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George Steinbrenner - "The Boss"

July 4, 1930 - July 13, 2010


Personal Facts
George Steinbrenner was born on July 4, 1930 in Rocky River, Ohio.  He died in Tampa, Florida on July 13, 2010 at the age of 80.
He was educated at Williams College where he received his B.A., and The Ohio State University, where he received his M.A.
His spouse was Elizabeth Joan Zieg.  His children are Hank, Hal, Jessica, and Jennifer.
His parents were Henry G. Steinbrenner II and Rita Haley.

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George Steinbrenner Biography by

George Steinbrenner was born on Friday, July 4, 1930, and began his Major League baseball executive position on January 3, 1973, with the New York Yankees. The 42 year-old businessman had just purchased the Bronx Bombers from CBS for $10 million and changes were about to take place.  He passes away at the age of 80 on July 13, 2010.

Baseball Almanac is pleased to present a comprehensive page for George Steinbrenner which includes his biographical data, links to other similar pages, and a biography.

"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next." - George Steinbrenner (in reference to how he runs the New York Yankees)
George Steinbrenner
Birth Name: George Michael Steinbrenner III Bats: n/a
Born On: 07-04-1930 Throws: n/a
Born In: Rocky River, Ohio Height: Unknown
Died On: Still Living Weight: Unknown
Died In: n/a First Game: n/a
College: Williams College Last Game: n/a
Nickname: The Boss or The Kaiser Draft: n/a
George Steinbrenner

Background & Biography

    Some love him - some hate him, but no one can deny the fact that George Steinbrenner stands alone as perhaps the most successful owner in all of professional sports. Often depicted as the villainous ruler of an "Evil Empire", the outspoken proprietor has made no apologies for his demanding demeanor or ruthless business tactics that have propelled his New York Yankees to the top of the baseball world. Looking back on his stormy relationship with our national pastime, one has to wonder what is it about this man that has so infuriated the public? Is it really hate, or is it envy to be the one handing out his business cards? That is the question. In order to fairly assess the man and his actions one must ask: "What would you do if you owned a Major League baseball team?" The answer is obvious: "Whatever it takes to win."

    That's Steinbrenner's answer too. He does whatever it takes. And he wins. And many fans and team owners hate him for it. Imagine being despised for being better at your job than anyone else. That's a typical day in the life of George Steinbrenner.

    With a background in football and basketball, Steinbrenner spent his early adult years as an assistant football coach at both Northwestern and Purdue Universities and also assembled multiple national champions in the National Industrial and American Basketball leagues. The son of a Great Lakes shipping tycoon, Steinbrenner went on to make his money as chairman of the Cleveland-based firm known as the American Shipbuilding Company. Always a competitor, he was eager to expand into other lucrative ventures and professional sports certainly fit the bill. Despite an obvious lack of experience, Steinbrenner felt that he could be a business-savvy "baseball man" and in 1973 he assembled a group of private investors to purchase the New York Yankees franchise from the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Immediately after assuming his new role in the major leagues, Steinbrenner set the tone for what was to come by involving himself with the day-to-day fortunes of his ball club to an extent unmatched by any owner since Connie Mack. His managerial style would later prove as both a curse and a blessing as he set a Major League record of his own with seventeen managerial changes in his first seventeen seasons (including Billy Martin who was hired and fired five separate times.) Despite his reputation for wielding a "rapier-like-sword" Steinbrenner always remained true to his franchise's roots by repeatedly hiring "within the family". As a result, most of the coaches and staff members on the payroll were ex-Yankees who clearly understood the day-to-day pressures of putting on the pinstripes and playing in "The House That Ruth Built".

    Although initially against the advent of free agency, Steinbrenner would later embrace the concept while making some of the greatest player transactions the game has ever seen.  Steinbrenner was not the type of man to sit back in his rattan garden furniture and just let things happen at their own accord. He was the type of man to jump up out of that garden furniture and into the "saddle" and take the reigns leaving the furniture in the dust and riding full steam ahead. He made his career out of these actions and eventually the greatest dynasty the game will ever see.  Investing in success was always good business and Steinbrenner wholeheartedly believed that "You have to be willing to spend money, to make money." After pitching phenomenon Catfish Hunter was released from his Oakland A's contract in 1974, the Yankees paid him the unheard-of salary of $2.85 million for four years. The unparalleled deal raised the bar for competitive contracts and set an unwanted precedent that would echo across both leagues for years to come.

