, Steinbrenner turned his attention to the theatre. His involvement with Broadway began with a short-lived 1967 play, The Ninety Day Mistress, in which he partnered with another rookie producer, James M. Nederlander. Whereas Nederlander threw himself into his family's business full-time, Steinbrenner invested in a mere half-dozen shows, including the 1974 Tony Award nominee for Best Musical, Seesaw, and the 1988 Peter Allen flop, Legs Diamond.

New York Yankees

Buying the New York Yankees

The Yankees had been struggling during their years under CBS ownership, which had acquired the team in 1965. In 1972, CBS Chairman William S. Paley told team president Michael Burke the media company intended to sell the club. As Burke later told writer Roger Kahn, Paley offered to sell the franchise to Burke if he could find financial backing. Burke ran across Steinbrenner's name, and veteran baseball executive Gabe Paul, a Cleveland-area acquaintance of Steinbrenner, helped bring the two men together.

On January 3, 1973, a group of investors led by Steinbrenner and minority partner Burke bought the Yankees from CBS for $10 million.

The announced intention was that Burke would continue to run the team as club president. But Burke later became angry when he found out that Paul had been brought in as a senior Yankee executive, crowding his authority, and quit the team presidency in April 1973. (Burke remained a minority owner of the club into the following decade.) Paul was officially named president of the club on April 19. It would be the first of many high-profile departures with employees who crossed paths with "The Boss." At the conclusion of the 1973 season, two more prominent names departed: manager Ralph Houk, who resigned and then signed to manage the Detroit Tigers; and general manager Lee MacPhail, who became president of the American League.

The 1973 off-season would continue to be controversial when Steinbrenner and Paul sought to hire former Oakland Athletics manager Dick Williams, who had resigned immediately after leading the team to its second straight World Series title. However, because Williams was still under contract to Oakland, the subsequent legal wrangling prevented the Yankees from hiring him. On the first anniversary of the team's ownership change, the Yankees hired former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Bill Virdon to lead the team on the field.

Controversies

Steinbrenner is famous for both his pursuit of high-priced free agents and, in some cases, infamous for feuding with them. In his first 23 seasons, he changed managers 20 times (including dismissing Billy Martin on five separate occasions), and general managers 11 times in 30 years. In July 1978, Martin said of Steinbrenner and his $3 million outfielder Reggie Jackson, "The two were meant for each other. One's a born liar, and the other's convicted." The comment resulted in Martin's first departure, though technically Martin resigned (tearfully), before Yankees President Al Rosen followed through on Steinbrenner's dictum to release the manager.

Campaign contributions to Nixon and pardon

The "convicted" part of Martin's comment referred to Steinbrenner's connection to U.S. President Richard Nixon: he was indicted on 14 criminal counts on April 5, 1974, then pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Nixon's re-election campaign and a felony charge of obstruction of justice on August 23. Steinbrenner was personally fined $15,000, while his firm was assessed $20,000 for the offense. On November 27, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him for two years, but later reduced that amount to fifteen months, with Steinbrenner returning to the Yankees in 1976. U.S. President Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner on January 19, 1989, in one of the final acts of his presidency.

1981 World Series

During the 1981 World Series, Steinbrenner provided a colorful backdrop to the Yankees' loss of the series. After a Game 3 loss in Los Angeles, Steinbrenner called a press conference in his hotel room, showing off his left hand in a cast and various other injuries that he claimed were earned in a fight with two Dodgers fans in the hotel elevator. Nobody came forward about the fight, leading most to believe that he had made up the story of the fight in order to light a fire under the Yankees. Additionally, after the series, Steinbrenner publicly apologized to Yankee fans for the team's defeat.

Dave Winfield

After the 1980 season, Steinbrenner made headlines by signing Dave Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract, making Winfield baseball's highest-paid player. Steinbrenner later derisively referred to Winfield as "Mr. May" to local media, criticizing his failure to produce in the postseason as did Reggie Jackson, who was nicknamed "Mr. October."

On July 30, 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life after he paid Howie Spira, a small-time gambler, $40,000 for "dirt" after Winfield sued him for failing to pay his foundation the $300,000 guaranteed in his contract. Subsequently Winfield chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre. At Yankee Stadium, where a ballgame was being played, word of Steinbrenner's banishment filtering over the transistor radios resulted in a standing ovation from title-starved fans.

Steinbrenner's connection with the theatre-owning Nederlander clan was tapped when Robert E. Nederlander was chosen to run the team during Steinbrenner's exile from baseball.

Reinstatement and championships

Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993. Unlike past years, he was somewhat less inclined to interfere in the Yankees' baseball operations. He left day-to-day baseball matters in the hands of Gene Michael and other executives, and to let promising farm-system players such as Bernie Williams develop instead of trading them for established players. Steinbrenner's having "got religion" (in the words of New York Daily News reporter Bill Madden) paid off. After contending briefly two years earlier, the '93 Yankees were in the American League East race with the eventual champion Toronto Blue Jays until September.

