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It has been a tough week…
The week started on the wrong foot when long-time public address announcer Bob Sheppard died, but it reached its crescendo with the passing of owner George Steinbrenner. Monday morning, I was at the gym running on the treadmill when ESPN broke in with the story that George had suffered a heart attack. With each update, the news got progressively worse. Between 6:30 am (actual time of death) and 7:00 am, other news channels began to report that the Boss had died. ESPN lagged behind with their report of the death. It was difficult to watch the news unfold. At first, you hope for the best, but as each report got progressively worse, the realization that this may be the end began to set in, and of course, the finale was the worst case scenario.
I realize that George’s health had deteriorated significantly in the past few years. But still, I did not expect his demise to come so suddenly. Of course George was not a perfect owner. He clearly had his faults, but you could never fault his desire to win. I do not agree with the way people were treated at times. I became a Yankees fan at the end of 1974 so George had just been the owner of the team for two years. Instability at the manager and pitching coach positions was a given. It was a certainty each year that there would be change at one or both of the positions. I idolized Billy Martin and I was always so thrilled when he was hired and so devastated when he was fired, and it was a cycle that kept repeating itself until Martin died tragically on Christmas Day 1989.
The Star Ledger
By the time that Joe Torre was hired in 1996, I was so ready for stability. I had grown tired over the years of the constant change, and did not like the revolving door for players in the 80’s as the roster was constantly changing. I don’t know if it was George mellowing or if it took special personalities like Stick Michael to allow the core players to develop and management and coaching positions to hold, but whatever the reason, George was still responsible for the great late 90’s championship run that I will probably never experience again in my lifetime.
I admire and respect current Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, but he is obviously much more reserved than his father. I don’t think that Hal will ever gain the love (or the hatred) to the degree his father experienced. Well, I suppose championships are a cure for everything, but at this point, it would be hard to envision the son enjoying the success of the father. Time will tell.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
I wish that the Yankees had been successful in landing Cliff Lee in what turned out to be the final trade negotiation of George’s life. But it was fitting for George to depart with a two-game lead in the AL East at the All-Star break. I also read about how his death was convenient for the family given that there is not an estate tax this year (saving them something like $45 million).
I think it is important that we remember George’s faults while we reminisce about his good qualities, and not try to defend those bad traits. They are what made the man…good, bad or indifferent…and frankly, I really wouldn’t want it any other way. I am glad to have experienced the Steinbrenner Era and I hope that it has helped to make me a better person as a result. I will miss George but I do look forward to the new Steinbrenner regime. They’ve already given us one championship so hopefully the dedication to winning will remain and we’ll see Hal and Hank at the podium accepting future trophies from the Commissioner.