    Shortly after inking the "Catfish deal", Steinbrenner was indicted for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and was later found guilty and suspended for two years. Upon returning to the big show Steinbrenner proved that he hadn't missed a step in his absence and promptly signed Reggie Jackson after the team won the American League pennant in 1976. Many fans still feel that the brilliant move to sign "Mr. October" was largely responsible for back-to-back World Championships in both 1977 and 1978. Unfortunately, the trend was short-lived after New York's initial success in purchasing free agents eventually led to a tendency to overstock the team with superstars to the point where there wasn't room for them on the payroll or in the lineup. The end result was a series of disastrous acquisitions in the early 1980s and a steady trend of departing superstars escaping from what had been dubbed in the papers as "The Bronx Zoo". From 1979 through the end of the next decade, the Yankees won only one more pennant and the 1980s ended as the first decade since the 1910s in which the Yankees did not win a single World Championship title.

    Things continued to go poorly for Steinbrenner in the early 1990's after the Yankee owner came under fire from owners around the league denouncing his "overly dominating" business practices. In 1990, baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent ordered the Yankees owner to resign as the club's general partner and shockingly banned him from the day-to-day operations of the team for life. The ruling came as a direct result of Steinbrenner's $40,000 payment to confessed gambler Howie Spira for damaging information about the since-traded Dave Winfield. Later Spira was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for attempting to extort $110,000 from the Yankees organization, but regardless of the motive, the suspension still remained. In his absence which was repeatedly under appeal, Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Joseph Molloy, (Steinbrenner's son-in-law), was appointed as the "acting" managing general partner of the club.

    Three years later, George resumed his role as general partner, but within two years, he was back in the headlines after being fined $50,000 for criticizing the umpires during the New York versus Seattle playoff series. In 1997, Baseball's executive council voted unanimously to immediately remove Steinbrenner from it's ruling body as the latest exchange between the two parties since the Yankee owner had sued Major League Baseball over disagreements regarding the club's ten-year $93 million Adidas deal. Despite the years of ups and downs, Steinbrenner has always managed to emerge from his trials with a fresh perspective while never losing focus on the best interest of his team. His vision for total domination on the baseball diamond finally came into fruition in the mid-1990's following a series of brilliant moves that enabled the feisty owner to play the open market like a finely tuned instrument. Despite a decade and a half of shortcomings, Steinbrenner had finally risen from the ashes to renounce his critics on the way to reclaiming BOTH the mystique of Yankees dynasty as well as four more Championship trophies.

    Today Steinbrenner has mellowed (a little), but he still does whatever it takes to win. The New York Yankees continue to set the bar both in performance and payroll and it's business as usual at Yankee Stadium. Even if what's always good for business isn't always good for baseball. The bottom line is this: You can love him or you can hate him, but you HAVE to respect him. That's George Steinbrenner.

George Steinbrenner Photo Gallery


Famous George Steinbrenner Quotes

The Quotes below were obtained from Catherine Galioto.

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Steinbrenner on Tradition

“When you're entrusted with a tradition, you've got to protect it.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)

Steinbrenner on Public Service

“They may call me the Boss, but in the end, to succeed as owner of the Yankees, you have to be a servant — a servant to the history and legacy of the Yankees.” (New York Post interview, Oct. 31, 2009)

Steinbrenner on Business

“My dad never let me have an allowance. He gave me chickens. I had to feed them, gather the eggs, and sell them. I kept ledgers. I had to run it like a business. When I went off to military school, I sold the business to my sisters for too much, and they haven't liked me since.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)

Steinbrenner on Leadership

“If you can't sit in the saddle, you can't lead the charge.” (USA Today interview, Feb. 27, 2006)

Steinbrenner on Hard Work

“If you haven't got a hernia yet, you ain't pulling your share.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)

Steinbrenner on Broccoli

"Every single day of my life I try to do two things that I don't like doing," he says. "[Eating] broccoli is one of them." (Sports Illustrated interview, May 10, 2004 edition)

Steinbrenner on Leadership

"The rate of the pack is determined by the speed of the leader." (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)

Steinbrenner on Inspiration

“I like every cab driver, every guy that stops the car and honks, every truck driver. I feed on that. That keeps me working hard to be able to afford to do the things that we do." (Sports Illustrated interview, published May 10, 2004)

Steinbrenner on Humor

“Don't ever get so serious that you can't laugh at yourself.” (Interview in Esquire Magazine, Jan. 2002 edition)

Steinbrenner on Yankee Fans

“Think of those 50,000 people in the stands and everybody watching on TV. They are the most loyal and dedicated fans in sports.” (New York Post interview, published Oct. 31, 2009)

Steinbrenner on Yankee Stadium

”The original Yankee Stadium will always be a cathedral of baseball, but everything changes.” (New York Daily News interview, published July 1, 2007)

Steinbrenner on Charity

“I believe the good you do for others comes back to you," he says. "But if you do something good for some person and more than two people know about it—you and the other person—then you didn't do it for the right reason.” (Sports Illustrated interview, published May 10, 2004)

July 26, 2010

Bye George, You Got It

George Steinbrenner was a polarizing figure, but no owner understood his audience better

Few business owners enjoyed the accident of appreciation more than George Steinbrenner. His $8.8 million investment in 1973 (actually, as principal owner, he ponied up just $168,000 of the family shipbuilding fortune) is now worth more than $3 billion. Or maybe his was the accident of geography. The New York Yankees were a mythic, if wildly undervalued, asset but also uniquely situated in the world's biggest media market. The team's cable-TV contracts became so rich during his tenure that the rest of major league baseball felt a subsidy was not only fair but also downright necessary.

