After several outlets reported he was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa with a massive heart attack, the multiple sources are reporting that George Michael Steinbrenner III has died at the age of 80.
Steinbrenner, who bought the team in 1973, owned the Yankees longer than any other individual or group, but was noticeably absent from public view in recent years, with his sons Hank and Hal serving as the public face of the franchise’s business interest.
A controversial figure, Steinbrenner is widely credited with spurring player salaries and free agency, but his tenure as owner was also marred by two suspensions from Major League Baseball.
During his tenure as owner, the Yankees made 11 appearances in the World Series and won seven times.
Steinbrenner helped build the Yankee brand, overseeing first the renovation of old Yankee Stadium and then the current monument to excess that has come to symbolize the Yankees and Steinbrenner’s larger than life persona.
In the 1990s, Steinbrenner became a pop culture figure, “starring” in Seinfeld and hosting Saturday Night Live.
Though a divisive figure in sports and even among Yankee fans, Steinbrenner’s death is a sad day for baseball and for the franchise.
No formal announcements have been made, but I expect there will be several tributes to him this evening at the All-Star Game and the team will certainly do something to mark his passing.
We’ll update more as news becomes available.
Steve Lombardi’s comment: I’ll have more commentary on the sad news of Mr. Steinbrenner’s passing later today. At first blush, the fact that Bob Sheppard just died came to my mind. I recently read Bill Madden’s book on Big Stein and it mentioned that, in his later years, George took the passing of others close to him pretty hard – as it reminded him that he was one of the older elephants left in the tent and the end was near. My second reaction to this news was that this All-Star Game, tonight, will now go down in history as the game played the day that George Steinbrenner passed away. Let’s hope it’s a good game that the Boss would have enjoyed. (Will any Yankees now ask out of the game, because of this news? I doubt it, but, you never know.) In the interim, until I have a chance to gather my thoughts on this and share them in the blog, please feel free to use the comments section of this entry to discuss George Steinbrenner and this news. For now, in closing, all I can say is “The last five years or so have been rough – so, rest in peace Boss.”
Official Statement from the Steinbrenner family: “It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing. He passed away this morning in Tampa, Fla., at age 80. He was an incredible and charitable man.
First and foremost he was devoted to his entire family – his beloved wife, Joan; his sisters, Susan Norpell and Judy Kamm, his children, Hank, Jennifer Jessica and Hal; and all of his grandchildren.
He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.” (h/t: LoHud Blog).
Statement of Peter Lawrence “Yogi” Berra: “This is a very sad day for me and Carmen and all of baseball. My sympathies go out to the Steinbrenner family. George was The Boss, make no mistake. He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much.”
Statement from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Steinbrenner family. This is a sad day not only for Yankee fans, but for our entire City, as few people have had a bigger impact on New York over the past four decades than George Steinbrenner. George had a deep love for New York, and his steely determination to succeed – combined with his deep respect and appreciation for talent and hard work – made him a quintessential New Yorker. George invested his heart and soul into the Yankees, and his competitive fire helped usher in new eras of Yankee greatness, reclaiming the team’s long tradition of excellence and its position as the most successful franchise in the history of American sports. He was a champion who made New York a better place, and who always gave back to the city he loved. He has left an indelible legacy on the Yankees, on baseball, and on our city, and he leaves us in the only way that would be appropriate: as a reigning world champion. We will be lowering the flags in City Hall Plaza today in honor of his achievements. George was a larger than life New York figure whose passion and drive to succeed will forever be missed.” (h/t WSJ.com)
Allan H. “Bud” Selig, commissioner of baseball:
“On behalf of Baseball, I am very saddened by the passing this morning of George Steinbrenner. George was a giant of the game and his devotion to baseball was surpassed only by his devotion to his family and his beloved New York Yankees. He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends.
I have known George ever since he entered the game in 1972. He was my dear friend for nearly four decades. Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered. We were allies and friends in the truest sense of the words.
My wife, Sue, and I pass on our deepest sympathies to the Steinbrenner family, to the New York Yankees and to all of his friends. We will miss him, especially tonight when the baseball family will be gathered at Angel Stadium for the All-Star Game.” (link)
Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLBPA: “George Steinbrenner’s passion for the game of baseball helped revive one of the game’s most storied franchises, and in the process ushered in the modern era of baseball business operations. Mr. Steinbrenner understood and embraced the power of the players, and he put this knowledge to good use in establishing the Yankees as one of the sports world’s most iconic brands.” (h/t USATODAY.com)
Joe Torre: “I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, a great humanitarian, and a dear friend. I will be forever grateful that he trusted me with his Yankees for 12 years. My heart goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed in New York, Tampa and throughout the world of baseball. It’s only fitting that he went out as a world champ.” (via Feinsand)
Feinsand has also collected a bunch of statements from YES Network heads, other owners, Sterling & Waldman and former players. See them here, here and here.
Jane Forbes Clark, the Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: “George Steinbrenner served the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors with great commitment and enthusiasm for the last 12 years since his election as a director in 1998. He shared his vision, kindness, love for the game and his generosity in so many ways as a key figure in the Board’s leadership. His impact on the Museum’s ability to preserve baseball history is felt at so many levels in the organization. Our sympathies are with the Steinbrenner family. He will be greatly missed in Cooperstown.” (link)
Obits and Remembrances:
Quotes without links:
Dave Winfield (via ESPN via Jack Curry’s Twitter) – “one of the top owners in the history of sports.” (ESPN.com Video)
Peter Gammons on Twitter: “The Boss began with Horace Clarke and died World Champion. He made his fellow owners a lot of money, and was very kind to many of us.”
Peter Abraham on Twitter: “Steinbrenner was a fascinating figure: Charitable and cruel at the same time, stubborn yet visionary. He changed all of sports. In my 1st year covering the Yankees, most of spring training was spent chasing George down hallways. He was bigger than any player.”
Friend and Basketball coach Bob Knight: “I doubt if there’s anyone who did so much for so many people without anybody knowing about it, it’d be George Steinbrenner . . . What he did for people was a very personal and private thing for him. George Steinbrenner was a great, great American.”
Darryl Strawberry: “What people don’t understand about him, he cares about people. George surprised me and came to the hospital (in 1998) and at my bedside encouraged me that everything was going to be alright. ”
CNBC’s Darren Rovell on Twitter on the business legacy: Since George Steinbrenner became owner, of the Yanks, the other MLB clubs had over 100 ownership changes.
Money George Steinbrenner spent on the Yanks payroll since 2000: $1.87 BILLION
1997: Yankees sold $52 million worth of tickets. 2009: Yankees sold $397 million worth of tickets.
Steinbrenner’s biz legacy: Revenues for the Yankees this year will hover around $600 million. Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in ’73 for $8.7M. Remarkable.
Ken Davidoff on Twitter: “George dominated my life, as a Yankees reporter. When my wife called to say we were expecting, I was chasing him down a corridor in Tampa.”
Another business update from Jon Weisenthal of the Business Insider: Because the estate tax has taken a temporary hiatus, due to Congress’ slow fade and then rise of the estate tax, the Steinbrenner family will pay no taxes on the inheritance related to the Yankees. (link)
Dan Graziano on Twitter: “To say G Steinbrenner was a good man would be to ignore my first-hand experience. So I can’t. But he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.” (Graziano has a long obit at the Newark Star Ledger, his former employer).
Add on by Steve Lombardi:
Some stats to help celebrate the Steinbrenner legacy today: Completed Yankees Seasons Under Big Stein