George Steinbrenner, legendary owner of the New York Yankees, is dead this morning after suffering a massive heart attack last night. The report comes from the Associated Press, which cited a source close to the family. The New York Daily News confirmed the report through an anonymous team source. Steinbrenner was 80- years old and had owned the Yanks since 1973. In the years since, his team went to the WorldSeries 11 times and won 7 of them. That, folks, is flat-out sports domination, and George Steinbrenner is the primary reason for it.
I grew up a Baltimore Orioles fan, which meant that I was taught to hate the Yankees nearly from birth. Steinbrenner was the face of the Yankees and so I hated almost everything he did, especially his habitual (and successful) buying of the very best free agents. I knew full well that My Beloved Orioles would have had a chance at some of those players (and the championships they would have helped to bring) had Steinbrenner and his truckloads of money not wooed them away.
As I got older, though, I came to appreciate Steinbrenner more. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was still the face of the New York Yankees so I could never come to love or even like the guy, but I learned to respect his baseball instincts. Unlike meddling owners in other sports, such as Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones, Steinbrenner really did know the game. His free agent picks rarely went awry (Dave Winfield was the worst, but there were a few other stinkers in there) and I could hardly argue with his seven rings. It became obvious to me that Steinbrenner wasn’t just another egotistical owner who liked to tinker with his team like a kid with a toy train set. Steinbrenner actually knew and loved the game of baseball. He had an immense ego and would thrash a critic (verbally!) as quickly as anyone, but he could back it up with some real baseball know how and the most successful team in the sport’s history.
I also can’t argue with his choice of stadium announcer either. I very much hope that Bob Sheppard’s passing isn’t overshadowed by that of his boss. Steinbrenner might well be the greatest owner baseball has known, but Sheppard’s influence is still heard in ballparks all over the country today. I imagine there are hundreds of baseball fans who have emulated his voice as they came to bat in Little League games or on sandlots. I certainly did, more thanonce. And I’m sure that there are plenty of announcers working today who took something from the style and work ethic of the man known as ”The Voice of God”.
I grieve for both families today and I do no doubt that the universe of baseball fans does as well.