George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, died this morning from a massive heart attack in Tampa, Fla. He was 80.
Steinbrenner was either loved or hated by baseball fans – depending on whether you are a Yankees fan or not. His outspokenness and role in driving up players salaries made him despised by fans outside of Yankee country. He was known for being a hands-on owner, and earned the nickname “The Boss”. He tended to meddle in on field decisions, and was known for hiring and firing (and re-hiring and re-firing) many managers – especially Billy Martin. In his first 23 seasons, he changed managers 20 times (including dismissing Billy Martin on five separate occasions), and general managers 11 times in 30 years.
The Yankees only appeared in 1 World Series in the ’80s – 1981. They lost that series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a Game 3 loss in Los Angeles, Steinbrenner called a press conference in his hotel room, showing off his left hand in a cast and various other injuries that he claimed were earned in a fight with two Dodgers fans in the hotel elevator. Nobody came forward about the fight, leading to the belief that he had made up the story of the fight in order to light a fire under the Yankees. After the series, he issued a public apology to the City of New York for his team’s performance, while at the same time assuring the fans that plans to put the team together for 1982 would begin immediately. He was criticized heartily by players and press alike for doing so, as most people felt losing in the World Series was not something that needed to be apologized for.
The loss was also bad for the Yankees because they had acquired Dave Winfield that year, as he became the highest payed player in baseball history at that time. He helped get them to the World Series, but he went 1 for 22 (for a .045 batting Average) in the series, as the Dodgers won the series 4 games to 2.
The ’80s was the only decade that the Yankees did not win a World Series in.
On July 30, 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life after he paid Howie Spira, a small-time gambler, $40,000 for “dirt” after Winfield sued him for failing to pay his foundation the $300,000 guaranteed in his contract. Winfield later entered the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre, which is where he played before he went to the Yankees.
Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993. However, his attitude had changed, and he did not interfere as much, and left the decision making to the executives.
Since 2006, George Steinbrenner spent most of his time in Tampa, Florida, leaving the Yankees to be run by his sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. Hank is taking on his father’s traits by being outspoken and stirring up controversy.