George Steinbrenner: To Some “The Witch is Dead”, But Yankees Owner Left Mark on Game

July 13, 2010 | Ryan Chell

A friend of mine who is from Boston, and obviously a Red Sox fan, just minutes ago had his status on Facebook as “The Witch is Dead“.

This was obviously stemming from the news that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away this morning at the age of 80 due to an apparent heart attack.

George Steinbrenner

As an Orioles fan, I hated George Steinbrenner. He was one of the many roadblocks over the years toward key free agents coming to Baltimore, and his tenacity got Red Sox owner John Henry in the same bidding war up in Boston.

Longtime Oriole ace Mike Mussina was carted away by Steinbrenner’s money. Recently, Severna Park native Mark Teixeira was drawn into Steinbrenner’s deep pockets. AJ Burnett, whose wife lives in Monkton, joined the Yankees two years ago with a contract far beyond his true skills.

He has over-payed for dozens of free agents over the years, traded for every All-Star on every bad team, and bought, not brought, seven championships to the Yankees over the 38 years that he owned the team.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos actually followed Steinbrenner’s act of signing a huge cable TV deal by making a network to cover the team, and put more money in his pocket. Steinbrenner’s YES Network was the first of its kind.

In the dictionary, if you look under “meddling owner”, George Steinbrenner’s picture shows up.

He also had several high profile confrontations with several of his players and managers over his time in the owner’s box in New York.

He criticized several of his players, managers, and media personnel over the years, including firing manager Billy Martin five times. He canned Yankee great Yogi Berra early in the season in 1985. In a 20+ year stretch, Steinbrenner once went through 20 managers and 11 general managers.

He criticized Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter’s demeanor on and off the field, and the most notorius issue he had was with former outfielder and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who Steinbrenner at the time made Winfield the highest paid player in the major leagues.

When Steinbrenner was ill-pleased with Winfield’s performance in the field against the Toronto Blue Jays, Steinbrenner paid $40,000 to a gambler to find dirt on Winfield. That act caught the attention of Major League Baseball, and banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life.

He was later reinstated in 1993, and after a few years later, Steinbrenner started to take steps in the right direction. One of his best decisions was the hiring of Joe Torre as manager, who brought those four World Series titles in George’s back pocket in the late 1990’s.

Brian Cashman has been general manager of the team since 1998, and has been a staple of the position for the last dozen years.

Steinbrenner bought the team from CBS in 1973 for about 8 million dollars. The team’s net worth now is close to a billion dollars.

Early on in his tenure, a New York tabloid tabbed him as “The Boss”. It stuck, and since that point, that nickname belongs to Steinbrenner.

The Boss is no longer in charge, but his name will be remembered in baseball for years to come.

Love him or hate him, there is no owner over the years that cared more about his team than George Steinbrenner. He brought the Yankees back to prominence and success, and he did his job as an owner.

His team made money, put fans in the seats, and won on the field. He used the system to his advantage, and brought the best talent in the majors into pinstripes.

But there is no owner in the major leagues-maybe in all professional sports-that cared more about his team than George Steinbrenner.

The Orioles have had an owner in  Angelos, ironically born on the same day one year removed from Steinbrenner, may have the money-making aspect of Steinbrenner down, but as to putting that money back into the talent on the field, Angelos has been lacking there.

To relate this back to my friend’s comment on “The Witch is Dead“, if we are the Munchkins in this situation, we should be honoring instead of ridiculing one of baseball’s best owners, no matter how much we hated “The Evil Empire” because Steinbrenner was great for the game.

In other news, Billy Martin has been fired from the baseball team in heaven twice in the last several hours…

Tune into WNST and for more news regarding George Steinbrenner’s death and the hole it leaves in MLB! WNST-We Never Stop Talking!