|Born||George Michael Steinbrenner III
July 4 1930
Rocky River, Ohio, U.S.A.
|Died||July 13 2010 (aged 80)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.A.
|Alma mater||Williams College (B.A.),
Ohio State University (M.A.)
|Occupation||Owner of New York Yankees (MLB), businessman, CEO, entrepreneur|
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Joan Zieg|
|Parents||Henry G. Steinbrenner II
George Michael Steinbrenner III (July 4, 1930 – July 13, 2010) was principal owner and managing partner of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees. During Steinbrenner's 37-year ownership from 1973 until his death in July 2010, the longest in club history, the Yankees earned seven World Series titles and 11 pennants
He was a pioneer of modern sports ownership and is remembered for starting the wave of high spending for players when free agency arrived. Known as a hands-on baseball executive, he earned the nickname "The Boss." Steinbrenner was known for getting involved in daily on-field decisions hiring and firing (and sometimes re-hiring) managers. He changed the team's manager twenty times during his first twenty-three seasons.
In 1973 he headed a small group of investors who bought the struggling Yankees from CBS for $10 million. The franchise was reported to be worth an estimated $1.6 billion in 2010. He was one of the most powerful, influential and controversial executives in sports. Steinbrenner was barred twice from baseball, once after pleading guilty to making illegal political campaign contributions. Steinbrenner's brash individualistic persona was counterbalanced by a generous philanthropic side that rarely generated the kind of headlines his other actions did.
He died after suffering a heart attack in his Tampa, Florida home on the morning of July 13, 2010, the day of the 81st All-Star Game. He was the longest-tenured sports team owner at the time of his death. The Yankees' on field fortunes rose and fell and rose again with Steinbrenner's. Known alternately as the Bronx Zoo, the Struggles Era, and the New Dynasty, under George Steinbrenner's ownership the latter New York Yankees won three consecutive World Series championships; 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Steinbrenner was born in Rocky River, Ohio, the only son of Rita (née Haley) and Henry George Steinbrenner II. His father was a world-class track and field hurdler while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he graduated first in his engineering class in 1927. He would later became a wealthy shipping magnate who ran the family firm operating freight ships hauling ore and grain on the Great Lakes. George III was named after his paternal grandfather, George Michael Steinbrenner II. Steinbrenner had two younger sisters, Susan and Judy.
Steinbrenner entered Culver Military Academy, in Northern Indiana, in 1944, and graduated in 1948. He received his B.A. from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1952. While at Williams, George was an average student who led an active extracurricular life. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Like his father, he was an accomplished hurdler on the varsity track and field team, and served as sports editor of The Williams Record, played piano in the band, and played halfback on the football team in his senior year. He joined the United States Air Force after graduation, was commissioned a second lieutenant and was stationed at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. Following an honorable discharge in 1954, he did post-graduate study at Ohio State University (1954–55), earning his master's degree in physical education.
He met his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) Zieg, in Columbus, and married her on May 12, 1956. The couple had two sons Hank Steinbrenner and Hal Steinbrenner, and two daughters Jessica Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal.
While studying at Ohio State, he served as a graduate assistant to legendary Buckeye football coach Woody Hayes. The Buckeyes were undefeated national champions that year, and won the Rose Bowl. Steinbrenner served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University in 1955, and at Purdue University from 1956-1957.
In 1957, Steinbrenner joined Kinsman Marine Transit Company, the Great Lakes shipping company that his great-grandfather Henry Steinbrenner had purchased in 1901 from the Minch Transit Company, which was owned by a family relation, and renamed. Steinbrenner successfully revitalized the company during difficult market conditions. A few years later, with the help of a loan from a New York bank, Steinbrenner purchased the company from his family. He later became part of a group that purchased the American Shipbuilding Company, and, in 1967, he became its chairman and chief executive officer. By 1972, the company's gross sales were more than $100 million annually.
