Owning the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner liked to say, was a lot like owning the Mona Lisa.
Not that he always treated his team like a piece of fine art. Some of the things The Boss did would have wiped the smile right off the famous model's face.
This was a man who belittled players, infuriated fellow owners and drove managers to the depths of despair. Twice he received lengthy bans from baseball, and many in the game would have been happy had it been for good. …
Newsweek featured him on its Aug. 6, 1990, cover when he was suspended from baseball for more than two years as "The Most Hated Man in Baseball."
Sports Illustrated put him on its March 1, 1993, cover in his return, dressed as Napoleon and posing on a white horse.
The Boss always seemed larger than life. That might be even more true now that he's dead. …
Lost in it all, though, is this: For all his bluster and all his blunders, Steinbrenner was always a man ahead of his time.
He rescued the pinstripes and restored a once proud franchise to greatness. Not afraid to spend money to make money, he changed forever how baseball did business.
In the process, he probably helped save the game itself.
Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press
When strangers met George Steinbrenner socially, maybe at a charity dinner or by chance at a restaurant, they would rave about what a nice guy he was, how pleasant and friendly he was, how he certainly was not the ogre they read about as the Yankees' principal owner. And in a social setting with strangers, he was a nice guy, pleasant and friendly.
But if you worked for Steinbrenner … in the three decades before his health deteriorated several years ago, as any Yankees employee of that era would confirm, you were an almost daily victim of his impatient bluster and bombast. He fired managers and public relations directors and anybody who didn't get his lunch order correct.
If you were a New York sports columnist, as I was even before his arrival at Yankee Stadium in 1973, he was a subject you couldn't ignore. He was always saying or doing something that made headlines, especially when the Yankees did not win the World Series. And when they did not win the World Series from 1979 to 1995, he was seldom on his best behavior.
In a Thanksgiving Day column I wrote during that era, I lumped him with pro football's Al Davis and the boxing promoter Don King as "scoundrels" not to be thankful for. About a week later, when I asked where he had suddenly gone after a Yankees news conference, I was told: "George said he wasn't talking to you anyway. He said you ruined his mother's Thanksgiving." …
Over the past decade, Steinbrenner's illness helped change his image. His bluster and bombast were gone. He spoke mostly through Howard Rubenstein, his personal public relations man. And during that decade, no bluster or bombast was necessary. The Yankees didn't always win the World Series, but they were always in the playoffs. Always in the news. And always in the money, millions of it.
Say this for George Steinbrenner, he was always willing to invest millions to make the Yankees the best team.
He just didn't always understand that he had his faults.
Dave Anderson, New York Times
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Whenever you heard the latest news about The Boss, you always thought the same thing, "Oh, even he wouldn't do that." Then you realized: "Yes, he would. And it'll probably work."
So we should just accept the fact that the death of George Steinbrenner on the morning of the All-Star Game, so soon after his 80th birthday on the Fourth of July, is the appropriate and perhaps the only sufficiently extravagant sendoff for such a man. This is exactly the ideal over-the-top farewell for a man who loved nothing better than to upstage his entire sport and steal every iota of attention for himself and his team.
The site of this All-Star Game may be at the home of the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, but Steinbrenner made sure that it was held in a New York state of mind. The Yankees owner will overshadow what is now an afterthought of an exhibition contest. Even if the National League wins, for the first time since '96, they'll lose the back-page war that George loved so much.
Thomas Boswell, Washington Post
• • •
George Steinbrenner broke my mom's heart. It wasn't intentional. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles — her son's favorite baseball team, too — she was part of the collateral damage of the Boss Man's reign.
Steinbrenner, as you may have heard, didn't care much for losing. As he rebuilt the New York Yankees with a new business model that changed sports forever, Steinbrenner was never a coupon clipper. He basked in the glory of a fistful of dollars and the talent it would bring.
My mom and King George met at a high school sports ceremony in South Florida in the early 1980s when I worked at the Miami Herald. "Yankees boo!" she said in her limited English. He chuckled and asked her to embrace the Yankees.
The implication was obvious: Resistance was futile.
I imagine a bunch of folks screamed "Yankees boo!" over the 38 years that Steinbrenner ran the Bronx Zoo. The Yankees accumulated 11 pennants and seven World Series trophies during that run. Steinbrenner didn't buy the Yankees in 1973 because he needed a tax shelter nor was he an impervious Richie Rich who needed a new toy to occupy his idle time.
You might as well have etched pinstripes along Steinbrenner's back and biceps. He tattooed the competition because he cared more than anybody else. Sure the money came in handy, but it was Steinbrenner's obsessive drive that will mark him as the greatest owner in professional sports history.
George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel