Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dead at 80

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died Tuesday morning. He was 80 years old.

"It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing," a statement from the Steinbrenner family read.

"He was an incredible and charitable man. First and foremost he was devoted to his entire family -- his beloved wife, Joan; his sisters, Susan Norpell and Judy Kamm, his children, Hank, Jennifer, Jessica and Hal; and all of his grandchildren.

"He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again."

Numerous reports said Steinbrenner suffered a massive heart attack and was taken to a Tampa hospital late Monday night.

"This is a very sad day for me and Carmen and all of baseball," Yankee legend Yogi Berra said. "My sympathies go out to the Steinbrenner family. George was The Boss, make no mistake. He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much."

Steinbrenner led a group of investors that purchased the Yankees on January 3, 1973 from CBS for about $9 million and, despite saying he would not be a hands-on owner, became the exact opposite. Fueled by an incredible desire to win, he helped turn the Yankees around in just a few years.

Since Steinbrenner took control, the Yankees have won seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants. The club went to the World Series in 1976, just his fourth season of ownership, and captured the first of two straight titles the following year.

Known as "The Boss," Steinbrenner helped change baseball. He was at the forefront in the infancy of free agency, luring Jim "Catfish" Hunter to the Bronx prior to the 1975 season and Reggie Jackson two years later. Other early big signings were Goose Gossage in 1978 and Dave Winfield before the 1981 campaign.

Steinbrenner was also known for his temper and his penchant for changing managers. He hired and fired 12 managers, including Billy Martin five times, from 1974 until Joe Torre's reign began in 1996.

Major League Baseball also suspended Steinbrenner twice, the second time in 1990 for allegedly paying gambler Howie Spira $40,000 to provide information on Winfield.

After returning to baseball in 1993, Steinbrenner's previous dictatorial style waned and the Yankees returned to prominence in 1996 with the first of four World Series titles in five years.

Steinbrenner also created a cable television network devoted to the Yankees. The YES Network has become a model for other teams to follow.

In 2007, and said to be in failing health, Steinbrenner stepped down and left control of the Yankees to his sons, Hal and Hank. The two rewarded him with a World Series title last year.

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of George Steinbrenner," MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said. "George Steinbrenner's passion for the game of baseball helped revive one of the game's most storied franchises, and in the process ushered in the modern era of baseball business operations.  Mr. Steinbrenner understood and embraced the power of the players, and he put this knowledge to good
use in establishing the Yankees as one of the sports world's most iconic brands.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Steinbrenner family, his friends and the entire Yankees baseball family."

Steinbrenner was arguably the most-recognized owner in pro sports. He appeared in beer commercials with Martin during the late 1970s, was characterized on the television program "Seinfeld" and hosted "Saturday Night Live."

In addition to his baseball activities, Steinbrenner was also an assistant football coach at Purdue and Northwestern in the 1950s, briefly owned the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball Association and was a staunch supporter of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He also was a longtime member of The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame board, loved horse racing and owned Kinsman Stable in Florida.

"George Steinbrenner did so many great things for the National Football Foundation, and we are deeply saddened by his passing," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "He loved the game of football. He played. He coached, and he believed in the scholar-athlete ideal and the lessons learned on the gridiroin. George stood for everything that the NFF represents, and it was truly special to have him on the board because he loved the game so much."

"I had the privilege of serving on the National Football Foundation board of directors with George Steinbrenner for many years, and his service and commitment to our organization played a significant role in our ability to touch the lives of countless young student-athletes," added NFF Chairman Archie Manning. "From his playing days at Williams College to his coaching days at Purdue and Northwestern, it was clear that George Steinbrenner was a product of the gridiron. We will miss his passion for giving back to our sport, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

Steinbrenner amassed his fortune through his family's shipbuilding business and tried to purchase the Cleveland Indians before finally landing the Yankees.

The family said funeral arrangements will be private, although there will be an additional public service at a later date.

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