In 1960, against his father's wishes, Steinbrenner entered the sports franchise business for the first time with basketball's Cleveland Pipers, of the ABL. The Pipers were coached by John McClendon, who became the first African-American coach in professional basketball. Under Stenbrenner The Pipers switched to the new professional American Basketball League in 1961; the new circuit was founded by Abe Saperstein, owner of the Harlem Globetrotters. When the league and team experienced financial problems, despite posting a winning record, McClendon resigned in protest halfway through the season. Steinbrenner replaced McClendon with former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman, and the Pipers won the ABL championship for 1961-62 season. The ABL folded in December 1962, just months into its second season. Steinbrenner and his partners lost a significant amount of money on the venture, but Steinbrenner paid off all of his creditors and partners over the next few years.
With his sports aspirations on hold, Steinbrenner turned his financial attention to the theatre. His involvement with Broadway began with a short-lived 1967 play, The Ninety Day Mistress, in which he partnered with another rookie producer, James Nederlander. Nederlander threw himself into his family's business full-time, Steinbrenner invested in a half-dozen shows, including the 1974 Tony Award nominee for Best Musical, Seesaw, and the 1988 Peter Allen flop, Legs Diamond.
The Yankees were a struggling franchise during their years under CBS ownership. CBS had acquired the team in 1965. In 1972, CBS Chairman William S. Paley told team president E. Michael Burke the media company intended to sell the club. As Burke later told writer Roger Kahn, Paley offered to sell the franchise to Burke if he could find financial backing. Steinbrenner, who had participated in a failed attempt to buy the Cleveland Indians from Vernon Stouffer one year earlier, came into the picture when veteran baseball executive Gabe Paul introduced him to Burke.
On January 3, 1973, Steinbrenner and minority partner Burke led a group of investors in purchasing the Yankees from CBS. The investors included Lester Crown, John DeLorean and Nelson Bunker Hunt. The selling price was reported to be $10 million, but Steinbrenner later revealed that the deal included two parking garages that CBS had bought from the city, and soon after the deal closed, CBS bought back the garages for $1.2 million. The net cost to the group for the Yankees was therefore $8.8 million.
The first of the frequent personnel shuffles that Steinbrenner for which later became famous took place only three months later. When Burke, the team club president, learned that Gabe Paul had been brought in as a senior Yankee executive, crowding his own authority, he quit the team presidency in April 1973. (Burke remained a minority owner of the club into the following decade.) Paul was officially named president of the club on April 19, 1973. At the conclusion of the 1973 season, two more prominent names departed: manager Ralph Houk, who resigned and took a similar position with the Detroit Tigers; and general manager Lee MacPhail, who became president of the American League.
The 1973 off-season would continue to be controversial when Steinbrenner and Paul sought to hire former Oakland Athletics manager Dick Williams, who had resigned immediately after leading that team to its second straight World Series title. However, because Williams was still under contract to Oakland, the subsequent legal wrangling prevented the Yankees from hiring him. On the first anniversary of the team's ownership change, the Yankees hired former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Bill Virdon to lead the team on the field.
During his first 23 seasons, Steinbrenner changed managers 20 times. Billy Martin alone was fired and rehired five times. He also employed 11 different general managers over the next 30 years. He was equally famous for pursuing high-priced free agents and then feuding with them. In July 1978, Billy Martin famously said of Steinbrenner and his $3 million outfielder Reggie Jackson, "The two were meant for each other. One's a born liar, and the other's convicted." The comment resulted in Martin's first departure, though officially he resigned (tearfully), before Yankees President Al Rosen could carry out Steinbrenner's dictum to fire him.
In the midst of all the controversy Steinbrenner also quickly established himself and his team as winners. After his purchase in 1973 he renovated Yankee Stadium by 1974, and by 1976 the Yankees were once again in the World Series and in 1977 World Champions.
The advent of free agency proved a boon to Steinbrenner although early on he said, "I am dead set against free agency. It can ruin baseball." After Catfish Hunter was released from his A's contract in 1974, Steinbrenner authorized the Yankees to pay him the then unheard-of salary of $2.85 million for four years. His $640,000 annual salary was more than six times what he was paid the previous year. After the 1976 season, Reggie Jackson netted a five-year, $3.5 million deal. Following the 1980 season, Steinbrenner signed Dave Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract, which set a new record, making Winfield the highest salaried baseball player at the time. In the first five years of free agency, Steinbrenner signed 10 players for a total of nearly $38 million. In 2007 Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $275 million deal.
