Earlier this morning, the baseball world lost its most noted villain as George Steinbrenner passed away in a Florida-area hospital. Much like when Darth Vader and Bea Arthur met their demise, it’s difficult to understand why I am so saddened by the death of a man/woman/galactic overlord I once regarded as pure evil.
Steinbrenner, the longtime owner of the New York Yankees, was a shrewd businessman who worked tirelessly to give the people of New York a championship baseball team.
His cavalier – yet oddly calculated - approach to free agency was both successful and lamented throughout the league, as the franchise he originally purchased for $8 million would win countless World Series titles and become the single most marketable team in the western world (currently worth over $1 billion) under his watch.
As a lifelong Toronto Blue Jays fan, I spent the majority of my adolescent years resigned to the notion that Steinbrenner was single-handedly responsible for ensuring that my favorite team had no chance at winning the division we shared with the dreaded pinstripes.
With a payroll that surpassed the GDP of most South American countries, the Yankees put together a roster that dominated baseball (in various capacities) for nearly 50 years.
It was dejecting as Jays fan, but understandable at the same time. Steinbrenner wasn’t responsible for making Major League Baseball a better place. He was entrusted to ensure the success of the New York Yankees.
As infuriating as it was, you had to respect him. He made unpopular decisions for the betterment of his fans. Of all the teams I cheer for, I sincerely hope that each and every one of them eventually has an owner with Steinbrenner’s determination.
George Steinbrenner apologized to nobody (literally) and was successful because of it.
He may not be the most beloved figure in sports, but he will always remain one of the most respected.
I suppose it takes an ordinary man to be liked by many, but a remarkable one to be hated and feared by all. I always secretly respected you, Mr. Steinbrenner and openly acknowledge that the sport may never be the same without you.
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