George Steinbrenner "looks dreadful," his "body is bloated" and "his skin looks as if a dry-cleaner bag has been stretched over it," according to a lengthy article about the Yankees owner coming out in the September issue of Conde Nast Portfolio magazine.
"He doesn't look all right. In fact, he looks dreadful," Franz Lidz writes in the story, which hits newsstands Aug. 15. "Steinbrenner's face, pale and swollen, has a curiously undefined look."
There has been much speculation about Steinbrenner's health in recent months, and The Boss rarely makes public appearances - he has been at only one Yankee home game this season, the April 2 opener against the Devil Rays. But, according to team officials and Steinbrenner's personal spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, the Tampa resident is active in the Yankees' decision-making process and was involved in meetings near the trade deadline.
Steinbrenner, 77, was seen often by reporters during spring training, but at times walked unsteadily in the hallways at Tampa's Legends Field. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, in which he said general manager Brian Cashman was "on a big hook" this year, Steinbrenner seemed lucid.
But the Conde Nast story seemingly paints a different picture. Lidz recounts a visit to Steinbrenner's home in Tampa with Tom McEwen, a longtime friend and former Tampa Tribune sports columnist, in which, according to Lidz, Steinbrenner answers a series of questions, including inquiries about his wife, Joan, by saying, "Great to see ya, Tommy."
McEwen asks about his sons, Hank and Hal. "Great to see ya, Tommy," he says.
McEwen asks about his daughters, Jennifer and Jessica.
"Great to see ya, Tommy," he says.
McEwen asks about his health.
Steinbrenner sighs heavily and mutters, "Oh, I'm all right."
Rubenstein said that Lidz and McEwen "came in under false pretenses" and that Steinbrenner didn't know Lidz was there to report a story. Lidz writes that Mc- Ewen "introduces me as a writer working on a story."
"George was better off saying, as a gentleman would, 'Nice to see you,' rather than something harsh," Rubenstein said. "George remained a gentleman and they really shouldn't have come in under false pretenses."
Asked about Steinbrenner's health Thursday, Rubenstein said: "I'm not going to go beyond saying that I talk to George almost every day. ... He's okay and he's still an active participant in every decision."