Steinbrenner was the first team owner to sell cable TV rights, and when that relationship soured, he formed his own network, MSG. In 1988 the MSG Network entered into a 12-year, $500-million deal with the Yankees for the team's broadcast rights. In 2002 Steinbrenner started the YES Network. It took the cable upstart merely three years to surpass the MSG Network as the United States' most lucrative regional sports channel.
Adidas and Stenbrenner signed a 10-year, $97 million contract in 1997, the first such contract at the time. So determined to link logos with Adidas in a sponsorship deal, Steinbrenner and Adidas filed suit against each of the other 29 teams and Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP) to force their acquiescence. The suit was settled out of court.
The "convicted" part of Billy Martin's famous 1978 "liar and convicted" comment referred to Steinbrenner's connection to Richard Nixon. In 1974 Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's presidential re-election campaign, and to a felony charge of obstruction of justice. He was personally fined $15,000 and his company was assessed an additional $20,000. On November 27, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him for two years, but later reduced it to fifteen months. Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner in January 1989, one of the final acts of Reagan's presidency.
On July 30, 1990 Steinbrenner was banned permanently from day-to-day management (but not ownership) of the Yankees by Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent for paying a gambler named Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up "dirt" on Dave Winfield. Winfield had sued the Yankees for failing to contribute $300,000 to his foundation, a guaranteed stipulation in his contract. Vincent originally proposed a 2-year suspension, but Steinbrenner wanted it worded as an "agreement" rather than a "suspension" to protect his relationship with the U.S. Olympic Committee; in exchange for that concession, Vincent made the "agreement" permanent.
In 2001 Winfield cited his animosity towards Steinbrenner as a factor in his decision to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as a representative of his first team, the San Diego Padres, rather than the team that brought him into the national spotlight.
Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993. Unlike past years, he was somewhat less inclined to interfere in the Yankees' baseball operations. He left day-to-day baseball matters in the hands of Gene Michael and other executives, and allowed promising farm-system players such as Bernie Williams to develop instead of trading them for established players. After contending only briefly two years earlier, the '93 Yankees were in the American League East race with the eventual champion Toronto Blue Jays until September.
The 1994 Yankees were the American League East leaders when a players' strike wiped out the rest of the season, a repeat of the players' strike that cut short their 1981 playoff effort.
The team returned to the playoffs in 1995 (their first visit since 1981) and won the World Series in 1996. The Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
The Yankees made the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons (1995-2007). In 2003 they won the AL Pennant in seven games over the 2003 Boston Red Sox. They went on to lose to the Florida Marlins in the World Series, which denied Steinbrenner, who had won the Stanley Cup in June of that year as part-owner of the New Jersey Devils, the distinction of winning championships in two major sports leagues in the same year.
The 2004 playoffs provided one of their most disappointing losses. While leading the eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox three games to none (3-0) and 3 outs away from winning Game 4, the Red Sox stunned the Yankees and the baseball world by coming back to win Game 4 and then the next three games and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
In 2008, the Yankees ended their post-season run with a third place finish in the American League East. However, in 2009, the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series to win a 27th championship.
In 2010 the Yankees advanced to the second round of the postseason as the Wild Card. Their win over the Minnesota Twins marked the ninth time the Yankees advanced to the LCS since 1995, the most in MLB.
At the funeral of his long time friend Otto Graham in December 2003, Steinbrenner fainted, leading to extensive media speculation that he was in ill health.
From 2006 to his death, George Steinbrenner spent most of his time in Tampa, Florida, leaving the Yankees to be run by his sons. He ceded increasing authority to Hal and Hank, who became co-chairmen in May 2008. Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner as well, was given control of the team in November 2008 in a unanimous vote by the major league club owners, who acted on his father’s request.
