|Born||July 4, 1930
Rocky River, Ohio
|Occupation||Owner of New York Yankees (MLB), businessman, CEO, entrepreneur|
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Joan Zieg|
|Parents||Henry G. Steinbrenner II
George Michael Steinbrenner III (born July 4, 1930) is a businessman and owner and former principal executive of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees. His outspokenness and role in driving up player salaries have made him one of the sport's most controversial figures.
Steinbrenner is known as a hands-on executive, earning the nickname "The Boss". His tendency to meddle in daily on-field decisions, and to hire and fire (and sometimes re-hire) managers led then-Yankees skipper Dallas Green to give him the derisive nickname "Manager George".
Steinbrenner was born in Rocky River, Ohio, the only son of Rita (née Haley) and Henry George Steinbrenner II. Steinbrenner's father had been a track and field star, a world-class hurdler, while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in engineering in 1927. He later became a wealthy shipping businessman who ran the family firm, Kinsman Shipping, operating freight ships hauling ore and grain on the Great Lakes. Steinbrenner entered Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana in 1944, and graduated in 1948. He has two younger sisters, Susan and Judy.
Steinbrenner received his B.A. in English Literature from Williams College in 1952. While at Williams, George was an average student who led an active extracurricular life. A member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (Epsilon chapter), he was an accomplished hurdler on the varsity track and field team, and served as sports editor of the student paper, played piano in the band, and played halfback on the football team in his senior year.
Steinbrenner joined the United States Air Force after graduation, was commissioned a second lieutenant and was posted to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. Following honorable discharge in 1954, he did post-graduate study at The Ohio State University (1954–55), earning his master's degree in physical education. He served as a graduate assistant to legendary Buckeye football coach Woody Hayes. The Buckeyes were undefeated national champions that year, and won the Rose Bowl. He met his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Joan Zieg, in Columbus, and married her on May 12, 1956. The couple have been married ever since, and have two sons Hank Steinbrenner and Hal Steinbrenner, and two daughters Jessica Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal. Steinbrenner served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University from 1955 to 56, and at Purdue University from 1956 to 57.
In 1957, Steinbrenner joined Kinsman Marine Transit Company, his father's Great Lakes shipping company, and worked hard to successfully revitalize the company, which was suffering through difficult market conditions. In its return to profitability, Kinsman emphasized grain shipments over ore. Steinbrenner made his money as chairman of the Cleveland-based firm known as the American Shipbuilding Company.
In 1960, against his father's wishes, Steinbrenner entered the sports franchise business for the first time with basketball's Cleveland Pipers, of the AAU. The Pipers were coached by John McClendon, who became the first African American coach in professional basketball. McClendon had led Tennessee A&I University to three straight NAIA small college championships in the late 1950s. The Pipers switched to the new professional American Basketball League in 1961; the new circuit was founded by Abe Saperstein, owner of the Harlem Globetrotters. The league and team experienced financial problems, and McClendon resigned in protest halfway through the season; however, the Pipers had won the first half of a split season. Steinbrenner replaced McClendon with former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman, and the Pipers won the ABL championship in 1961-62. The ABL folded in December 1962, just months into its second season. Steinbrenner and his partners lost significant money on the venture, but Steinbrenner paid off all of his creditors and partners over the next few years.
With his burgeoning sports aspirations put on hold, Steinbrenner turned his attention to the theatre. His involvement with Broadway began with a short-lived 1967 play, The Ninety Day Mistress, in which he partnered with another rookie producer, James Nederlander. Whereas Nederlander threw himself into his family's business full-time, Steinbrenner invested in a mere half-dozen shows, including the 1974 Tony Award nominee for Best Musical, Seesaw, and the 1988 Peter Allen flop, Legs Diamond.
The Yankees had been struggling during their years under CBS ownership, which had acquired the team in 1965. In 1972, CBS Chairman William S. Paley told team president E. Michael Burke the media company intended to sell the club. As Burke later told writer Roger Kahn, Paley offered to sell the franchise to Burke if he could find financial backing. Steinbrenner, who had participated in a failed attempt to buy the Cleveland Indians from Vernon Stouffer one year earlier, was brought together with Burke by veteran baseball executive Gabe Paul.
On January 3, 1973, Steinbrenner and minority partner Burke led a group of investors, which included Lester Crown, John DeLorean and Nelson Bunker Hunt, in purchasing the Yankees from CBS for $10 million.
The announced intention was that Burke would continue to run the team as club president. But Burke later became angry when he found out that Paul had been brought in as a senior Yankee executive, crowding his authority, and quit the team presidency in April 1973. (Burke remained a minority owner of the club into the following decade.) Paul was officially named president of the club on April 19. It would be the first of many high-profile departures with employees who crossed paths with "The Boss." At the conclusion of the 1973 season, two more prominent names departed: manager Ralph Houk, who resigned and took a similar position with the Detroit Tigers; and general manager Lee MacPhail, who became president of the American League.
