Yankees’ owner and chairman George Steinbrenner suffered a massive heart attack at his Tampa home and died early today after being rushed to a local hospital.
“The Boss” was 80.
“It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing,” the family said in a statement. “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.”
Funeral arrangements will be private.
Since Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for a net price of $8.7 million. the team has won 11 pennants and seven World Series titles and are now reportedly worth more than $1.5 billion.
With Steinbrenner’s approval, the Yankees moved their Double-A affiliate from Norwich, Conn., to Trenton in 2003 to form one of the most dynamic unions in all affiliated baseball.
With his health starting to fail in 2006, reportedly from Alzheimer’s disease, Steinbrenner relinquished the day-to-day control of the team to his sons Hank and Hal.
“To say George was an extraordinary person is an understatement,” senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman told BareBones this morning. “What he did for the Yankees, for the fans, and for all of us is almost indescribable. There has never been, and there will never be, an owner in professional sports like him. And those of us who lived in Tampa who say the things he did in that community and for the people there added another dimension of appreciation for who he is.”
“He gave us the resources to succeed, to build and to develop players and held us to the highest standards. You can see it in the way our kids play, the way they wear the uniform and they are going to play the game the right way. None of us are perfect, we all have our slips, but the aspiration is to always play the game the right way and to honor that logo. That’s “The Boss.”
“There is no stronger or more pervasive legacy than to do things the right way, be successful and honor this franchise’s history and we try to do that every day we go to work. We will continue to try to do it and that’s how we will honor him going forward.”
To my knowledge, I am the only Trenton reporter to interview Steinbrenner since the start of the affiliation with the Thunder in 2003.
I was at Legends Field, a ballpark that now carries his name, on March 26, 2003 to see the Double-A and Triple-A players take on the Yankees under the lights.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Steinbrenner sitting in the stands to my left. Around the 7th inning, he gets up to leave and I follow him into the elevator and he was gracious enough to give me a few minutes. Here is my story that appeared in The Times of Trenton the following day.
As far as scoops go in my career, this ranks right up there.
Steinbrenner happy with the Thunder
“The Boss” thrilled with new affiliation
By JOHN NALBONE
March 27, 2003
TAMPA, Fla. — The relaxed, cordial and accommodating George Steinbrenner who took in the Thunder’s 3-2 victory over Triple-A Columbus at Legends Field Wednesday night was a far cry from the boisterous owner who both stoked and avoided brush fires around nearly every corner this spring.
Instead of watching exhibition baseball along with a sell-out crowd of over 10,000 at Legends from his customary perch in the owner’s box, the Yankees’ principal owner sat unencumbered some 15 rows behind home plate with members of his inner circle, including director of minor-league development Rob Thomson and vice president of player personnel Billy Connors, and seemed to enjoy every minute of a rare hassle-free evening, absent of media and the every-day minutiae of running the world’s most recognizable sports franchise.
Or so he thought.
In an exclusive interview, the first he has given to a Trenton media outlet since the Yankees signed a four-year player development contract with the Double-A Thunder Sept. 17, Steinbrenner gushed about the new affiliation and the idea of his Class-AA minor leaguers playing in the Capital City.
“I’ll tell you, we’re just thrilled to be there,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re very happy to be going to Trenton and we know there are a lot of Yankee fans there, so naturally we’re very excited about that.”
Steinbrenner has weathered another contentious camp, a prelude to his club’s pursuit of a return trip to the World Series after last season’s rare early exit at the hands of the Anaheim Angels in the American League Division Series.
Steinbrenner, who purchased the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for $10 million – or about 1/17th of his current payroll of $166.7 million – began to take back the pages of all the New York tabloids as early as January when he essentially put manager Joe Torre and his coaching staff on notice that a repeat of 2002 was not an option. Steinbrenner then instigated a verbal sparring match with perhaps his best player, shortstop Derek Jeter, after questioning whether Jeter’s active nightlife was hindering his performance on the field.
Yet, when David Wells’ controversial new book “Perfect I’m Not …” tarnished the Yankee image and alienated an entire clubhouse, Steinbrenner chose not to blast his left-hander. His silence left the many in the vast Gotham media to presume Steinbrenner was either embarrassed by the fact it was he who single-handedly orchestrated Wells’ return to New York or that Wells, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, walked away free of Steinbrenner’s wrath (with the exception of a club-imposed $100,000 fine) due to what one beat writer called “Teacher’s Pet Syndrome.”
If the latter was the case initially, the tide certainly has changed. Steinbrenner has rebuffed repeated attempts by Wells to arrange a meeting to clear the air, this after Wells refused to pose for a unique Sports Illustrated cover featuring the Boss and pitchers Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Jose Contreras, Andy Pettitte and Jeff Weaver.
Steinbrenner looked anything but concerned while watching the Thunder defeat Columbus Wednesday night.
With a single wave to two of the stadium’s operations directors, Steinbrenner summoned the Yankees employees, handed them some cash, and 15 minutes later concession workers began distributing hot dogs, soda and bottled water to the approximately 60 people in attendance, including players’ wives, girlfriends, children, club employees and those working security detail.
Not long after, Steinbrenner welcomed a few questions regarding the new partnership with the Thunder.
“I love Trenton as a city. I’ve been there many times and it is a quality situation for us,” Steinbrenner said. “They also have great owners down there, great fans, and you’ll be getting a good, young club, too.”
Reminded the Thunder affiliation can be viewed as yet another example of leaving the archrival Boston Red Sox, the Thunder’s former player development partner, in his wake, Steinbrenner gave a hearty laugh and offered: “Don’t forget, it’s close to Philadelphia, too. I like that.”
Although he disappeared into the main concourse elevator with a promise of “we’ll see you in Trenton,” the reality is Steinbrenner doesn’t often travel to see his minor-league affiliates outside of Tampa, where the Class-A Yankees in the Florida State League are owned by the big club.
That, says Thomson, doesn’t mean Steinbrenner isn’t acutely aware of what is going on down on the farm.
“Mr. Steinbrenner always gives us the resources to be the best we can possibly be … and it shows.” Thomson said.
Other reaction from the Thunder, courtesy of public relations director Bill Cook.
– “Baseball has lost one of its best competitors,” Trenton hitting coach Frank Menechino said. “He was dedicated to winning and that dedication made the Yankees the best organization in baseball.”
– “As a professional affiliated with the New York Yankees organization, I can say that his leadership was felt throughout the Minor Leagues in many ways,” Thunder general manager Will Smith said. “As a lifelong Yankee fan, all I’ve known about the Yankees came under his ownership.’’
– “Mr. Steinbrenner ran a first class organization and this is a sad day for baseball,” Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. “When I talked to my wife about it, she said that we ‘lost a legend’ today. We both grew up in Tampa and he was such a big influence on the community there and was just a wonderful man.”