After ceding day-to-day control of the team, Steinbrenner made few public appearances and gave no interviews. Associates and family members refused to comment on rampant speculation concerning his declining health, specifically rumors that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The Yankees went to great lengths to prevent anyone outside Steinbrenner's immediate family and closest business associates from speaking to him, or even getting a glimpse of him on the rare occasions when he made an appearance at Yankee Stadium.
Steinbrenner made a rare appearance in the Bronx on the field for the 79th All-Star Game on July 15, 2008. Wearing dark glasses, he walked slowly into the stadium's media entrance with the aid of several companions, leaning upon one of them for support. He later was driven out on to the field along with his son Hal at the end of the lengthy pre-game ceremony in which the All-Stars were introduced at their fielding positions along with 49 of the 63 living Hall of Famers.
In subsequent occasional visits to spring training, regular-season games, and other outings, he was apparently confined to a wheelchair.
On April 13, 2010, Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi privately presented the first 2009 World Series Championship ring to Steinbrenner in his stadium suite. He was "almost speechless," according to reports.
George Steinbrenner's estimated net worth was $1.15 billion USD in 2009 according to the Forbes 400 List in Forbes magazine issued in September 2009.
Steinbrenner was also known for his support of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Steinbrenner served on the NCAA board of trustees, was chairman of the U.S.O.C. Foundation from 1997 through 2002 as well as the Olympic Overview Commission in 1988 and '89, which was created to evaluate the structure and efforts of the United States Olympic program.
He was also involved in thoroughbred horse racing from the early 1970s. He owned Kinsman Stud Farm in Ocala, Florida and raced under the name Kinsman Stable. He entered six horses in the Kentucky Derby, failing to win with Steve's Friend (1977), Eternal Prince (1985), Diligence (1996), Concerto (1997), Blue Burner (2002) and the 2005 favorite, Bellamy Road.
Steinbrenner also was a fan of professional wrestling. He wrote the foreword of the 2005 Dusty Rhodes autobiography and was a regular at old Tampa Armory cards in the 1970s and 1980s. In March 1989, he appeared in the front row of the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event broadcast, even interacting with manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan at one point (Heenan remarked about the guy he managed in the ring at the time to Steinbrenner "I've got a ring full of Winfield"). At WWF WrestleMania 7, Steinbrenner, WWF owner Vince McMahon, and NFL announcer Paul Maguire filmed a skit with the trio debating instant replay. He was also present in the front row of an edition of WCW Monday Nitro in early 1998 when the event took place in Tampa.
Despite Steinbrenner's controversial status he poked fun at himself in the media. His frequent firings and rehirings of manager Billy Martin were lampooned in a '70s Miller Lite beer commercial in which Steinbrenner tells Martin "You're fired!" to which Martin replies "Oh, no, not again!" After one of Martin's real-life rehirings, the commercial was resurrected, only with Steinbrenner's line redubbed to say "You're hired!"
He hosted Saturday Night Live on October 20, 1990 at the same time his former outfielder and Yankee manager, Lou Piniella, led the Cincinnati Reds to a World Championship. In the opening sketch, he dreamt of a Yankees team managed, coached, and entirely played by himself. In other sketches, he chews out the SNL "writing staff" (notably including Al Franken) for featuring him in a mock Slim Fast commercial with other ruthless leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin and plays a folksy convenience store manager whose business ethic is divergent from that of Steinbrenner.
In The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat," Mr. Burns fires Don Mattingly for refusing to shave sideburns only Burns could see. It is often assumed that this was a parody of an argument Steinbrenner and Mattingly had in real life with regards to Mattingly's hair length. However, the episode was actually recorded a year before the suspension actually occurred, and was nothing more than a coincidence.
He appeared as himself in the Albert Brooks comedy The Scout. In 1991, he played himself in an episode of Good Sports, with Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal.
In the 1994 computer game Superhero League of Hoboken, one of the schemes of the primary antagonist, Dr. Entropy, is to resurrect George Steinbrenner.
