Today, flags at ballparks across the country are flying at half-staff to mourn the death of the man simply known as The Boss. George Steinbrenner, the principle owner of the New York Yankees, died today at the age of 80. His health had declined over the last few years, but this was still news no one wanted to hear. It was almost fitting that he passed today, the day of Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic, the All-Star game. (This loss comes at a hard time for the Yankees organization. Bob Sheppard, the public-address announcer at Yankee Stadium for 56 years, died at the age of 99 this past Sunday. He was known as “The Voice of God” and will be greatly missed.)
I wasn’t even born at the height of Steinbrenner’s reign in New York. It was a time marked by his controversial, brash, fervent persona. It was, however, also marked by winning. And, whether you loved him or hated him, that’s what made him a legend in the world of sports.
Streinbrenner, who was born on the 4th of July, encompassed many of the things that make America. Capitalism. He introduced outrageous player salaries to the game and his franchise thrived off the free agency market. Entertainment. He was often lampooned by critics and even hosted Saturday Night Live. Free speech. He said and did ridiculous things, and the tabloids loved him for it. Winning. He was quoted as saying, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.” And when he was Boss, the Yankees certainly did plenty of that, winning 11 pennants and seven World Series titles.
When the Yankees won their record 27th World Series last year, I headed to the Canyon of Heroes to watch the championship parade. The Boss couldn’t make it from his home in Tampa, but I watched manager Joe Girardi and captain Derek Jeter pay tribute to him. The best part? They promised him a 28th Championship. It’s a shame he won’t be here to see it.
Ultimately, the man who once said “I will never have a heart attack. I give them.” fell to one. Nonetheless, the death of the Boss is the end of an era.
P.S. Joe, let’s win this one for George and the American League tonight!