Steinbrenner's critics, of whom there are legion, might well argue that any buffoon could have done as well, and that less of one could have done better. All he did was put a coat of paint on a faded property and ride a kind of real estate bubble, during which all sports franchises soared mightily in value. While there is a lot more arithmetic in support of his stewardship—those Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Series championships in Steinbrenner's 37 years of ownership—those same critics could easily find ways to discount it. Didn't the Yankees, after, all lay the foundation for two World Series runs (1977--78 and 1996--2000) during those years when he was forced from the owner's box? And for that matter, during those final seasons of absentee ownership, right up to his death at the age of 80 last week?

But that misses the point. Steinbrenner's legacy is only partly about the team's absurd run-up in value, which in any case was not entirely accidental. And it is only partly about the restoration of Yankees glamour, which likewise was hardly inevitable, so tarnished was the sport's jewel on his purchase. Rather, we have to consider his ego (yes, we have to) and how it changed the way we enjoy sports today. Without the force of personality, without the permission of arrogance, without the allowance of an owner's desperation—the template of ownership that he created—well, these teams we're so damn interested in would almost certainly be a lot less interesting. And maybe not as good.

Now, to forestall some immediate argument, we can all agree that Steinbrenner may have had too much ego, more than was strictly required for the job. He more or less agreed himself, although too late in life to do many of his minions any good. He mostly mistook ownership for a sort of absolute authority, an imperiousness that was not always wonderful to behold. Certainly he wouldn't have that legion of critics if he didn't so often behave like "Patton in pinstripes," as Howard Cosell once complained.

In his first 20 years he changed managers 20 times (five-timer Billy Martin needlessly inflating that figure), suggesting he wasn't so much interested in creating a baseball juggernaut as in asserting a rather hysterical dictatorship. And while it is possible to claim competitive zeal in defense of almost any management mistake, it does not excuse the almost capricious cruelty he made famous. Like firing Yankees legend Yogi Berra in 1985. After 16 games. With a phone call. Through an underling.

To be fair, Steinbrenner admitted the ritual "poor judgment" of those early years—"You could sit and write a huge volume about the mistakes I've made"—and in time even repaired his relationship with Berra, if not quite all the aggrieved. Some gaffes were probably beyond apology anyway, like the hounding of star Dave Winfield. (As it turned out, paying a known gambler to find some dirt on his rightfielder was also beyond the rules, resulting in Steinbrenner's second suspension from baseball.) But either age or better advice somewhat modulated his impulsiveness, and he was far less trigger-happy in his later years, even retaining Joe Torre as manager for 12 of them. (Although, perhaps predictably, that didn't end so great either.)

This meddling was so extreme, even for a hands-on owner, that Steinbrenner became cartoonish, The Boss, a tabloid fixture. It was not a caricature he went out of his way to avoid, even agreeing to pose for an SI cover dressed as Napoleon. Nor was it something he tried overly hard to reform (further than was required by law). Because he understood that his bombastic bossiness, however exaggerated, was actually the fan's prerogative. And for all his high remove, he was never anything but the fan's proxy.

He was this new kind of owner, after all, who exercised his self-importance on behalf of his fans, flexing his ego for their satisfaction. What is more forgivable than that? If Steinbrenner seemed childish in his impatience, it made him all the more lovable among his patrons, who were also legion. They merely wished they could fire Billy. George would actually do it. Again. And again.

Keep in mind that the Yankees, before Steinbrenner, were owned by CBS, a colorless corporation of no known temperament or agenda. While big business might guarantee a certain decorum or dignity, it did not tend to identify with the fans' anxiety or create much in the way of hope. For Steinbrenner, it was all a bit more personal. How is baseball not personal?

Perhaps only someone with as colossal a self-assurance as Steinbrenner's could dare address the needs of all those fans. He was largely devoid of doubt and plunged into deals before their danger could be truly assessed. Beginning in 1974, he exploited the developing free-agency market, signing Catfish Hunter to a game-shaking $3.35 million contract. With a maddening bravura he collected every player he could, pioneering the unpopular but modern idea that titles could be bought. Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage, Tommy John, Winfield—if Steinbrenner thought the Yankees needed somebody, he paid for him.

