UPDATE #1: Added statement by Michael Weiner, Exec. Dir. of the MLBPA
UPDATE #2: Added background of Steinbrenner's tenure at the helm of the Yankee franchise
UPDATE #3: Added statement by Peter Angelos, Principal Owner and Managing Partner of the Baltimore Orioles
UPDATE #$: Added statement by Commissioner Selig
THIS IS BREAKING NEWS...
George Steinbrenner, who rose from a Cleveland shipping magnate to owner of the New York Yankees where he moved the club into one of the most recognizable brands in all of sports, has passed away at the age of 80. The Yankees released a statement saying:
"It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing. He passed away this morning in Tampa, Fla., at age 80.
"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."
Mr. Steinbrenner recently celebrated his 80th birthday on July 4.
Commissioner Selig, attending the All-Star Game event in Anaheim said in a statement:
“On behalf of Baseball, I am very saddened by the passing this morning of George Steinbrenner.
George was a giant of the game and his devotion to baseball was surpassed only by his devotion to his
family and his beloved New York Yankees. He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee
“I have known George ever since he entered the game in 1972. He was my dear friend for nearly four
decades. Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship
and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered. We
were allies and friends in the truest sense of the words.
“My wife, Sue, and I pass on our deepest sympathies to the Steinbrenner family, to the New York
Yankees and to all of his friends. We will miss him, especially tonight when the baseball family will be
gathered at Angel Stadium for the All-Star Game.”
Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, today issued the following statement upon learning of the passing of George Steinbrenner.
"We are saddened to learn of the passing of George Steinbrenner.
"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."
Funeral arrangements will be private. There will be an additional public service with details to be announced at a later date.
Steinbrenner for many years was a polarizing figure in baseball, but his commitment to winning won the hearts of Yankee fans and the respect, sometimes grudging, of many baseball fans.
New York won World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009 with the Core Four as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte came to be known. They have the best record in baseball at the All-Star Break this season and are poised to add to their vast trophy room. In addition to the five recent Titles, Steinbrenner's Yankees were victorious in the 1977 and 1978 World Series as well. Their success will be Steinbrenner's legacy as both sportsman and businessman.
Steinbrenner pioneered the growth of baseball through innovative business practices that ensured a steady flow of revenue to his ball club. Moving away from a strict reliance on gate receipts enabled the club to consistently field talent laden and well compensated teams. He was the first owner to sell cable broadcast rights, and when disputes arose with his broadcast partners he founded a cable channel devoted to exclusive coverage of the Yankees.
A sponsorship arrangement with Adidas broke with MLB's league wide arrangements with footwear and apparel makers and cemented the notion that the Yankee brand was distinct from the rest of the league.
That distinction proved lucrative as the value of the Yankees exploded during Steinbrenner's tenure as owner. He purchased the club from CBS in 1973 when the team was valued at $10 million. In 37 years, the franchise has grown to be worth more than $1.2 billion.
Credited and alternately blamed for the escalation of players salaries, Steinbrenner committed himself to sparing no expense to field the best Yankee teams that money could buy. Frequently those teams were atop the American League's East Division, especially in the last fifteen seasons.
All was not rosy and blissful. The middle years of Steinbrenner's ownership of the Yankees saw the team stumble into mediocrity. Managers were fired nearly annually and the strained relationship between Steinbrenner and one of his star players proved to be his temporary undoing.
A dispute between Dave Winfield and Steinbrenner resulted in a lifetime ban for the "The Boss" in 1990. Steinbrenner had hired gambler Howie Spira to dig up incriminating information on Winfield so that Steinbrenner could prevail in the suit Winfield had brought against him. The "lifetime ban would be repealed two and a half years later.
Reinstatement meant restoration for the Yankees and Rehabilitation for Steinbrenner. Leaving decisions to his management team, Steinbrenner became a hands-off owner and the Yankees flourished. Brian Cashman and Gene Michael built a rejuvenated Yankee dynasty whose core players remain cornerstones of the franchise to this very day.
Orioles Principal Owner Peter Angelos issued a statement on the passing of a Steinbrenner, "The Orioles are saddened to learn of the passing of George Steinbrenner. As an active participant in the organizational direction and operations of the New York Yankees, his name is as synonymous with that franchise as any of the legendary athletes who have played in pinstripes.
"On behalf of the Orioles organization, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Joan, and the members of his family."
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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