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