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"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing." --GMS, III

My mom once told me that a study revealed that a statistically significant percentage of people's deaths occur shortly after their birthdays.

I always liked this statistic, barring the morbidity of it. Because it just somehow reaffirmed the resiliency of human life.

How no matter how beaten down society may seem as a whole, no matter what straits gnaw at us, and no matter how persistent age is as it tightens its stranglehold on the light of breath....our innate will to survive transcends this.

George Steinbrenner, principle owner of the New York Yankees, certainly embodied this sentiment of elevating himself to be, indeed, larger than life.

He was the Boss. The father of the Yankee Dynasty. And now, a legend.

Only days after Bob Sheppard, the Voice of God, passed away, Steinbrenner died of a heart attack at the age of 80, at around 6:30am this morning. It was beyond poetic. The Voice of God almost summoning him to reunite in a greater afterlife.

While I was sad at the passing of Sheppard, I have to admit I was choked up today when I first received the email alert that Steinbrenner was gone. I don't know why. I'm not an emotional person. My youngest sister once told me she's afraid to cry in front of me for fear of me chastising her. My mom always jokes that she's afraid I'm not capable of grieving.

To be sure, I'm not grieving, per se. But it's...deflating. The end of an era, of course, but more than that, it's the end of a dynamic and personality that defined the Yankees and punctuated their existence.

Steinbrenner had clearly been ill for quite some time, and his ambiguous manifestations of dementia were chinks in an armor we all remembered as tougher than nails. So his roll in the Yankee family has swiftly slipped into oblivion in recent years, but his presence and what he meant to the club was never, and will never be, forgotten.

I remember a game I went to on September 11, 2005. I had won a contest and part of the prize was this enormous white stretch limo coming to pick me and my family up for the game. We were stuck in traffic on the way to the stadium, feeling and looking absolutely ridiculous in this car, and my dad lowered the window to get some air.

"Oh my God, that's George Steinbrenner!" we heard the people in neighboring cars say. My dad looks nothing like him, NOTHING, but I guess it was the limo, and the thing is, my dad is impressed by NO ONE. But he was beaming for the rest of the day, running with this case of mistaken identity, telling anyone who would listen that people thought he was Steinbrenner.

I always loved it, because it was the first time I'd ever heard my dad let someone get away with thinking he was someone else. Usually, he gets huffy and insists, "Listen, STEINBRENNER should hope someone mistakes HIM for ME." Nah, not this time though. Steinbrenner is something else. In every conceivable sense of the word.

He was nuts, of course. (Steinbrenner. Though, I guess, the same can be said for my dad.) But that's why we love him. Say what you will about the man, but George Steinbrenner was the quintessence of no-holds-barred unapologetic.

I LOVED that about him. It's a method of ruling that I liken to people like Trump or even Kobe. They're good at what they do. They're probably hell to work for, but they get what they want by running the ship the way they see fit. Fall in line, or face the consequences of unmitigated wrath. I respect that resolve.

Thanks, Boss.

And look where it got us.

In 37-plus seasons as owner, Steinbrenner led the Yankees to seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.

Before the Boss? New York was 11 years removed from its last championship when Steinbrenner, then an obscure son of an Ohio shipbuilder, headed a group that bought the team from CBS Inc. on Jan. 3, 1973, for about $8.7 million net.

The Yanks are now worth around $1.6 billion, trailing only Man U ($1.8 bill) and the Cowboys ($1.65 bill) in sports franchises.

He saw what the Yankees could be, and he made it that way. He spared no expense, and it was HIS MONEY. All the millions he had? He spent on his project. He wanted to build an untouchable empire, an unbeatable dynasty. And he did. He didn't ask for donations from fans, or try to scrape up the money so he wouldn't have to put any of his own fortune towards his dream. He made it happen.

So when you say the Yankees buy their team, and when you criticize the Boss for his leadership madness, just remember that you all should be so lucky to have an owner who was that dedicated, that invested in his team's success.

