Jeff Blair of The Globe and Mail has penned one of the best tributes to George Steinbrenner that I have read thus far today. Here is part of it:
To be polite, Steinbrenner lived a textured life: banned from the game at one point, by the mid-Eighties he had racked up almost $700,000 in fines from the commissioner’s office for a variety of offences related to the game. He was suspended from the game for two years by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn after pleading guilty to making illegal corporate contributions to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election bid and trying to influence employees of his shipping company to lie to a grand jury. But that suspension was commuted to 15 months and he was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan in 1989.
But for all the profligate ways and benefits, remember this: it was on Steinbrenner’s watch that the core of the Yankees dynasty was drafted and built. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams were signed and retained. Steinbrenner overpaid for free agents – but most importantly, he kept his core happy. He set the tone for a business model that built a huge, new revenue-generating ballpark in the Bronx – not some suburb – and created a sports broadcasting empire that is the envy of most pro teams. The Yankees didn’t always win World Series – check the first decade of this century to see that – but they were the measuring stick of every team in every way.
You can debate all day whether baseball is still America’s game, but in George Steinbrenner – the man whose order to keep playing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch in perpetuity after the 9/11 terror attacks was never challenged – the best and worst of America often overlapped. As did the best and worst of the game.