• Steinbrenner: The Last Lion Of Baseball

    Posted by on July 4th, 2010 · Comments (3)

    Today is George Steinbrenner’s 80th birthday. So, what better time to share a review of Bill Madden’s recent book “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball“?

    My “Yankees-fandom” started during George Steinbrenner’s first year as owner of the Yankees. Therefore, I grew up following the team in the “Big Stein Era” and only know the “Steinbrenner owned” Yankees. And, since I was a kid, I’ve been reading Bill Madden’s columns – along with having read his book “Damned Yankees” back in the day. As such, I was very much looking forward to reading “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball.”

    This is not the first George Steinbrenner book that I’ve read. Years ago, I read Ed Linn’s “Steinbrenner’s Yankees.” And, recently, I read Peter Golenbock’s “George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankee Empire.” Yet, despite having read the story of “The Boss” before, I was still extremely entertained reading “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball.”

    Old Big Stein TodayIn addition, I also learned a few things for the first time reading Madden’s book – such as how Phil Rizzuto used Steinbrenner’s dislike of him as a way of getting out of making west coast road trips and how Randy Levine gained his favor with the Yankees family. I was also shocked to learn how much (then commissioner) Fay Vincent abused his power and railroaded Steinbrenner out of baseball during the whole Howie Spira incident.

    One thing that resonated with me while reading the book is that many have a beef with Steinbrenner because they believe that George, in his salad days, was narcissistic, illogical, pompous, impetuous, delusional and pathological. And, that made life terrible for all those who worked for him.

    Now, I cannot dispute this – especially after reading Madden’s account (in the book) of how “The Boss” conducted his business.

    However, I’ve been working full-time for 26 years now – since graduating college. And, in my estimation, during this time, I’ve had at least 15 different “bosses” – some of whom were (in my opinion) also “narcissistic, illogical, pompous, impetuous, delusional and pathological” and terrible to work under. (Not all were this way, I want to stress. And, many were excellent leaders and a pleasure to follow. But, there were at least four of them that…well…put it this way…if I saw them, today, on the side of the road in the pouring rain with a flat tire, I would not stop to help them…that’s for sure.)

    The point here is that, yup, George Steinbrenner was an “ogre” to work for – to many. But, is he alone in this department? In everyday life, many of us have worked for such a person or know someone else who has worked for a “terrible boss.” Look around…”these people” are out there – all around us – and it’s just not George Steinbrenner. In fact, you – the person reading this – may just be, or someday will become, that “terrible boss.” Or, maybe someone close to you is a “Big Stein” in their professional life. Hey, it’s possible. Again, any sundry leader in any particular industry being a tyrant is not a singularity.

    In summary, George Steinbrenner is not the first, last, or only maniacal person to run something. He’s just one that millions know about because of his elevated profile and the amount of media following his organization. Related, I have to question why some parties want to skewer Steinbrenner for his business tactics when he’s just one of many who use the same approach? Don’t get be wrong – I am not advocating this particular modus operandi…at all. And, I’m not condoning Steinbrenner’s behavior because he’s not the only “boss” to act questionably.

    I’m just wondering why so many have a strong distain for Steinbrenner because he was this way – since he’s not unique in terms of being an abrasive leader. I mean…really…it is that shocking to see a person in charge of something to be an agitating and demanding bully who is willing to trade moral soundness in exchange for getting what they want? When I read the stories of how George Steinbrenner behaved as owner of the Yankees, I’m not shocked. Anyone who has been in the “business world” has probably encountered demanding individuals whose primary focus was on something other than having scruples.

    Therefore, what’s the big deal about George Steinbrenner being a despot? It’s sort of like getting yourself in a lather because you just found out that your favorite restaurant is overcharging for drinks and desserts. Hey, it’s just the way the world we live in works…it is what it is…and all that.

    Yet, this all said, do not lose sight of the fact that Big Stein is one of the all-time kings when it comes to being charitable. This does lend towards the notion that he’s not 100% all bad. (And, his “sports franchise owner” success record speaks for it self.)

    In any event, getting back to “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball,” I found Madden’s book to be one of the best chronicles of the Yankees, under the Steinbrenner family, ever written. It’s a super read and highly recommended. Actually, it’s a “must read” for all Yankees fans.

    If you are a Yankees diehard, and haven’t picked up “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball” yet, I suggest that you don’t wait any longer to check it out. It’s truly one of the most well-done and interesting Yankees-related books that I’ve ever read.

    Comments on Steinbrenner: The Last Lion Of Baseball

    1. butchie22
      July 4th, 2010 | 10:05 am

      Steve, being in my forties and following the team like you I have seen the highs and the lows of the team since the early Seventies. Steinbrenner of all the baseball owners in recent history has
      been the absolute worst in terms of ethics and morals. As assholish as Charles Finley was of the Oakland Athletics did he sleaze one of his players a la the Spira/Winfield incident? And how the heck do you not get along with Yogi Berra? And George’s impetuousness in terms of hiring and firing managers back in the old days was annoying. It made for good bloody theatre BUT it did little for the stability of the team . I also have despised Steinbrenner for wnating to get rid of Petitte in 99. Who the f%^k in their right mind would want to rid their team of Andy Pettitte, someone who is insane,mates! st Joe Torre supposedly talked the Yankees out of that insane decision, thank God for that. I also didn’t like the fact that King George spent all that money unwisely in the 80s.When Buck and Stick molded the team THEN the dynasty took root. If George The Terrible wasn’t exiled , can you imagine where the core Four would have ended up?

      I knowcharity has been mentioned BUT what about when he took away the dental benefits of Yankee employess? Just because someone’s charitable doesn’t mean that he’s not mean and petty.His conduct cannot be ultimately whitewashed by his good actions. I mean the guy wouldn’t let his wife into the Tankees Club BUTlet that fugly shrew Barbara “Phoney” Walters in ?! Insanity I tell you…….

    2. 77yankees
      July 4th, 2010 | 11:02 am

      Outstanding points, Steve. I’ve said that if George Steinbrenner only owned and ran American Shipbuilding, no one would care how he treated his employees. But when you own the New York Yankees, the most successful and well known sports franchise in the world, things become quantified.

      There were many bad trades, poor free agent signings and bad personnel & PR decisions perpetuated by the Boss over the years that drove us Yankee fans crazy and made us repeatedly shake our heads. But if you put every team under the historical microscope you can find those.

      Whether it was just pure luck or strong vision, he bought the team low in 1973, eleven years since a championship and off a season where they couldn’t crack one million in attendance and had to pay to put the games on radio.

      Yet today – you see how the team and brand has grown into a billion dollar operation. And then there’s the matter of those seven championships too, which I’ve been privileged to see each and every one of.

      No doubt he’ll be gone soon, and it’s been sad to see his declining health. Certainly there will never be another one like him for sure.

    3. July 5th, 2010 | 10:05 am

      […] Here’s a review of Bill Madden’s new bio from WasWatching.com. […]

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