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.”
In 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.