George Steinbrenner, the flamboyant, controversial and oft-vilified owner of the New York Yankees, has passed away at the age of 80. I met him in the mid-70s while a a young community newspaper editor in Ohio. Being a lifelong Yankee fan, meeting the man known as “The Boss” was a unique experience.
Steinbrenner, of course, was the pioneer in capitalizing on professional free agency, offering megabucks to players like Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson while his peers were still in their counting houses, squeezing out shekels for their players. In so doing, he restored the once-proud Yankees to their former glory. In more than 3½ decades as owner, Steinbrenner propelled his well-paid Yanks to seven of their 27 World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.
“He ruined the sport!” some people might say, blaming him for starting the stampede to pay outrageous sums to grown men for playing a silly game. There’s some truth to that, but one thing I particularly credit Steinbrenner for was the determination and zeal for making his team the best.
By all accounts his management style made Donald “You’re Fired” Trump seem a wimp, a mere marshmallow by comparison. I doubt I would have enjoyed working for Steinbrenner, but he was committed, clear on his mission, dedicated to excellence and attaining the standard by which all other teams would be measured.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” I don’t know how pure George Steinbrenner’s motives were, but in terms of pursuing his goal with all his might, he certainly succeeded in doing that. In that respect, we need more people like him.