“It’s a very sad day for not only the Yankees but for the whole baseball world.” – Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter.
On arguably the most festive day of the summer the baseball world has been saddened by the passing of the iconic New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III. In many ways, “The Boss” was the most hated person involved with baseball and I’m not only talking about in New York. Steinbrenner was bigger than just New York. People across the country knew who “The Boss” was. Whether it was his obsession with controlling the back pages of the New York papers or offering players millions of dollars more than any other team, George Steinbrenner was in my opinion the most well-known owner in sports history.
Steinbrenner was the longest tenured owner in baseball, owning the Yankees since 1973. He took a franchise that had been in decline, rebuilt it with a commitment to winning and turned the franchise into what it is today by winning 7 World Series titles and in doing so, he ultimately changed the landscape of sports forever.
Revolutionizing Free Agency
“The Boss”‘s commitment to winning changed the free agent world forever. Starting in the 70’s Steinbrenner started his rebuilding process with a checkbook in hand, bringing “Catfish” Hunter and Reggie Jackson to Yankee Stadium. In 1980 he brought free agent Dave Winfield to the Bronx by offering him $17 million over ten years. None of those contracts really compare to the numbers we see today, but Steinbrenner’s pocketbook was a open just as wide then as it is now. Let’s not forget the massive contracts we’ve seen handed out to Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabbathia, and Mark Texiera. When “The Boss” saw someone he wanted or that he believed would make the Bronx Bombers win he went and got them, which is ultimately what a fan wants, and owner who will make the moves to make your club a contender every year. In many ways, we have him to thank for the enormous paychecks players make today, love him or hate him he changed free agency forever.
Off The Diamond
Steinbrenner also changed the way we watch sports today and in many ways the way teams are a brand today. “The Boss” played a huge role in helping the Yankees launch their own entertainment network in 2002, which has served as the model for several team networks we see today. He transformed the Yankees into a brand like none other. The Yankee logo has become one of the most respected and recognizable symbols in sports and in my opinion the world today. I’d argue that a person could go almost anywhere in the world with a Yankees cap on and people would recognize the logo on it due to Steinbrenner’s commitment to winning and his constructing what is regarded as “The Evil Empire”.
From hosting Saturday Night Live to having a character based off him on Sienfeld and many would speculate several reality shows like the Apprentice have been based off of the way Steinbrenner ran things during the 70’s and 80’s. Steinbrenner was possibly the biggest Yankee off all-time even though he never donned the pinstripes on the diamond.
At his peak of his success Steinbrenner may have been guilty of manipulating the media and exploiting the free economy that is Major League Baseball and whatever your opinion of the man, he was one of the most important people involved with the game and that is why this is such a huge loss for not only the New York Yankees but for Major League Baseball.