The daily “Get To Know Hank” story for today. From Mark Kriegel this time:
“Some of his statements were surprising to me,” said Harvey Greene, who served valiantly (if thanklessly) as the Yankee PR man in the Dark Ages from ’86 to ’89. “He was never outspoken like that.”
Hank chose the worst of all possible years to apprentice in the family business. It was 1986, a season that saw his father’s nightmare become reality with the Mets and the Red Sox meeting in the World Series. George the Elder was at his worst: bitching and bullying and firing employees at will. Green, now senior vice president for media relations with the Miami Dolphins recalls being sacked “about five times” in his Yankees career.
None of this was lost on Hank, then a 28-year-old with a taste for Led Zeppelin. The great Hank story — and it is told several ways, though not by Greene — has him being asked what it would take for the team to exhibit sustained improvement. “Simple,” said Hank. “Get rid of my father.”
He was kidding. Or was he?
“Hank was a decent guy,” recalls another former Yankee employee. “He wasn’t going to fire a secretary over a tuna fish sandwich. He never had George’s temper.”
“He could laugh at himself and laugh at his father, which not many people could do,” says Greene. “Hank didn’t want to be heavy-handed. He didn’t like when people got berated. He was more sensitive.”
That’s not to say he enjoyed being laughed at, either, as he was after saying Dave Righetti should rejoin the rotation. The closer’s duties, he added, should go to someone named Alfonso Pulido. As these suggestions were greeted with near universal scorn, one can’t help but think that Hank acquired the hard way what George never would: humility.
Hank Steinbrenner left his father’s team not long after that episode. The baseball business — at least as it was practiced in the Bronx and Tampa — was not for him. He didn’t need the limelight. He didn’t need to be the Boss’ son. He did something not many have been able to do — leave the New York Yankees of his own volition.
“He had the courage to walk away from his father,” says Greene.
Alfonso Pulido. Gotta love it.