After a public chastising of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for "partying too much," the two appeared in a Visa commercial club-hopping. A 2004 Visa commercial depicted Steinbrenner in the trainer's room at Yankee Stadium, suffering from an arm injury, unable to sign any checks, including that of his then-current manager Joe Torre, who spends most of the commercial treating Steinbrenner as if he were an important player.
New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo often cites Steinbrenner's German heritage by drawing him in a Prussian military uniform, complete with spiked helmet, gold epaulettes and medals, calling him "General von Steingrabber."
In ESPN's miniseries The Bronx is Burning, he is portrayed by Oliver Platt.
Steinbrenner appeared as a character in the situation comedy Seinfeld, when George Costanza worked for the Yankees for several seasons. Lee Bear portrayed the character, and Larry David provided voice-over performances whenever the character spoke. Steinbrenner's face was never shown, and the character was always viewed from the back in scenes set in his office at Yankee Stadium.
Jerry Seinfeld said after Steinbrenner's death: “Who else could be a memorable character on a television show without actually appearing on the show? You felt George even though he wasn’t there. That’s how huge a force of personality he was."
While New York knew him as the controversial "Boss", his home of 35 years, Tampa, Florida, knew him as a very generous philanthropist. When Steinbrenner encountered a young Yankees fan in Tampa who was deaf he paid for the child's visit to Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York to restore his hearing. He also read that a Sarasota family couldn't pay for the burial of their son, a former high school football standout who was shot and killed. He paid for it himself. He donated more than $1 million to the local St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.
In 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, Steinbrenner showed up at the Salvation Army in Tampa and drove a truck with bottled water overnight to the storm-ravaged area.
Steinbrenner also created the Gold Shield Foundation in 1981 to help families of slain law enforcement officers. Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee said Steinbrenner alone is responsible for financing the college educations of numerous children.
Steinbrenner also donated to several Bay area schools. A gift of $250,000 to Tampa Catholic High School allowed the school to install bleachers and lighting at its new football stadium. He also helped Gaither High School pay for a rubber surface for the track and for the school's band to travel to a presidential inauguration.
"It's helped so many people," Gee said. "He had this idea, and he did it. One thing about him is that if he wanted something done, he'd get it done."
He also gave generously to the University of North Carolina's new baseball baseball stadium, to Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund as well as many other worthy causes.
Asked about what drove his philanthropy, Steinbrenner told the "St. Petersburg Times" in 2005: "I don't want to die with all this money. I want to give to the people. I don't want to be the richest man in the cemetery."
Steinbrenner was awarded The Flying Wedge Award, one of the NCAA’s highest honors. In 2002, Steinbrenner was honored with the Gold Medal Award from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for a lifetime of "outstanding commitment, dedication and dynamic leadership in both his business and personal lives." It is the highest and most prestigious award bestowed by the College Football Foundation.
In 2000, Steinbrenner was honored as Grand Marshal at the German-American Steuben Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City. At this largest German-American event in the country, he was greeted by tens of thousands who celebrated him as an outstanding American of German heritage.
The Steinbrenner Band Hall at the University of Florida was made possible by a gift from George and Joan Steinbrenner in 2002. The facility was completed in 2008 and serves as the rehearsal hall, but also houses offices, instrument storage, the band library and an instrument issue room.
A new high school in Lutz, Florida, which opened for about 1600 students in August 2009, is named George Steinbrenner High School.
Legends Field, the Yankees' Spring Training facility in Tampa, was renamed Steinbrenner Field in March 2008 in his honor by his two sons, with the blessing of the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council. The entrance to the new Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has also been named for Steinbrenner and his family.
Steinbrenner's death came nine days after his eightieth birthday, and two days after the passing of long time Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard. His death occurred eight months after the Yankees won their first World Series title since 2000, clinching their six-game victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at his new Yankee Stadium.
On July 14, 2010, the Yankees announced that players and coaches would begin wearing a Steinbrenner commemorative patch on the left breast of their home and road uniforms (along with a Bob Sheppard commemorative patch on the left arm).
All links retrieved December 4, 2015.
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