I know everyone was expecting my music column today, but that's been postponed due to the death of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The post is written and ready to go, and will be up tomorrow.
All of you know by now that I am both an obnoxiously boastful native of New York City and a zealous baseball fanatic. You're also probably aware that as a die-hard Mets fan, I've harbored an intense dislike for the Yankees for most of my life. However, George Steinbrenner's revolutionary ownership skills not only transformed the Yankees, but professional sports, and he should be honored and respected on the day of his passing.
Steinbrenner died this morning at age 80 of a massive heart attack. He currently was the longest-tenured owner in baseball, and arguably the most legendary. He helped lead the Yankees to 11 pennants, 16 AL East Championships, and 7 of their 27 World Championships. That's a fraction I can't think about, because I suck at math. He shaped the team into the franchise that they are today, and is partly responsible for the fact that when anyone mentions the term "baseball," most people immediately think "Yankees."
As a marketer myself, I have great reverence for his skills in that field. He spearheaded the YES network and his own ballpark food company, causing the Yankees to become not only an American franchise, but a global empire. I complain constantly about the sparkly pink Yankees logos that sixteen-year-old girls wear that don't know shit about baseball, but think about the revenue that the team makes off of those fake fans. He was instrumental in the branding of not only the Yankees, but New York City, and I'll always have a soft spot for him because of that.
Steinbrenner's Yankees were the first baseball team to reach a payroll of $200 million, which he used to shell out craploads of cash for some of the greatest ballplayers of my generation, including Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and (although I'm loathe to admit it) Alex Rodriguez. He orchestrated what is in my opinion the greatest free agent signing of all time, Reggie Jackson, and he constantly subscribed to the belief that in order to make money, you have to spend money. One of my biggest gripes about the Yankees is that they buy their championships, but I wish the Mets would spend their cash like that. Maybe then I wouldn't constantly have my heart broken, or be laughed at by my friends (except for the one of you that's an Orioles fan- you know who you are, and you can't say shit).
I've always secretly admired Steinbrenner because of his gigantic set of brass balls. In the early 60's, Steinbrenner owned an American Basketball League team called the Cleveland Pipers. During that year, Steinbrenner traded a player at halftime, got thrown out of a game, and was suspended. Later, under his leadership, the Yankees organization employed 15 different managers, including Billy Martin, whom Steinbrenner hired and fired 5 separate times. Steinbrenner was also suspended from baseball twice, including once for obstruction of justice. His free-agent signing of Dave Winfield, for $18 million, was the highest free-agent signing in history.
Of course, the best Yankees hire under Steinbrenner, for me anyway, was George Costanza on Seinfeld- I'll always remember his hilarious portrayal by Larry David.
Here's a clip from Youtube of a bunch of scenes of "George Steinbrenner" on Seinfeld.
Apparently Steinbrenner had a great sense of humor about that, too. According to people that knew him, Steinbrenner was a generous man who sent scholarship money to injured high school athletes who could no longer afford to attend college.
The fact that George Steinbrenner took his last breath just hours before the 2010 All-Star Game almost seems like a fitting end to the life of the man who forever changed the world of professional sports. For the last couple of weeks no one could tune into any of the ESPN networks without hearing about that asshole LeBron James or which team he would play for next season (note: I REALLY didn't care). This guarantees that baseball will get the coverage it deserves, however shocking and saddening the news may be, and it's all but appropriate that George Steinbrenner is dominating all forms of media today.
R.I.P., George. Stay safe at home.