The 1994 Yankees were the American League East leaders when a strike wiped out the rest of the season. The team returned to the playoffs in 1995 (their first visit since 1981) and won the World Series in 1996. The modern Yankee Dynasty was born during the 1996 World Series. The Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, ending their dynasty. Though they have not won a World Series since, the Yankees have made the playoffs every season through , most notably winning the AL Pennant in seven games from the 2003 Boston Red Sox. In 2003, their ALCS success was followed by losing the World Series to the Florida Marlins. In the Yankees ended their post-season run with a third place finish in the American League East.

Possible retirement

Since 2006, George Steinbrenner has spent most of his time in Tampa Bay, Florida, leaving the Yankees to be run by his sons Hal Steinbrenner and Hank Steinbrenner. Hank in particular shows similar traits to his father.

George made a rare appearance in the Bronx on the field for the 79th All-Star Game. Wearing dark glasses, Steinbrenner walked slowly into the stadium's media entrance with the aid of several companions, using one of them to lean on as he hobbled through the media entrance.

He later was driven out on to the field along with his son Hal at the end of the lengthy pregame ceremony in which this year's All-Stars were introduced at their fielding positions along with 49 of the 63 living Hall of Famers.

George Steinbrenner estimated net worth is $1.3 billion USD in 2007 according to the Forbes 400 List in Forbes magazine issued in September 2007.

In a recent interview with journalist S.L. Chandler, Steinbrenner shared his views on reading, a hobby he has always enjoyed (excerpt):

New Yankee Stadium

George Steinbrenner has wanted a new stadium for years. It was rumored that he even went as far as to consider New Jersey a possible site for a new stadium. He finally got his new stadium in 2005. New Yankee Stadium will be built right next to the current Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It is set to open in time for the 2009 season.

Baseball innovation

George Steinbrenner helped to revolutionize the business of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights (to MSG).

In 1997, the Yankees signed a 10-year, $97 million deal with Adidas. A dispute with MSG over the cable rights fee ended with the creation of the Yankees' own YES Network. George Steinbrenner has been able to grow the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion heavyweight. In 2005, the NY Yankees were established as the first professional sports franchise to be conservatively estimated as being worth over "One Billion Dollars". Only the NFL Dallas Cowboys franchise has surpassed the Yankees in the latest Forbes ranking (worthiness rating at $1.5 billion to the Yankees $1.3 billion. Forbes, (September 15, 2007, article entitled "Richest NFL Franchise. EVER").

However if one adds up the revenue of $1.2 billion valuation of the 36% Yankees owned YES network to the team revenue (the other 64% is owned by Goldman Sachs and the former New Jersey Nets owner which is also a minority owner of the ballclub), they far surpass the Dallas Cowboys in total estimated value.

Off the field

In addition to being an intense boss to his on-field employees, Steinbrenner is also known for pressuring and changing off-field employees (including various publicity directors), sometimes chewing them out in public. Longtime Cardinals announcer Jack Buck once quipped that he had seen Steinbrenner's yacht and that, "It was a beautiful thing to observe, with all 36 oars working in unison." Former sportscaster Hank Greenwald, who called Yankee games on WABC radio for two years, once said he knew when Steinbrenner was in town by how tense the office staff was.

He usually kept his complaints about the team broadcasters he approves of(except for the YES Network crew, have generally not been his direct employees) out of the newspapers. However, he has been known to be upset with the sometimes blunt commentary of former broadcaster Jim Kaat and former analyst Tony Kubek.

Steinbrenner's one publicly aired gripe with a team announcer came when he accused respected Yankee broadcaster Bill White of low-keying his WMCA radio call of Chris Chambliss' pennant-winning home run in the 1976 American League Championship Series. The actual aircheck of the live broadcast (on the Major League Baseball website) finds an unusually emotional White calling the home run and its aftermath — so excited as the ball was in flight that his voice broke.

Thoroughbred horse racing

George Steinbrenner has been involved with thoroughbred horse racing since the early 1970s. He owns Kinsman Stud Farm in Ocala, Florida and races under the name, Kinsman Stable.

The Boss in the media

Despite Steinbrenner's controversial status (or perhaps, because of it) he does appear to poke fun at himself in the media. He hosted Saturday Night Live on October 20, 1990 at the same time his former outfielder and Yankee manager, Lou Piniella, led the Cincinnati Reds to a World Championship. In the opening sketch, he dreamt of a Yankees team managed, coached, and entirely played by himself. In other sketches, "he" chews out the SNL "writing staff" (notably including Al Franken) for featuring him in a mock Slim Fast commercial with other ruthless leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin and plays a folksy convenience store manager whose business ethic is comically divergent from that of Steinbrenner.

He appeared as himself in the Albert Brooks comedy The Scout.

