Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Farewell, George Steinbrenner

I'm not going to pretend to have ever really liked the New York Yankees. However, it's hard not to respect them.

This has been an iconic franchise in pro sports for nearly 100 years. They win championships, they house legendary players, and they respect the history of their team and the game more than virtually any other organization in pro sports.

For more than a quarter-century (37 years, to be exact), the center of the Yankees has not been a player or manager.

It's been The Boss.

George Steinbrenner died Tuesday morning, just nine days after he reached the age of 80.

He owned the Yankees, buying players (and championships, according to many critics, myself included), firing managers when he felt like it, and going about his business in a very unorthodox manner.

Of course, he was also an innovator. He built the Yankees into a global brand, taking advantage of their popularity to rake in money that was used to sign free agents when his organization couldn't develop top-level talent fast enough. He also built his own sports network, YES, one dedicated to carrying his team's games and helping increase their reach.

(YES also carries New Jersey Nets games, and they have dabbled in college football on fall Saturdays, too.)

Many of his ideas have been copied by other franchises, in hopes of achieving even a small fraction of the Yankees' success.

Beyond that, Steinbrenner's bombastic personality was famous. Check out this piece from 60 Minutes back in 1987.

Oh, and his name also made an appearance on Seinfeld back in the day. We'll never forget that, either.

In the end, Steinbrenner was a truly iconic figure in baseball. He did it while owning the sport's signature franchise, and he never was satisfied. Part of what made Steinbrenner great was also what drove everyone else crazy. He never stopped trying to make the Yankees better, whether it be on or off the field.

This is truly a sad day for baseball. It doesn't matter if you're a Yankee fan or not. It's hard not to look at what George accomplished in this sport and be quite impressed.

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