Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, famous for being one of the most outspoken owners in sports, passed away at the age of 80 on July 13th in Tampa following a massive heart attack. Steinbrenner has not appeared as much in public in recent years. He gave control of his baseball team to his sons in 2007.
Steinbrenner was born on July 4th, 1930. Steinbrenner served in the Air Force in the early 1950’s and then did graduate studies at Ohio State. It was there that he served under legendary football coach Woody Hayes. He later served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Purdue. In the late 1950s, Steinbrenner entered the shipping business where he built his fortune.
Steinbrenner briefly owned a basketball team called the Cleveland Pipers, which were famous for hiring the first African-American professional basketball coach in 1960. The Pipers played in the ABL, which folded in 1962. After spending years investing in Broadway plays, Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973 from CBS. At the time of his purchase, the Yankees were a far cry from the Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle teams of their earlier history.
Steinbrenner’s Yankees ownership is famous for his often flamboyant behavior. He was known for verbally berating players, managers, executives, and employees in public. He fired manager Billy Martin on 5 occasions. He went through 11 General Managers in 30 years. Steinbrenner demanded winning, and would lash out at anyone who caused him not to win. He was suspended from baseball in 1974 after pleading guilty to illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign. He returned in 1976. He was banned for life in 1990 after hiring a gambler to investigate Dave Winfield, who had filed a lawsuit against Steinbrenner. He was reinstated in 1993, and toned down his profile. The Yankees promptly built another dynasty, winning 4 World Series titles from 1996-2000.
Despite being known for his behavior, Steinbrenner was a key person in turning baseball in to the money machine it is today. He was the first owner to sell cable TV rights, and eventually built his own TV network. He was also a big philanthropist, though he didn’t always call attention to himself for it. He is known as a generous contributor at the Baseball Hall of Fame and in the Tampa area (Steinbrenner contributions).
Steinbrenner married his wife in 1957, and had 4 children. His ownership popularity helped land him gigs in pop culture, including hosting Saturday Night Live. He also had a caricature of him done for the hit show Seinfeld, cementing his legacy in American pop culture.
Baseball Almanac Bio