Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George Steinbrenner, 1930-2010

Yesterday, the Voice. Today, the Boss.

As Kris Kristofferson wrote of his dear friend Johnny Cash, George Michael Steinbrenner III was "a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction."

He drove millions of people crazy, including some of his employees who were beloved by his team's fans. He did things we found impossible to understand.

And yet, he did a million things that were incompatible with the image that we were fed by the media: Helping out ex-players in trouble, charities large and small, the Silver Shield Foundation for the widows and orphans of cops & firemen, donating money for a ballfield at the school Roger Maris' kids attended, donations to his alma mater (Williams College) and his wife's (Ohio State), everything the organization did after 9/11.

"I never fired anybody," he said, "I always offered them another job in the organization." Said jobs weren't always accepted, but often were. Many of the people he drove crazy forgave him -- and he forgave, too.

He tore down the only Yankee Stadium I ever wanted... and built the most magnificent ballpark ever.

He built a dynasty, ruined it, then built another -- among baseball-team owners, a feat matched only by Connie Mack, who was another bundle of contradictions, both loved and hated.

Yeah, he was a rich kid to whom a lot of things came easy... but he never forgot that most of the people who paid their money to help him make the New York Yankees the greatest megalith in North American sports -- up there with such titanic soccer clubs as Manchester United and Real Madrid -- were not especially rich.

"I never ask anybody to work any harder than I do," he liked to say. And he did work hard, at the shipbuilding company, and with the Yankees. And he backed it up. He showed how much he appreciated the hard work of others. He loved cabdrivers and truckers, deliverymen and doormen, chefs and bartenders.

He took so much... and he gave so much.

I'll never understand him... but where would we be without him? So long, George, rest well.

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