Steinbrenner: Will the HOF Committee Finally Come To Their Senses

George Steinbrenner: A Winning Tradition (Photo: Pinstripe Alley)
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George Steinbrenner will once again be on the 2019 Today’s Game Era Ballot for election to the Hall of Fame. Don’t you think it’s time…

Editor’s Note

With apologies, I made a grave error in selecting the main source for the first paragraph below. The Committee will not meet this year to make new selections. Many thanks to the reader who pointed out the error. The gist of the content, however, remains in place. Thanks, Rich.
Rich Moraski the dates are when the committees meet The paragraph that follows the dates mentions that the committee s meet for the next year’s induction

George Steinbrenner, as the lone executive, will head a cast of six former big-league players and three managers comprising the (inanely) named Today’s Game Era ballot to be reviewed and voted upon Dec. 9 at the Baseball Winter Meetings Las Vegas.

Hated by some, adored by others, no one has suffered the indignity of pure bias more than Steinbrenner in previous votes. It has to end…

George Steinbrenner: A Winning Tradition (Photo: Pantagraph.com)
George Steinbrenner: A Winning Tradition (Photo: Pantagraph.com)

In any professional sport, what is the first quality you want to see in the owner of the team you root for? Do you care that he inherited all of his money from his dad? Does it matter to you that he or she has been married five times and has a son via a mistress?

Do you wonder about his knowledge of the sport he is engaging in? Well, maybe on that one. But what matters most?

I want an owner with a passion for winning, and to keep on winning. My owner is loaded, but he is willing to dig, if need be, deep into his pockets to put a team on the field that is capable of winning every single year. I also want an owner who is brash and relishes, even to the point of crying, at the moment when his team does win it all, just like me.

That man was George Steinbrenner

Steinbrenner And His Quest To Win

Dean Spiridon, writing for Bleacher Report, aptly titled his obituary for Steinbrenner, “George Steinbrenner – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – But The Best”.

No doubt, much like the team he owned, Steinbrenner was a man many loved to hate. But more than anything, there was a deep resentment towards the man – a fit of jealousy if you will – because he was a winner.

Not at first, though. In 1973, George Steinbrenner led a group that purchased the New York Yankees from CBS for $8.7 million. Forty-two years later, the franchise is now worth $3.2 billion according to the latest valuations from Forbes.com.

Check That - The Most Envied Man In Baseball (Photo: Newsweek)
Check That – The Most Envied Man In Baseball (Photo: Newsweek)

The Yankees George Steinbrenner inherited were anything but winners at the time. Attendance in the year before Steinbrenner’s purchase was a paltry 999,974. After three successive years of the Yankees averaging about 85 wins a season with no titles, the team finally cracked the 2 million mark in attendance in 1976. How did he do it?

No surprise. Steinbrenner put a Yankee team on the field that would win three consecutive American League titles – together with two World Series wins from 1976-1978. How did Steinbrenner accomplish this? He did it the old-fashion way by pulling out his checkbook to invest in his team.

Steinbrenner unabashedly “stole” Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, two vital elements to the new brand of Yankees, from the Oakland A’s by merely making both an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Oh, you had to hear it. He’s trying to buy a winning team. He can’t do that. What is baseball coming to? And on and on.

George Steinbrenner, doing it “His Way” turned a deaf ear to it all. He didn’t win every year, and, after the 1981 Championship, the Yankees and Steinbrenner did not win again until 1996.

Ironically, those teams of the late nineties were not bought or stolen, they were homegrown, throwing all of his critics off-balance.

Scouted and signed by Gene Michael, the Core Five, composed of Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera all were bred from the same ilk as George Steinbrenner. Take no prisoners; we’re only here to win. Four World Championships in five years and the term Evil Empire was coined.

There Are No Saints In The Baseball HOF

George Steinbrenner was no saint. He had a penchant for firing managers on a whim. Billy Martin alone was hired and fired five times. Steinbrenner also had this “thing” about Dave Winfield, at one point going to the extreme of hiring a known gambler, Howie Spira, $50,000 to spy on Winfield.

And then, there were those questionable contributions Steinbrenner made to the Nixon campaign at the height of the Watergate scandal.

On April 5, 1974, Steinbrenner was indicted on 14 criminal counts.  He later pleaded guilty to two and was fined $20,000. Aha, we’ve got him now.

And sure enough, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn took pleasure in handing down a lifetime suspension from all baseball activity on Steinbrenner. Later, the suspension was lifted, but the stain remained as a vehicle to point at Steinbrenner as a man of ill character for those who wished to do so.

Let He Who Casts The First Stone…

Steinbrenner Lived To Win (Photo: nymag.com)
Steinbrenner Lived To Win (Photo: nymag.com)

We take these things, and we ponder how they relate to membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame. We choose to view the snapshots or the picture as a whole. Either way, our subjective nature gets the best of us.

Ted Williams once spit on a fan. Ty Cobb was a pitiful excuse for a man both on and off the field. Mickey Mantle wasted much of his God-given talent carousing the streets of Manhattan, chasing women and guzzling scotch. Ditto Babe Ruth.

Tris Speaker was a proud member of the Klu Klux Klan. The Boston Red Sox, owned by Tom Yawkey, did not field their first black player until 1959. Orlando Cepeda served ten months in prison after being arrested in 1975 for smuggling marijuana in Puerto Rico. And the list goes on.

For reasons other than infamy, each of these men is in the Hall of Fame. As the noted baseball historian, John Thorne, reminds us, “Plaster saints is not what we have in the Hall of Fame, many were far from moral exemplars.”

Larger Than Life: George Steinbrenner (Photo: Sports Illustrated)
Larger Than Life: George Steinbrenner (Photo: Sports Illustrated)

As strong as that argument is to include George Steinbrenner in the Hall of Fame, it has a negative slant. Instead, the focus should be on Steinbrenner’s construction of a baseball franchise from the ruins of CBS’s ignorance of baseball and indifference as owners.

From the creation of baseball’s first home-owned television network (YES) to the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, George Steinbrenner, in his own words, “never gave up trying.”

It is often said the best form of praise is mimicry. Except for the “cookie-cutter” stadium explosion in the 1970s, new ballparks are sprouting up at a record pace. Every major league enjoys record profits from televising all of their games.

George Steinbrenner did it “His Way.” He built ships, and then he built a baseball franchise that is the envy of all in the business. It’s time to remove the word “envy” from the conversation about Steinbrenner, realizing instead what he accomplished for baseball, and more significantly, for the city of New York.

It’s also an injustice to weigh Steinbrenner against the framework of baseball as it exists today, where revenue for the sport soars to $10 billion a year. In a time when everyone associated with the game, whether it’s teams, owners, players, networks, or MLB itself, make heaps of money and profit, in many cases without even trying – and simply because it’s there for the taking.

George Steinbrenner was a man flying solo. He never gave up trying, and he never made a dime he didn’t earn.

He’s no longer around to make the pitch for himself. But if you want to get a glimpse into the man and what made him tick, there’s no better place to start than with this video taken from a “60 Minutes” piece by Ed Randall in 1987:

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Steinbrenner: Will the HOF Committee Finally Come To Their Senses
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Steinbrenner: Will the HOF Committee Finally Come To Their Senses
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George Steinbrenner will once again be on the 2019 Today's Game Era Ballot for election to the Hall of Fame. Don't you think it's time...
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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