Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard that George Stienbrenner passed away yesterday. He had many nicknames, the boss, the king, the kaiser, and of course Mr. Stienbrenner. This is what I called him when I had a chance to meet him. I was 16 years old and I die hard Yankee fan. My parents were doing some fund raising with Phil Rizzuto and we were going to take pictures with him, handing him a check for his charity.
While waiting for Scooter to come down and do the photo op, I had to chance to meet some of the biggest Yankee stars at the time. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford came in and we were able to shake their hands as they headed off to the clubhouse. At that point George came in and at the same time Phil showed up. Rizzuto asked George if he would like to get in the picture and he agreed. I shook his hand and he thanked me for coming to the game.
He could have breezed right passed us but instead, stopped took a picture and thanked all of us for coming to the game. There were a lot of negative things said about the man, but the man I met, even for only a minute, was very kind and loved his fans. His suspension from the game was a killer for me. Personally, growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I loved what he did for the team. The 80s were lean times and so were the 90s. It never got as lean as when he wasn’t controlling the team.
In 1972 he bought the Yankees for around 10 million dollars. At the time of his death the Yanks were worth 1.6 billion dollars. That is amazing, plus under his ownership, they won seven World Series, 11 AL Pennets, and 16 Division Titles, in 37 years. Yogi Berra once said, he turned the Yankees into champions. When he didn’t like what MSG was offering to show games, he created the YES network. When he didn’t like other people making money off of vending at the stadium, he created his own food company.
He was a visionary that knew when it was time for a new stadium, and built not only a stadium but a monument. The new Yankee Stadium was a mix of new and old, and did it in pinstripe style. Love the Yankees or hate them, you had to give George credit, he turned the AL east into the premier division in baseball. The Red Sox used George and the Yankees as a giant target, and Geroge loved it. Baseball is better with a George around, It just isn’t the same with Hank and Hal.
The most powerful teams in baseball took a page from King George. You want to win, put up the bucks for a good team. Worried about people coming to the game? Win and they will show up. The Pirates and Royals used to win championships. Those teams had stars. Imagine if they actually put money into those teams. The Steelers and Chiefs flourish in those cities, why? Because they pay for talent and win. This sport needs more visionaries like George Stienbrenner. His passing not only should rock the Yankees franchise, but all of baseball.
Mr. Stienbrenner you will be missed . . .