George Steinbrenner is dead. Long live the king: Seven World Series Championships, eleven American League pennants, and sixteen AL East winners. He never threw a pitch. He never swung a bat or caught a pop fly. He was the owner of a sports franchise that became iconic beyond anyone's expectations. He even became a character on "Seinfeld."
For a year or two, back in the late seventies, I became a Yankees fan. It was easy enough to do, since there was a major league baseball vacuum in Colorado at the time, and Yankee paraphernalia was being sold on virtually every street corner. A small group of friends and I purchased royal blue batting helmet with the classic NY logo on the front. We wore them to marching band practice, which may have mitigated our potential coolness factor. We had hitched our wagon to a winner, three World Series in a row. The Yankees didn't win that year, and I learned then to sneer at all things Steinbrenner. He had let me down.
When I moved to Oakland, I became aware almost instantly of Sir George's penchant for raiding other teams' lineups, specifically the Athletics, for his "championships at any cost" ethos. I watched him poach Jason Giambi away from the Bay Area after the 2001 season, much in the same way that he had nabbed Reggie Jackson years earlier. He snapped up Nick Swisher in 2007 just like he grabbed Catfish Hunter way back when. To paraphrase Robert Frost, "Nothing green and gold can stay."
He yelled and screamed and gave illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, but he was an icon in the world of sports. He defined, for better or for worse, hands-on-ownership. Now his sons, Hal and Hank, will have the run of the ship. Only time will tell if the boys can live up to the old man's expectations. "Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing," he used to say. Now that he's not breathing anymore, we'll have to wait and see.