The 1973 off-season would continue to be controversial when Steinbrenner and Paul sought to hire former Oakland Athletics manager Dick Williams, who had resigned immediately after leading the team to its second straight World Series title. However, because Williams was still under contract to Oakland, the subsequent legal wrangling prevented the Yankees from hiring him. On the first anniversary of the team's ownership change, the Yankees hired former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Bill Virdon to lead the team on the field.
Steinbrenner is famous for both his pursuit of high-priced free agents and, in some cases, infamous for feuding with them. In his first 23 seasons, he changed managers 20 times (including dismissing Billy Martin on five separate occasions), and general managers 11 times in 30 years. In July 1978, Martin said of Steinbrenner and his $3 million outfielder Reggie Jackson, "The two were meant for each other. One's a born liar, and the other's convicted." The comment resulted in Martin's first departure, though technically Martin resigned (tearfully), before Yankees President Al Rosen followed through on Steinbrenner's dictum to release the manager.
The "convicted" part of Martin's comment referred to Steinbrenner's connection to U.S. President Richard Nixon: he was indicted on 14 criminal counts on April 5, 1974, then pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Nixon's re-election campaign and a felony charge of obstruction of justice on August 23. Steinbrenner was personally fined $15,000, while his firm was assessed $20,000 for the offense. On November 27, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him for two years, but later reduced that amount to fifteen months, with Steinbrenner returning to the Yankees in 1976. U.S. President Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner on January 19, 1989, in one of the final acts of his presidency.
Another notable policy instituted by Steinbrenner is a strict grooming policy for males for professionalism-based reasons. Ostensibly modeled after the policies of the U.S. military, police and fire departments, unless for religious reasons, a male player, coach, or executive may not wear any facial hair except for a mustache and hair may not be worn below the collar. (However, a Yankee player presumably can wear long sideburns or mutton chops). This policy has led to some unusual, sometimes comical incidents.
The first such occurrence happened during the 1973 home opener against the Cleveland Indians. When the Yankees players, caps removed, were standing at attention for the National Anthem, Steinbrenner, in the owner's box next to the New York dugout, noticed that the hair on several of them was too long for his standards. Not knowing the players' names, he wrote down the uniform numbers of the offenders, who included Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Sparky Lyle and Roy White, and had the list, along with the demand that their hair be trimmed immediately, delivered to Houk. The order was reluctantly relayed to the players.
In 1983, at Steinbrenner’s behest, Yogi Berra ordered Goose Gossage to remove a beard he was growing. Gossage responded by shaving away the beard but leaving a thick exaggerated mustache extending down the upper lip to the jaw line, a look Gossage still sports to this day.
The most infamous incident involving facial hair occurred in 1991. Although Steinbrenner was suspended, the Yankee management ordered Don Mattingly, who was then sporting a longish or mullet-like hair style, to get a hair cut. When Mattingly refused he was benched. This led to a huge media frenzy with reporters and talk radio repeatedly mocking the team. The WPIX broadcasting crew of Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Murcer, and Tom Seaver lampooned the policy on a pregame show with Rizzuto playing the role of a barber sent to enforce the rule. Mattingly would eventually be reinstated. Coincidentally, The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat," which was filmed earlier that year, included Mattingly as a guest star who is suspended from play by Mr. Burns for his sideburns being too long, despite shaving the area of his head above where side burns grow. In 1995, Mattingly again ran afoul of the policy when he grew a goatee. Steinbrenner publicly criticized him for it and Mattingly eventually trimmed it to a mustache. Mattingly was clean-shaven later as a coach with the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers although the Dodgers do not have a facial hair policy.
David Wells occasionally wore a goatee and informed the media he would be willing to pay any fine to do so.
During the 1981 World Series, Steinbrenner provided a colorful backdrop to the Yankees' loss of the series. After a Game 3 loss in Los Angeles, Steinbrenner called a press conference in his hotel room, showing off his left hand in a cast and various other injuries that he claimed were earned in a fight with two Dodgers fans in the hotel elevator. Nobody came forward about the fight, leading to the belief that he had made up the story of the fight in order to light a fire under the Yankees.
After the 1980 season, Steinbrenner made headlines by signing Dave Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract, making Winfield baseball's highest-paid player. In 1985, Steinbrenner derided Winfield's poor performance in a key September series against the Toronto Blue Jays:
Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May. My big guys are not coming through. The guys who are supposed to carry the team are not carrying the team. They aren't producing. If I don't get big performances out of Winfield, Griffey and Baylor, we can't win.
This criticism has become somewhat of an anachronism, as many believe Steinbrenner made the statement following the 1981 World Series. Part of that comment later led to Ken Griffey Jr. to list the Yankees as one team he would never play for.
