On Tuesday, November 9, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced twelve candidates for possible selection to the Hall by the Expansion Era Committee at its December meeting in Orlando, Florida. They include former players, managers, baseball executives, and George "the Boss" Steinbrenner, the recently deceased owner of the New York Yankees. To be selected, a candidate must be named on 75% of the ballots cast by the sixteen-member committee.
As soon as the announcement was made sportscasters at New York's WFAN began championing Steinbrenner's candidacy. Some consider Steinbrenner a pioneer of modern sports ownership because he started high spending for free agent players and was one of the early team owners to set up his own cable network. However, Steinbrenner's negatives far outweigh any supposed positives. He belongs in a Hall of Shame, not the Baseball Hall of Fame. Commissioner Bud Selig should bar him from the Hall for life for conduct detrimental to baseball.
Steinbrenner was a notoriously bombastic and abrasive employer who operated on the border or outside the law. He was a convicted felon who frequently embarrassed players, coaches, managers, baseball and New York City. He felt he was entitled to his misbehavior because of his wealth. Under his "leadership," the team became known in the 1970s as the "Bronx Zoo." Former Yankee player and manager Lou Piniella was quoted in 2004 as saying, "George is a great guy, unless you have to work for him." Between 1973 and 1990, Steinbrenner switched switched managers 18 times and hired 13 general managers.
Among Steinbrenner's most outrageous actions was giving illegal contributions to the 1972 Nixon Presidential campaign. In November 1974, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended Steinbrenner for two years after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to make the illegal corporate contributions and trying to intimidate employees of his shipbuilding company to lie to a grand jury hearing testimony about the case.
Steinbrenner mistreated an alcoholic, Billy Martin, who he repeatedly hired and fired, contributing to Martin's self-destructive behavior. He publicly humiliated Yankee icon Yogi Berra. In 1985 he fired Berra as manager of the Yankees during the first month of the campaign after promising Berra he would hold onto the job for the entire season. As a result, Berra refused to have anything to do with Steinbrenner or the team for the next fifteen years. Steinbrenner was such an insulting character that perennial All-Star Ken Griffey, Jr., whose father played for the Yankees when he was a kid, had it written into his contract that he could not be traded to the Yankees.
Steinbrenner was banned from baseball again in 1990, this time for 30 months, when it was revealed that he hired a gambler to spy on future Hall of Fame ballplayer Dave Winfield in an effort to negate Winfield's contract with the Yankees. Steinbrenner should probably have been banned for life at that time for his association with gamblers. Many Yankee fans, myself included, believe that Steinbrenner's banishment was the best thing that could have happened to the Yankees -- it allowed professional baseball people the opportunity to build a championship team without Steinbrenner's constant and destructive meddling.
Steinbrenner was also deeply involved in tolerating the use of steroids by major league baseball players. He signed Jason Giambi, Oakland's star first basemen, as a free agent to a seven-year $120 million contract that had suspiciously removed the standard clause that specifically forbade the use of steroids.
While Commissioner Selig is acting to keep George Steinbrenner out of the baseball Hall of Fame, he should also demand that the Yankees remove the monument to Steinbrenner installed in the stadium's Monument Park on September 20, 2010.
George Steinbrenner is a disgrace to baseball. And he belongs in the Hall of Shame.
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