Flags were lowered to half-staff at New York's City Hall and a marquee outside the stadium -- "the house that George built" -- honored "George M. Steinbrenner III, 1930-2010." Oh, that marquee. I can't think of it without remembering the time when Steinbrenner put it to use after the 22-0 drubbing 6 years ago.

Thanks, Boss.

I think what really got me battling a lump in my throat at the office today was when I clicked on a link from one of my fave FB groups, Red Sux Nation (which is actually Yankee-related, not wholly Red Sux hating, as the name would suggest), who posted this.

He's not just Steinbrenner the Yankee. He's Steinbrenner the father, friend, basketball player, husband, student, and a million other things. Seeing that, and seeing him in all those different lights...made it horrible to think about it.

I met him once, at Spring Training. He was sitting directly behind me and I finally worked up the courage to ask him to sign a ball. I gave him a picture of my bathroom, and I had written on it, "When can I paint over the 27? Thanks for everything!" Actually I didn't give HIM anything. I had to hand everything over to the bodyguard type sitting next time him. Like how you can't hand the dealer money at a casino table.

But he was friendly. He was stern and friendly. Like the teacher you always remember having the biggest impact on your academic career. The one who was the toughest but who was inherently a nice person who just wanted his students to try, who was smarter than all the other teachers, but the slackers never could see this.

They only saw the hardass. Mrs. Scanlon, Mrs. Helbeck, Sr. Diane, Doc best and toughest teachers. George M. Steinbrenner...the best and toughest owner.

Maybe the slacker fans of other teams don't appreciate him. But Yankee fans do. And we'll miss him.

Thanks, Boss.

From the Rest of the Baseball Universe:

"I'm sorry to hear about the Boss. Regardless of what Sox fans may think of him, he was passionate about his team, and that's to be admired. The rivalry wouldn't be the greatest in sports without him." -Nate Graziano

"There are no words...none that matter anyway. Only a terrible void." --Persiphone Hellecat

"'How the hell could you trade Jay Buhner?? He had over 30 home runs and 100 RBIs last year, a rocket for an arm ... you don't know what the hell you're doing!!' RIP George." --New York Sports Jerk (Super Rob)

"My heart goes out to the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization, and the millions of Yankees fans throughout the world. Thank you, George, for accomplishing your vision of building this phenomenal Yankee Empire. You can rest in peace knowing you are loved for bringing us so much joy and pleasure while you were here on earth. I know you will now be bringing that very same joy to your Yankee family in Heaven." --Lucy S.

"RIP George M. Steinbrenner III. The only person who could overshadow Bob Sheppard's death. Thank you for returning the Yankees to prominence. Friday will really depressing when we return home. Let's go Yankees! Win it all for the Boss and Bob." --Timmy R.

"The New York Yankees have lost Yankees this week I was very sad to read of the passing of the great George Steinbrenner...the man to whom we Yankees fans owe a huge debt of gratitude for putting together, year after year, the best team he possibly could for the best fans in the world. Mr. Steinbrenner, you will definitely be missed." -Marci C.

"When I attended opening day of the 2010 season at Yankee Stadium, I thought its importance was in seeing the team get the rings. Never did i think it would be the Boss's final appearance at the park. Life without George Steinbrenner is very hard to imagine. Who in NYC history has had a greater impact over the past 40 years?" -Theresa C.

"RIP Boss...Bob Sheppard will be announcing your entry through the pearly gates." -Joe K.

"In 2 days time Yankees fans and New Yorkers alike have lost their voice and their owner. George, you will be missed!" -KJ

"A fan couldn't ask for a better owner." -Grippo

"Long live the Boss!" -Keith C.

1 Comment:

  1. tim said...
    Honestly while watching the All-Star game...they had a moment of silence for the Boss. I almost cried. ALMOST. I also heard that Red Sox owner John Henry will honor the memory of the Boss on Thursday by having a moment of silence at Fenway Park. To think that the Red Sox would do ANYTHING nice in regards to the Yankees...and theu will do that for George. John Henry was once part of the Yankees organization.

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