After a public chastising of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for "partying too much," the two appeared in a recent Visa commercial club-hopping. A 2004 Visa commercial depicted Steinbrenner in the trainer's room at Yankee Stadium, suffering from an arm injury (presumably from overuse), unable to sign any checks, including that of his then-current manager Joe Torre, who spends most of the commercial treating Steinbrenner as if he were an important player.

His frequent firings and rehirings of manager Billy Martin were lampooned in a '70s Miller Lite beer commercial in which Steinbrenner tells Martin "You're fired!" to which Martin replies "Oh, no, not again!" After one of Martin's real-life rehirings, the commercial was resurrected, only with Steinbrenner's line redubbed to say "You're hired!"

George Will once described George Steinbrenner as an “error machine” and “dumb-o-meter.” In the 1980s, the New York owner’s penchant for pursuing free agents and trading for over-the-hill veterans while neglecting new player development ruined baseball’s premier franchise.

Steinbrenner also is a fan of professional wrestling. He wrote the foreword of the 2005 Dusty Rhodes autobiography and was a regular at old Tampa Armory cards in the 1970s and 1980s. In March 1989, he appeared in the front row of the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event broadcast, even interacting with manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan at one point (Heenan remarked about the guy he managed in the ring at the time to Steinbrenner "I've got a ring full of Winfield"). At WWF WrestleMania 7, Steinbrenner, WWF owner Vince McMahon, and NFL announcer Paul Maguire filmed a skit with the trio debating instant replay. He was also present in the front row of an edition of WCW Monday Nitro in early 1998 when the event took place in Tampa.

At the funeral of his long time friend Otto Graham in December 2003, Steinbrenner fainted, leading to extensive media speculation that he was in ill health.

In the 1994 computer game Superhero League of Hoboken, one of the schemes of the primary antagonist, Dr. Entropy, is to resurrect George Steinbrenner.

In The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat", Mr. Burns fires Don Mattingly for refusing to shave sideburns only Burns could see. It is often assumed that this was a parody of an argument Steinbrenner and Mattingly had in real life with regards to Mattingly's hair length. However, the episode was actually recorded a short time before the suspension actually occurred, and was nothing more than a coincidence. As Mattingly walks off the baseball field, he states, "I still like him (Burns) better than Steinbrenner."

New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo often cites Steinbrenner's German heritage by drawing him in a Prussian military uniform, complete with spiked helmet, gold epaulettes and medals, calling him "General von Steingrabber." Rather than being offended, Steinbrenner asked for, and received, Gallo's original of the cartoon, and the two men have remained friends. New York radio host Mike Francesa has called Steinbrenner "General George M. Steinbrenner III" when reading his speeches on the radio to the tune of the instrumental "Patton".

In ESPN's miniseries The Bronx is Burning, he is portrayed by Oliver Platt.

Steinbrenner caricatured in Seinfeld

Steinbrenner appeared as a character in the situation comedy Seinfeld, when George Costanza worked with the Yankees for several seasons. Larry David voiced the character, who talked nonstop, regardless of whether anyone was listening, and sometimes referred to himself as "Big Stein." The character's face was never seen, and the character was always viewed from the back in scenes set in his office at Yankee Stadium. The Steinbrenner character was known for bad decisions, such as cooking jerseys, threatening to move the team to New Jersey "just to upset people", scalping his owner's box tickets, wearing Lou Gehrig's uniform pants (and panicking about his nerve problems in the leg) and trading several players, much to Frank Costanza's dismay. At one point George describes Steinbrenner by saying, "No one knows what this guy's capable of; he fires people like it's a bodily function!" Nevertheless, the real Steinbrenner maintains that he is a fan of the show and that "Costanza is always welcome back." In one episode ("The Wink"), the Steinbrenner character mentions all of the people he fired and mentions then-current manager Buck Showalter, quickly becoming quiet afterwards. Though intended as a joke, the comment proved prophetic: just weeks after the episode aired, Steinbrenner did not bring back Showalter as Yankees manager and replaced him with Joe Torre.

The Steinbrenner character appeared in the following episodes: "The Opposite", "The Secretary", "The Race", "The Jimmy", "The Wink", "The Hot Tub", "The Caddy", "The Calzone", "The Bottle Deposit", "The Nap", "The Millennium", "The Muffin Tops", and "The Finale."

The real Steinbrenner had filmed three scenes for the Seinfeld season 7 finale, "The Invitations", but they were edited out when the time of the original episode ran higher than the allowed time, and when Steinbrenner expressed disapproval of the plot about Susan's death (they can be seen in full on the Seinfeld Season 7 DVD Disc 4).

Honors

Steinbrenner has also been awarded The Flying Wedge Award, one of the NCAA’s highest honors.

A new high school in Tampa, Florida, scheduled to open in 2009, will be named George Steinbrenner High School. Steinbrenner is a generous contributor to the Tampa Bay area.

Legend's Field, the Yankees Spring Training facility in Tampa was renamed Steinbrenner Field in March 2008 in his honor by his two sons, with the blessing of the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council.

References

Notes

Further reading

External links

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