On July 30, 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life after he paid Howie Spira, a small-time gambler, $40,000 for "dirt" after Winfield sued him for failing to pay his foundation the $300,000 guaranteed in his contract. Subsequently Winfield later entered the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre.
Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993. Unlike past years, he was somewhat less inclined to interfere in the Yankees' baseball operations. He left day-to-day baseball matters in the hands of Gene Michael and other executives, and to let promising farm-system players such as Bernie Williams develop instead of trading them for established players. Steinbrenner's having "got religion" (in the words of New York Daily News reporter Bill Madden) paid off. After contending briefly two years earlier, the '93 Yankees were in the American League East race with the eventual champion Toronto Blue Jays until September.
The team returned to the playoffs in 1995 (their first visit since 1981) and won the World Series in 1996, where the modern Yankee Dynasty was born. The Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, ending their dynasty.
The Yankees made the playoffs every season through 2007, most notably winning the AL Pennant in seven games from the 2003 Boston Red Sox. In 2003, their ALCS success was followed by losing the World Series to the Florida Marlins, which denied Steinbrenner from having the distinction of winning two championships in different leagues in the same year, as he won the Stanley Cup as part-owner of the New Jersey Devils.
The Yankees' demise was furthered by the postseason collapse in 2004. While leading the eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox three games to none (3-0) and 3 outs away from winning game 4, the Red Sox stunned the Yankees and the baseball world by coming back to win game 4 and then the next three games and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. In 2008, the Yankees ended their post-season run with a third place finish in the American League East. However, in 2009, the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series to win a 27th championship.
Since 2006, George Steinbrenner has spent most of his time in Tampa, Florida, leaving the Yankees to be run by his sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. Hank in particular shows similar traits to his father.
George made a rare appearance in the Bronx on the field for the 79th All-Star Game. Wearing dark glasses, Steinbrenner walked slowly into the stadium's media entrance with the aid of several companions, using one of them to lean on as he hobbled through the media entrance.
He later was driven out on to the field along with his son Hal at the end of the lengthy pregame ceremony in which this year's All-Stars were introduced at their fielding positions along with 49 of the 63 living Hall of Famers.
George Steinbrenner had wanted a new stadium for years. He finally got his new stadium in 2005. Yankee Stadium was built right next to the former Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It opened in time for the 2009 season.
In 1997, the Yankees signed a 10-year, $97 million deal with Adidas. A dispute with MSG over the cable rights fee ended with the creation of the Yankees' own YES Network. George Steinbrenner has been able to grow the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion heavyweight. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be conservatively estimated as being worth over one billion dollars. If one adds up the revenue of $1.2 billion valuation of the 36% Yankees owned YES Network to the team revenue (the other 64% is owned by Goldman Sachs and the former New Jersey Nets owner which is also a minority owner of the ballclub), they far surpass even the Dallas Cowboys in total estimated value.
In addition to being an intense boss to his on-field employees, Steinbrenner is also known for pressuring and changing off-field employees (including various publicity directors), sometimes chewing them out in public. Longtime Cardinals announcer Jack Buck once quipped that he had seen Steinbrenner's yacht and that, "It was a beautiful thing to observe, with all 36 oars working in unison." Former sportscaster Hank Greenwald, who called Yankee games on WABC radio for two years, once said he knew when Steinbrenner was in town by how tense the office staff was.
He usually kept his complaints about the team broadcasters he approves of (except for the YES Network crew, who have generally not been his direct employees) out of the newspapers. However, he has been known to be upset with the sometimes blunt commentary of former broadcaster Jim Kaat and former analyst Tony Kubek.
Steinbrenner's one publicly aired gripe with a team announcer came when he accused respected Yankee broadcaster Bill White of low-keying his WMCA radio call of Chris Chambliss' pennant-winning home run in the 1976 American League Championship Series. The actual aircheck of the live broadcast (on the Major League Baseball website) finds an unusually emotional White calling the home run and its aftermath — so excited as the ball was in flight that his voice broke. Steinbrenner has a god son, Slater Fuchs, who resides in New York with his father Jim Fuchs the renown track athlete who is a great friend of the boss.
Despite Steinbrenner's controversial status (or perhaps, because of it) he does appear to poke fun at himself in the media. His frequent firings and rehirings of manager Billy Martin were lampooned in a '70s Miller Lite beer commercial in which Steinbrenner tells Martin "You're fired!" to which Martin replies "Oh, no, not again!" After one of Martin's real-life rehirings, the commercial was resurrected, only with Steinbrenner's line redubbed to say "You're hired!"
