Today marks ten years since New York Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III passed away at the age of 80.
“The Boss” bought the team in 1973 from CBS for 10 million dollars. From Day 1 until the day he passed, he invested in his team, his city and the fans. The Yankees were an also-ran organization, it’s glory days of the 1950’s/early 1960’s were long gone. He made it a mission to make the Yankees winners within three years. He spent freely to add Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson as free agents.
It took exactly three years to make the Yankees winners. In 1976, the Bronx Bombers made it to the World Series, only to be swept by Pete Rose’s Cincinnati Reds and their “Big Red Machine”. Undeterred, the Yankees went back to the World Series in 1977 and ’78, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers both times. They faced them yet again in 1981, losing in six games.
Lean years followed, as the Yankees showed signs of aging. Steinbrenner worked to keep his team winning, however some free agent signings and trades weren’t panning out. He re-hired Billy Martin for 1983, brought him back early in 1985 and again in ’88. Martin was only a band-aid over a bigger problem. A rebuild of the organization was badly needed to replenish the farm system.
In 1990, Steinbrenner was suspended by then-Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent from day-to-day management for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on star outfielder Dave Winfield. This brought opportunity for GM Gene “Stick” Michaels to begin the rebuild. He responded, drafting the core of players who would eventually make the Yankees winners for more than a decade.
Although Steinbrenner’s suspension was to be permanent, “The Boss” was reinstated in 1993. Seeing the work Micheals put in to re-stock the farm system, he was less inclined to rule with the iron-fist he was accustomed to. The Yankees became winners again, winning titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. The ’09 series win was especially meaningful, as it was the final World Series of Mr. Steinbrenner’s life. His son Hal, by then George’s successor, dedicated the title to his father, saying “This one’s for you!”
Hal Steinbrenner is less willing to spend freely the way his father did, but I’m guessing George was smiling down from the heavens last December when the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a 324 million dollar deal.
George Steinbrenner’s 37 years of Yankees ownership put the team back on the map and took it into the stratosphere. His family’s ownership is the gold-standard of the way sports owners should run their teams.
I hope you are resting comfortably, Boss. I can’t believe you’ve been gone ten years.