George Steinbrenner, late owner of the New York Yankees, had plenty of very public moments of controversy with members of the media and those under his employ. Despite whether you loved or hated George Steinbrenner, he made the New York Yankees into one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world and changed the way baseball is played forever according to the New York Times.
He fielded some fantastic teams and hired some great managers over the years. Some of his off-field moments are perhaps best remembered by some enduring Yankees fans. Here are five of George Steinbrenner’s more colorful moments in the long career of and life of a baseball owner.
Purchasing the Team
In 1973, Steinbrenner was a young 42 years old and purchased the Yankees for a paltry ten million dollars from CBS according to The Baseball Almanac. Right away he went to work. When Jim “Catfish” Hunter was released from the Oakland A’s in 1974, Steinbrenner signed him for an unheard of sum of $2.85 million for four years. The economics of baseball changed with that signing.
Banned in the U.S.A.
Steinbrenner was banned from baseball not once but twice. The first came in 1974 when Steinbrenner was indicted for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. He was found guilty and suspended from the game for two years.
Then in 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent demanded Steinbrenner resign after the owner paid gambler Howard Spira for dirt on Dave Winfield who had been traded away. Steinbrenner’s “lifetime ban” was reinstated three years later.
Nothing was more controversial than Steinbrenner’s revolving door of managers. In his tenure, the New York Yankees had seventeen managerial changes. No Yankees manager was more vociferous than Billy Martin.
Billy Martin was the manager of the New York Yankees five separate times. Perhaps his many clashes with Steinbrenner revolved around his own erratic behavior including his difficulties with alcohol according to ESPN’s website. Martin took the Yankees to the World Series in the mid-1970s but complained of Steinbrenner’s acquisitions including that of Reggie Jackson. Thus the chaotic interactions between to two had begun despite winning the 1977 World Series over the Dodgers. Martin was fired in for the first time in 1978 after getting into arguments with Reggie Jackson.
According to the Baseball Library, Steinbrenner’s rocky relationship extended to the players as well as management. David Wells got into a heated argument in 1997 after a loss to the Montreal Expos when a fan reached over to snag a ball before a Yankees’ outfielder could catch it.
Wells complained that security at Yankee Stadium should be better to which Steinbrenner allegedly said, “You should stick to pitching.” Wells promptly said he’d rather be traded and Steinbrenner shot back that no one else wanted him.
Another pitcher drew the ire of George Steinbrenner two years later in 1999. Even though the regular season hadn’t even started yet, Hideki Irabu failed to cover first base on a routine grounder to which Steinbrenner called his Japanese ace a “fat pussy toad.” Steinbrenner apologized later.
Say what you will about George Steinbrenner, he was the owner of the New York Yankees and if he wanted to throw a temper tantrum about the players he hired then Steinbrenner certainly had the right to do so. Yes, the man may have had a hot temper and openly showed contempt for his friends and enemies, you can’t deny that he knew how to make a winning baseball team and make money in the process.
The Baseball Almanac contributed information for this article as well as the New York Times.