Critics (them again) complained that Steinbrenner was using that checkbook in place of any real vision and were happy to point out that results were not always commensurate with the payroll. Steinbrenner, in establishing his Bronx Zoo, was buying dysfunction as much as he was championships. But, again, this ignored his role as surrogate fan. He was simply enacting their wishes, sometimes before they could even form them. The Yankees, once Steinbrenner was in charge, became fantasy baseball for a pretty big city.

Steinbrenner managed to represent his people, the blue-collar demographic that underwrote his own dreams, even as he was creating this new baseball royalty. It was wicked fun to watch him have it both ways, promoting his players' celebrity, then removing it at the first sign of disappointment. But he understood that the fans could not long appreciate Yankees arrogance without the possibility of comeuppance, or at least accountability. "Mr. May" is what he called Winfield after a galling World Series failure, shrewdly anticipating fan backlash.

There is probably zero tolerance for an owner exactly like Steinbrenner, but there is more and more a sense that his is the only type that can truly succeed these days. You see that type in all of sports now—flighty, nervous, driven types like Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, now Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers—men whose need to win is rivaled only by their need to please. They're plungers, gamers, acutely attuned to the needs of the marketplace, self-appointed (critics might say) by accidents of wealth. And they don't operate with much reservation, or require much approval or agreement or even consensus. They know what's best—for the team, for you.

Steinbrenner was the first among them to recognize how a sports franchise, just during his time, had grown in importance, even beyond a dollar figure. He was the first to realize that teams had become public trusts, civic preserves that must be tended with sure and confident hands. He was the first to appreciate how sacred, how vital these things had become to a community. He was the first to understand—and he'd also be the first to tell you—that running one was not a job for just anybody.

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Files reveal late Yankees owner blamed lawyers for Nixon donation

5/9/2011 4:15 PM ET

George Steinbrenner, who served as the principal owner of the Yankees for 37 years, died Tuesday.

Newly released FBI documents revealed that George Steinbrenner assisted the agency in two investigations and shed new light on the illegal corporate contribution that Steinbrenner made to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign in 1972, The Associated Press reported on Monday.

The late Yankees owner assisted the government on matters of national importance, according to the documents. One memo released Monday described a probe in which Steinbrenner, who died in July, assisted in an "undercover operation" that ultimately led to an arrest, prosecution and conviction. The other investigation was described as a "sensitive security matter."

The FBI deleted the specifics about the two probes before releasing the file on Steinbrenner. A separate document revealed that Steinbrenner assisted the bureau from 1978-83, and a memo from 1988 indicates that he offered the use of Yankee Stadium for the staging of more than 500 gambling raids against a major organized crime syndicate in New York. Another location was ultimately chosen for the raids in question.

In addition, the documents showed that Steinbrenner blamed inadequate legal counsel for the $25,000 donation to the Nixon campaign that led to him pleading guilty in 1974 to both a conspiracy to funnel campaign contributions to politicians and to making "false and misleading" claims about the contributions. Steinbrenner was also sanctioned for trying to coerce the testimony of employees of his shipbuilding company.

That series of events had a wide-ranging set of repercussions. Steinbrenner, who had acquired a majority stake of the Yankees in 1972, was fined $15,000 as part of his plea bargain and subject to further sanctions by Major League Baseball. Bowie Kuhn, the Commissioner at the time, suspended him for two years.

"Attempting to influence employees to behave dishonestly is the kind of conduct which, if ignored by baseball, would undermine the public's confidence in our game," Kuhn wrote in a 12-page ruling.

The suspension was later reduced to 15 months. In an unrelated case, Steinbrenner was later banned from day-to-day operations of the Yankees by Major League Baseball in 1990 in response to his dealings with reputed gambler Howie Spira. That sanction lasted three years, with Steinbrenner reinstated as managing partner in 1993.

Steinbrenner sought a presidential pardon in 1979 and the newly released FBI documents indicate that he told officials he would not have made the contribution to the Committee to Re-elect the President if he knew it was illegal. Steinbrenner, according to the documents, said his attorneys should have been more thorough in their research.

Another FBI memo, which was acquired after the AP and other organizations made a request under the Freedom of Information Act, indicated that Steinbrenner thought of his conviction as an "embarrassment." Steinbrenner was ultimately pardoned by the next President, Ronald Reagan, in January of 1989.

The FBI also released Steinbrenner's application for a pardon, which contained a detailed explanation of his side of the story. Steinbrenner said that the conviction hurt his business and limited his participation in civic and charitable affairs. Furthermore, he argued that a pardon would "permit me to contribute more of my services to the community."

An article about the ousting of Michael Burke by Steinbrenner.

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