Yankee Boss Steinbrenner was no hog to charities
Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 5:56 pm
By: By HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — George Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball for trying to disgrace his high-paid outfielder, Dave Winfield.
A low point for “The Boss,” for sure. But rather than let the episode fade away, the Yankees owner reached out nearly a decade later to repair the rift.
For those who knew Steinbrenner, behind a feisty facade was a fiercely loyal friend.
“It’s almost like you see a curtain drawn back, a veil lifted, just a complete change,” Winfield said of Steinbrenner after the reconciliation. “And our relationship changed from then on. And we got to know each other real well. I know that over the years, he admired me, he respected me and he liked me. And I did the same with him. It was very important.”
The 80-year-old Stein-brenner died in Tampa, Fla., early Tuesday after having a heart attack. He was remembered as much for his dictatorial style as he was for his generosity.
“I think he’s a father figure to everyone that was in our organization in the past or present, because he really took care of his players,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.
Flags were lowered to half-staff at New York’s City Hall and a marquee outside the $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium — “the house that George built” — honored “George M. Steinbrenner III, 1930-2010.” At the All-Star game in Anaheim, Calif., a video tribute was shown, and players bowed their heads during a moment of silence.
Steinbrenner was exacting and ruthless in running the Yankees. Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who went 14 years without talking to his boss after being fired as manager in 1985, said they’d leave the phone off the hook in the dugout for fear of getting a call from the owner.
The Boss’ bluster made him as famous as many of his players, a fixture on the back pages of the New York tabloids — right where he wanted to be.
He was even lampooned on “Seinfeld,” a No. 1 television show in the 1990s. And Steinbrenner got a laugh out of the bumbling portrayal, voiced by executive producer, Larry David.
A media hound when it came to baseball matters, Steinbrenner was equally reserved in matters of charity. And he gave plenty — especially in his adopted hometown of Tampa.
Steinbrenner had no connection to Virginia Tech, but after a gunman killed 32 students on the campus in 2007 he donated $1 million to the “Hokies Spirit Memorial Fund” and sent the Yankees to Blacksburg, Va., for an exhibition game.
“To respond to a need as he did and put it into action tells me everything about what kind of a human being he was,” Virginia Tech baseball coach Pete Hughes said. “It was an immediate response, too, by him — ‘How can we help them?’ — and within 24 hours, the logistics of that game was being talked about.”
A graduate of Williams College, Steinbrenner, nonetheless, funded the Ohio State marching band for years.
“Mr. Steinbrenner and his wife were the driving force behind the new marching band facility in Ohio Stadium,” said Jon Waters, assistant band director. “We will always remember George Steinbrenner’s love of music and his love of the Ohio State University marching band.”
He was charitable with his time and money before he became the Yankees owner in 1973.
Steinbrenner was such an outsized figure that even President Bill Clinton had some fun with his blustery persona when the Yankees visited the White House after their 1999 World Series championship.
“On that day at the White House, as we walked out on the South Lawn together and the band struck up ‘Hail to the Chief,’ Bill playfully reminded George, ‘Don’t get any ideas, it’s not for you,”’ recalled Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and current secretary of state. “But George always had his own song. They say that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, and nobody knew that as well as George Steinbrenner.”
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in Anaheim, Calif., Associated Press Writer David Porter in Little Falls, N.J., and AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Westlake, Ohio, Hank Kurz Jr. in Richmond, Va., and Ronald Blum and Rachel Cohen in New York, contributed to this report.