He hosted Saturday Night Live on October 20, 1990 at the same time his former outfielder and Yankee manager, Lou Piniella, led the Cincinnati Reds to a World Championship. In the opening sketch, he dreamt of a Yankees team managed, coached, and entirely played by himself. In other sketches, he chews out the SNL "writing staff" (notably including Al Franken) for featuring him in a mock Slim Fast commercial with other ruthless leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin and plays a folksy convenience store manager whose business ethic is divergent from that of Steinbrenner.
In The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat", Mr. Burns fires Don Mattingly for refusing to shave sideburns only Burns could see. It is often assumed that this was a parody of an argument Steinbrenner and Mattingly had in real life with regards to Mattingly's hair length. However, the episode was actually recorded a year before the suspension actually occurred, and was nothing more than a coincidence. As Mattingly walks off the baseball field, he states, "I still like him (Burns) better than Steinbrenner."
In the 1994 computer game Superhero League of Hoboken, one of the schemes of the primary antagonist, Dr. Entropy, is to resurrect George Steinbrenner.
After a public chastising of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for "partying too much," the two appeared in a Visa commercial club-hopping. A 2004 Visa commercial depicted Steinbrenner in the trainer's room at Yankee Stadium, suffering from an arm injury (presumably from overuse), unable to sign any checks, including that of his then-current manager Joe Torre, who spends most of the commercial treating Steinbrenner as if he were an important player.
Steinbrenner also is a fan of professional wrestling. He wrote the foreword of the 2005 Dusty Rhodes autobiography and was a regular at old Tampa Armory cards in the 1970s and 1980s. In March 1989, he appeared in the front row of the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event broadcast, even interacting with manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan at one point (Heenan remarked about the guy he managed in the ring at the time to Steinbrenner "I've got a ring full of Winfield"). At WWF WrestleMania 7, Steinbrenner, WWF owner Vince McMahon, and NFL announcer Paul Maguire filmed a skit with the trio debating instant replay. He was also present in the front row of an edition of WCW Monday Nitro in early 1998 when the event took place in Tampa.
At the funeral of his long time friend Otto Graham in December 2003, Steinbrenner fainted, leading to extensive media speculation that he was in ill health.
New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo often cites Steinbrenner's German heritage by drawing him in a Prussian military uniform, complete with spiked helmet, gold epaulettes and medals, calling him "General von Steingrabber."
Steinbrenner appeared as a character in the situation comedy Seinfeld, when George Costanza worked for the Yankees for several seasons. Larry David voiced the character, who talked nonstop, regardless of whether anyone was listening, and sometimes referred to himself as "Big Stein." The character's face was never seen, and the character was always viewed from the back in scenes set in his office at Yankee Stadium. The Steinbrenner character was known for bad decisions, such as cooking jerseys, threatening to move the team to New Jersey "just to upset people", scalping his owner's box tickets, wearing Lou Gehrig's uniform pants (and panicking about "that nerve disease" being contagious), trading several players (much to Frank Costanza's dismay), and canceling a meeting because he wanted George to get him an eggplant calzone. At one point George describes Steinbrenner by saying, "No one knows what this guy's capable of; he fires people like it's a bodily function!" Nevertheless, the real Steinbrenner maintains that he is a fan of the show and that "Costanza is always welcome back." In one episode ("The Wink"), the Steinbrenner character mentions all of the people he fired, saying Billy Martin four times, and mentions then-current manager Buck Showalter, but then quickly swears George to silence. Though intended as a joke, the comment proved prophetic: just weeks after the episode aired, Steinbrenner did not bring back Showalter as Yankees manager and replaced him with Joe Torre.
The Steinbrenner character appeared in the following episodes: "The Opposite", "The Secretary", "The Race", "The Jimmy", "The Wink", "The Hot Tub", "The Caddy", "The Calzone", "The Bottle Deposit", "The Nap", "The Millennium", "The Muffin Tops", and "The Finale."
The real Steinbrenner had filmed three scenes for the Seinfeld season 7 finale, "The Invitations", but they were edited out when the time of the original episode ran higher than the allowed time, and when Steinbrenner expressed disapproval of the plot about Susan's death (they can be seen in full on the Seinfeld Season 7 DVD Disc 4).
In 2000, Steinbrenner was honored as Grand Marshal at the German-American Steuben Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City. At this largest German-American event in the country, he was greeted by tens of thousands who celebrated him as an outstanding American of German heritage.
The Steinbrenner Band Hall at the University of Florida was made possible by a generous gift from George and Joan Steinbrenner in 2002. The facility was completed in 2008 and serves as The Pride of the Sunshine's rehearsal hall and houses offices, instrument storage, the band library and an instrument issue room.
Legend's Field, the Yankees Spring Training facility in Tampa was renamed Steinbrenner Field in March 2008 in his honor by his two sons, with the blessing of the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council. The entrance to the new Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has also been named for Steinbrenner and his family.