When I first heard the news of George Steinbrenner’s passing, my first reaction was apathy. Truthfully I didn’t plan on writing anything about him, but since it is the All-Star break there aren’t exactly a lot of topics to cover. Then I got to thinking about the type of person Steinbrenner was, and I was both (to be frank) quite contented with his death, and yet aware of the appropriateness that an owner who made sure that he was always in the spotlight and, whether it was by firing Billy Martin at a press conference or feuding with Reggie Jackson, always made sure that he came before his team, died on the day of the All-Star game. There will surely be a moment of silence tonight, and hours of attention devoted to him on ESPN because there is nothing else to talk about, and George wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s interesting that whenever a less than savory character passes, his past transgressions seem to melt away. We remember Michael Jackson for his great music, not his fondness for young children, and we (well, Yankees fans and the Eastern-based media) remember Steinbrenner for turning the Yankees into a $1.5 Billion juggernaut rather than his illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign and paying a gambler to dig up dirt on outfielder Dave Winfield, the latter of which resulted in a “lifelong” ban from baseball that lasted around 15 months.
Steinbrenner was also the Vice President of the USOC during the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, proving that his unseemly dealings were not confined to baseball or the Yankees.
Steinbrenner fired 21 managers and over 12 GMs in his time in the Bronx. He would fire employees for minor infractions, and often tried to run the team from the owner’s box. Steinbrenner equated baseball – a game – to war. Perhaps it was the times or the mindset of the country, but there is no way that would fly today.
Steinbrenner was not without his good qualities, but during the last few years of his life his declining health led to pundits skating over his bad qualities and lauding his good ones. But make no mistake, I will not mourn this man’s death, nor celebrate his life. I will remember him for what he was: a cantankerous man who was a good businessman that treated his employees poorly. He committed many misdeeds but is remembered only for his good qualities.
We should all be so lucky.