Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George Steinbrenner dies at age 80.

This isn't the blog post that I originally intended to write; I was going to wait until I finished reading Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, by Bill Madden, and then put up my review. However, it is now more appropriate to put up a few impressions to go along with all of the other media coverage about George Steinbrenner.

First off, I am really enjoying the book, which vividly depicts all of the well-known public hirings, firings, arguments, and newspaper headlines that constituted the volatile Steinbrenner's reign as the most controversial and yes, most important owner in the last 40 years of baseball. His ownership coincided with the concept of free agency in baseball: Steinbrenner's approach was to buy the best free agents each year, no matter what the cost (or how well the player fit in with the Yankees). Much of his indiscriminate spending created the foundation for the evolution of free agency, and I wonder if Steinbrenner would have succeeded as an owner without it? Nor would free agency necessarily have evolved without his influence. I guess George Steinbrenner was the right [or wrong] man for the right time. Brash, rude, crude, and frequently his own worst enemy, Steinbrenner was a perfect fit for the city of New York. If you want a good look at the man, this book is an excellent starting place.

His extremely confrontational style of management is not one I'd care to experience. It is apparent that one reason why Steinbrenner and the Yankees had to overpay players/staff to join the organization was that very few people could stomach George's day-to-day antics. One of the joys of the book is to cheer on those who stood up to Steinbrenner's bullying tactics--although most were fired from their jobs shortly thereafter. Steinbrenner may have been a good friend, but he's definitely not someone for whom you'd want to work. If you judge him by his results, however, George Steinbrenner is owed his due and Madden provides that in this book.

There are other incidents within Steinbrenner that show his "softer" side. Most telling is the passage relating how Steinbrenner took the organization's reigns and handled everything upon the tragic death of Yankee star catcher Thurman Munson in 1979. Human, impressive and touching.

In the end, I think one must conclude that George Steinbrenner was singularly driven--he wanted his team to win, every loss was unacceptable and personally painful, and he'd do anything to avoid that pain.


Meghan said...

Author Bill Madden will actually be speaking with New York Times sports writer, Dave Anderson tonight on Charlie Rose about George Steinbrenner's career. It'll be showing on Bloomberg Television at 8 & 10 tonight.
There's a brief preview posted at:

Since you're reading Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, I thought you might enjoy tonight's episode.

Duedsml said...

Thanks for the head's up, it sounds like it will be an interesting interview!